Tuesday is Mardi Gras and the parade season is in full swing in New Orleans.
I’m a huge fan of New Orleans cuisine and culture, but sadly I don’t get there often enough. I am, however, a regular listener to WWOZ-FM, the city’s public radio station devoted to New Orleans music and culture. So I’ve been listening as the carnival parade routes are annouced each day.
While I can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, I am getting the ball rolling with this Jambalaya casserole. Jambalaya is a Louisiana dish that can contain a wide variety of ingredients, depending on who is making it, but it usually has chicken, sausage and sometimes shrimp and is served with rice.
I’ve modified my standard jambalaya into a casserole because it has been very busy around here (one of the reasons I can’t make it to the Crescent City this weekend) and casseroles are versatile enough so that they can be made ahead of time then just heated up whenever it’s time to eat.
Mardi Gras is a celebration of the fun things in life prior to the start of the Roman Catholic season of Lent, which begins Ash Wednesday and runs until Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday” is traditionally the day people let loose, drink a little bit, eat rich food and enjoy all the other good things that are not allowed during the Lenten season.
Being the good Catholic that I am (University of Notre Dame ’86, go Irish!), I follow the Lenten protocols, such as no meat on Fridays and fasting during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
But New Orleans fan that I am, I also celebrate the Mardi Gras and hold a deep respect for the traditions of second line parades, floats, beads and everything else that make up this amazing cultural tradition.
So laissez les bon temps rouler, let the good times roll and enjoy your Mardi Gras weekend wherever you are!
2 TBS EVOO, separated
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 8 oz
1/2 lb of Italian sausage
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 white onion, medium dice
1/2 yellow bell pepper, medium dice
1/2 red bell pepper, medium dice
1/2 green bell pepper, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 package dry egg noodles
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
4 oz can tomato sauce
1 TSP Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Put cast iron pan on fire. When hot, add 1 TBS EVOO. When smoking, make a cut down the center of each sausage, remove from casing and place in pan, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Use spatula to break into 1″ pieces and brown all sides, about three minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove from pan and set aside.
2. Return cast iron pan to fire. When smoking, season both sides of chicken breast with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion powder and carefully place in the pan. Cook until bottom side is browned, then flip and cook another two minutes. Place the whole pan in the oven and cook until chicken is fully cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast. Remove from oven. Cool then chop into bite sized pieces
3. Clean cast iron pan and return to fire. When hot, add remaining EVOO. When smoking, add onioins and peppers and cook until onions translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute then remove from heat.
4. Cook egg noodles according to package directions, usually about 7 minutes. You want to undercook the noodles just a little. Strain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process then return to the pot. Add chicken, sausage, cottage cheese, sour cream, Tony’s, vegetable mixture, hot sauce and pepper. Stir and transfer to casserole dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese then grated parm and cover. Casserole can be cooked right away or stored in refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.
5. Cook covered casserole 35 minutes at 350F then remove cover and cook another 10 minutes to crisp the top. If cooking from frozen, cooking time will be closer to an hour.
During the Lenten season, which starts this Wednesday, I’m planning on starting a new feature called Seafood Fridays. Each week I will be featuring a seafood recipe that is both delicious and Lenten compliant.
Happy Mardi Gras, everybody!