This year on March 1, Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, marks the last day before the Lenten season begins. For Catholics, this 46 day period (40 days observed, Sundays are excluded) before Easter is a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Catholics often choose to give up particular indulgences during Lent, like chocolate or soda, as a form of fasting. So it’s not too surprising that the last day of freedom before the start of Lent goes by the moniker “Fat Tuesday.”
Arguably, no one does Fat Tuesday celebrations like the South. Rather than lasting just one day, Carnival takes up the entire season between the Epiphany (Jan. 6 this year) and Ash Wednesday (March 2 this year), with the culmination landing on the last day. In Louisiana, Mardi Gras is even a legal holiday! Though Chancellor Henry T. Yang has not similarly gifted UC Santa Barbara students the day off, you can still mimic some quintessential Mardi Gras recipes to make the day a little sweeter.
Representing the perfect combination of savory, spicy and sweet, jambalaya and beignets are my go-to Fat Tuesday dishes. Unfortunately, traditional jambalaya and beignets require specialized ingredients that most college students don’t own, like Worcestershire sauce, okra, bread flour and condensed milk. To make these festive dishes more wallet-friendly and convenient, I adapted two traditional jambalaya and beignet recipes below.
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 links andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
- 1 large chicken breast, cubed
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- ½ pound precooked shrimp
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 14 ounces (1 can) crushed tomatoes
- 1 ½ tablespoons cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sliced green onions
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery and chicken until the onion and chicken are browned. Add the garlic and andouille and cook for another minute.
- Stir in the tomatoes, all seasonings, ketchup and hot sauce. Cook for 5 minutes, then add in the rice and chicken broth. Cover, bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Add in the shrimp and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the shrimp is warmed through.
- Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste. Top with sliced green onions immediately before serving. Makes about 4 servings.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons warm water
- ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups canola or peanut oil
- Powdered sugar and honey for topping
- In a large liquid measuring cup, pour in the warm water and sprinkle it with the yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Then mix in the egg, milk, butter, vanilla and sugar.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula until just combined. Using your hands, knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together in a smooth ball. Grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil. Transfer the dough ball to the bowl and cover with a wet towel. Place the bowl in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle that is ¼-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.
- In a medium pot, heat the oil over high heat. One trick to tell when oil is ready for frying is to put the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil — if little bubbles form around the wood, then it’s ready. Lower 3 to 4 dough squares at a time into the hot oil. Let fry on each side for 45 seconds to 1 minute, using tongs or a slotted spoon to turn. When done, transfer to paper towels or a wire rack to drain. Serve immediately, topped with powdered sugar and honey. Makes 20 to 25 beignets.
Grab your friends and family, get cooking and let these simple dishes bring some big flavor to your Fat Tuesday celebrations.