Traditions around the world

Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras: it's a time for enjoying fat-filled treats before Lent begins

Carnival season, which ended last night with Mardi Gras, is a Christian tradition celebrated in many countries around the world, with parades, fancy balls, sports events, costumes, masks, dances and social conventions turned upside down.

It  begins on Epiphany (Kings Day or 12th Night), the day it is said that kings visited the Christ child, and lasts to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time of preparation, fasting and penance prior to Easter.

Mardi Gras, also called  Fat or Shrove Tuesday, is a time for indulging in fat-filled, rich and deep-fried foods. In Canada, pancakes and fried breads or pastries made with sugar are popular as well as Cajun and Creole dishes featured in New Orleans traditions.

I have a nice jambalaya recipe to try today. The most popular Mardi Gras treat is King Cake, followed closely by a variety of fried doughnuts. A classic king cake is adorned on top or inside with a tiny trinket of a plastic baby that is said to represent the Christ child and will bring good luck to whoever finds it.

Cajun Shrimp & Chicken Jambalaya

2 oz. olive oil

1 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces

1 tbsp. Cajun spice blend

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 lb. large shrimp (shells, tails and veins removed)

1 tsp. Cajun spice blend

6 oz. red, yellow, green peppers, cut into thin strips

6 oz. red onions, cut into thin strips

1 tsp. all-purpose flour

2 oz. spicy sausage

1 tbsp. blanched garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tsp. Cajun spice blend

1 tbsp. butter, unsalted

White rice, steamed

Chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan.

Place chicken into a clean mixing bowl. Sprinkle Cajun Spice Blend and all-purpose flour over chicken and into the bowl. Gently toss chicken until each piece is evenly coated with the spices and flour. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until it is about half done.

While chicken is cooking, place shrimp into clean mixing bowl. Sprinkle the 1 tsp. Cajun Spice Blend and flour. Add peppers, onions, shrimp and sausage to pan. Cook until shrimp are about half done. Add garlic to pan. Add kosher salt and ground black pepper. Add chicken broth to the pan. Season with a little more Cajun Spice Blend. Gently stir ingredients together. Continue to cook until chicken and shrimp are done, and vegetables are tender. Swirl in a little butter just before serving.

Place the steamed rice into serving bowls. Spoon the jambalaya into the bowl (around the rice). Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.

King Cake in a Bread Machine

1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F/40 to 45 degrees C)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tablespoons softened butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup sour cream

3-1/2 tablespoons white sugar

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2-1/2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1-1/2 Tbsp. melted butter

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. milk, or as needed

1 tablespoon purple coloured sugar, or as needed

1 tablespoon green coloured sugar, or as needed

1 tablespoon yellow coloured sugar, or as needed

Place warm water, salt, softened butter, egg, sour cream, 3-1/2 tablespoons of sugar, flour and yeast into bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer; select the dough cycle, and start machine. Check dough after about 5 minutes of mixing, and add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of water or flour if dough is too dry or wet.

Mix 1/4 cup sugar, the cinnamon and 2-1/2 Tbsp. melted butter together in bowl. Grease a baking sheet, and set aside.

When dough cycle is finished, remove dough and roll out to 10×28-inch rectangle on floured surface. Spread cinnamon-butter mixture over dough, and sprinkle on an even layer of pecans. Pick up one of the long edges, and roll the dough into a 28-inch long log. Place rolled dough onto prepared baking sheet, seam side down, and form dough into a ring. Moisten ends of the dough with a little water; pinch the two ends together to seal. Cover dough ring with a cloth, and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake cake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Mix the confectioners’ sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, vanilla extract and just enough milk to make a smooth but not thin glaze. Remove cake from the oven, cool for about 10 minutes on wire rack. While cake is still warm, spoon glaze onto the cake, allowing drips of glaze to dribble down sides of cake. Immediately sprinkle cake with alternating bands of purple, green and yellow sugar. Allow cake to cool completely before serving.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.