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Mardi Gras: Celebrate the event with Fat Tuesday all day long

Posted: March 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.

King cake cupcakes filled with creole cream cheese filling with root beer and frosted with root beer frosting.

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New Orleans may be the official home of Mardi Gras, but you don’t have to live in the Big Easy to enjoy the party.

Mardi Gras, or literally, “Fat Tuesday,” is the final day of the Carnival celebration, the festive season that occurs before Lent.

While some people associate Mardi Gras with lavish parades and French Quarter parties, food is an integral part
of the tradition. In fact, many locals skip the parades and spend time at home feasting with friends and family instead. Join the Fat Tuesday frenzy by throwing your own party.

“I love sharing the spirit of this season,” said John Besh, Louisiana native and nationally acclaimed chef. “It’s so easy to bring the fun of Mardi Gras home — wherever you are. Whip up some tasty New Orleans-style meals, hang up some beads and masks for decoration, then invite folks over for good times all around.”

Celebrate like a true New Orleanian by jazzing up an entire day’s menu with popular and authen­tic dishes. Start with a savory brunch, a true Southern tradition. Snack on a creamy dip in the afternoon as you decorate and welcome guests.

Then, dish out a traditional New Orleans-style jambalaya, perfect for a Mardi Gras crowd. Finish the meal with a cupcake version of the official dessert of the carnival season, the king cake.

Tradition states that who­ever found the fava bean or small trinket in their slice of cake was charged with bringing the cake to next year’s party. Share the fun with all your guests by including a fava bean in each cupcake.

These tried-and-true recipes will ensure your party will start a tradition to be cel­ebrated for years to come.

For more inform­ation on New Orleans-style cuisine, visit www.facebook.com/zatarains.

Dulac dirty rice mini frittatas
Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cook Time: 45 minutes
Makes 12 (2 mini frittata) servings
    1     pound bulk pork sausage
    1     package Zatarain’s Dirty Rice Mix, Original
    1/2     cup raisins
    1/4     cup toasted chopped pecans
    14     eggs, lightly beaten
    1/2     cup milk
    1/2     cup thinly sliced green onions
    1/4     cup each chopped red and yellow bell pepper


Cook and stir sausage in large skillet on medium-high heat 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain fat. Prepare rice mix as directed on package with sausage. Stir in raisins and pecans. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 (12-cup) muffin tins generously with no stick cooking spray. Set aside. Mix eggs and milk in large bowl until well blended. Add onions and bell peppers; mix well. Place 1/4 cup of the rice mixture into each muffin cup. Pour egg mixture evenly into each cup.

Bake 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Run small knife or spatula around each cup to loosen frittatas. Let stand 5 min­utes before serving.

Carnival jambalaya
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Makes 12 (1-cup) servings
    5     cups water
    1/4     cup oil (optional)
    2     packages Zatarain’s
        Jambalaya Mix, Original
    1     pound boneless skinless
        chicken breasts, cubed
    1     pound smoked sausage, 1/4
        inch thick
    1/2     cup sliced green onions
        (optional)

Bring water and oil to boil in large saucepan. Stir in Rice Mixes, chicken and sausage; return to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

Red bean and rice party dip
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Makes 60 (2-tablespoon) servings
    3     cups water
    1     package Zatarain’s Red Beans
        and Rice
    1     cup salsa
    2     tablespoons chopped jalapeño
        peppers
    2     packages (8 ounces each)
        cream cheese, softened
    2     cups (8 ounces) shredded
        cheddar cheese

Prepare rice mix as directed on package, using 3 cups water instead of 3 1/4 cups.

Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese to garnish dip, if desired. Stir remaining ingredients into rice mixture. Place mixture into food processor or blender; cover. Process or blend until smooth.

Keep dip warm in a chafing dish or slow cooker, if desired.

King cake cupcakes

Chef John Besh, Besh Restaurant Group
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Yields 10 to 12
Yellow Butter Cake
    1/4     pound butter
    3/4     cup sugar
    1/8     teaspoon salt
    2     large eggs
    1 1/4     cup cake flour
    1/2     tablespoon baking powder
    3/4     cup milk
    1     teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mixer at medium speed, cream butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time while the mixer is running, making sure each egg is totally mixed in before adding another. Beat mixture until light and fluffy, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl carefully.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour and baking powder using a wire whisk to sift and combine them. In another separate bowl, mix the milk and vanilla.
Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not over mix, as batter should be thick and fluffy. Spoon into lined cupcake pans, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until done.

Creole cream cheese filling with root beer

    1     pound softened creole or regular cream
        cheese
    1/2     cup shortening
    1/4     pound powdered sugar
    1/4     teaspoon Zatarain’s Root Beer Extract
        Dried fava beans (set aside)

Combine shortening and cream cheese in mixer at medium speed and whip with paddle until smooth.
Add powdered sugar and whip until fluffy; mix in root beer extract until well combined.

Root-beer frosting
    1     pound powdered sugar
    1/4     pound butter
    1/2     cup shortening
    1/4     cup all-purpose flour
    1/4     cup water
        Pinch of salt
    1     teaspoon Zatarain’s Root Beer Extract

Combine all ingredients in bowl of mixer. Beat together at medium speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble cupcakes: Use a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the center of completely cooled cupcakes from the top to about halfway down. With a piping bag, or plastic bag with the corner snipped off, fill the hole with filling.

Insert a dried fava bean into filling of each cupcake. Note: fava bean is for decoration only and should not be eaten.

Using a star tip and separate piping bag, pipe frosting starting on the outside, working your way to the center in one continuous motion. Top with green, purple and yellow or gold sprinkles or decorative sugar like on a traditional King Cake.

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