Tuesday, March 8, 2011

T Minus One Week Till Fat Tuesday!

Originally posted 3/1/11

Laissez les bon temps rouler….
English translation:  Let the good times roll!  Yep, it’s almost Mardi Gras!  Fat Tuesday is a week from today, March 8th.  Fat Tuesday is THE day to celebrate Mardi Gras.  To most of us, Mardi Gras is beads, girls lifting up their shirts, lots of alcohol, etc…..all taking place in New Orleans.  But it really is a religious event.  Fat Tuesday is the last day of “feasting” before Lent starts the next day…..Ash Wednesday.  And yes, I had to look all of that up.  And btw-there are so many more images of Mardi Gras that I would like to fill your head with…..but this is a family show, people;)
Until recently, I had no idea what Mardi Gras was all about.  I am not catholic, so I was a bit fuzzy on what Lent even is.  I was trying to explain to Addy what Lent is, and she really wasn’t getting it.  For those of you that don’t know, Lent is a period of 40 days starting with Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter.  Lent is meant to be a period of prayer, penance and self-denial.  Most people today celebrate Lent by giving up something that they enjoy for 40 days.  For instance, maybe coffee or Facebook.  So I am explaining this to Addy and she says “Ok, I will give up heartburn”.  (yes, she gets heartburn like a 70 year old man).  I explained to her that you have to give up something you enjoy….it’s about the sacrifice.  So then she says she will give up “homework”.  At that point, I gave up.  She wasn’t going to get it any time soon…..
Anyhoo, back to Mardi Gras…..I have always loved Mardi Gras because of the food!  I love a good excuse to eat some Cajun food!  I usually have a Mardi Gras party the weekend before Fat Tuesday.  I didn’t do that this year, but I still want to share with you some recipes that I normally make.  Today I will give you 2 appetizer recipes.  So whip up a batch of Hurricanes and let’s get started!
My first appetizer is supposed to be a spicy crawfish dip.  The only problem was I couldn’t find crawfish tails in Reno.  I went to a few places and was close to going to Lake Tahoe with some bacon on a stick to catch my own before I was forced to give up.  I ended up using canned crab (lump, white).  If you can find crawfish tails, good for you;)  You can order them online (which is what I have done in the past) from quite a few places, or cave and use crab or shrimp.  I think that crawfish tails will be hard to find no matter where you are on the west coast.  They really are more of a southern US kind of thing.  And they are HUGE in Cajun cooking.
Besides the aforementioned canned crab, I also used cream cheese, mayonnaise, chopped celery, chopped green onion, Old Bay seasoning and lots of hot sauce.  Cream cheese and mayonnaise= automatic deliciousness.
I started by beating together softened cream cheese, mayo and Old Bay.  Old Bay is a seafood seasoning that is good on pretty much anything.  It has a ton of herbs and spices in it…..way too many to list.  I do not make anything with crab without using Old Bay.  It is such a great thing to have on hand.
Then, I stir in the celery, onion, crab (well drained) and hot sauce.  How much hot sauce you use is up to you.  I was feeding children, who are complete pansies when it comes to spice, so I went light on the hot sauce;)  Try and use a good hot sauce from Louisiana…..I try and support the pepper farmers of the greater New Orleans area when I can….it’s a cause of mine.  I might get t-shirts made;)  After the dip is mixed, I pop it in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
I serve this dip with crackers, but it would be great with bread or crudité too.  Crudité is a fancy word for raw veggies, and I am nothing if not fancy;)
Obviously, this dip is good anytime, not just Mardi Gras.  It is also really good with Cajun Seasoning substituted for the Old Bay……..It is creamy, and spicy, and just really, really good!
My second Mardi Gras appetizer is my Cheesy Andouille Sausage Dip.  Andouille sausage is a Cajun sausage sometimes referred to as “hot links”.  It is heavily spiced and smoked, but really not too spicy.  It is yummy in this dip.  It is also easily found in any grocery store.
I also use diced white onion, diced green onion, diced tomatoes, hot sauce and Velveeta.  I start by dicing up about 3 links of Andouille sausage.  You will have a spare link…..
I start this dip by browning the Andouille and white onion in a bit of oil.  This takes about 5 minutes.  This sausage smells so good while it is cooking.  Once the sausage is browned, I add the diced tomatoes and cheese.  I only want about 10 ounces of tomatoes, so I didn’t use the whole can.  I also dice the cheese so it melts faster.  The cheese will melt in a couple of minutes.
Once the cheese is melted, and the dip is smooth, I added the green onion and hot sauce.  Again, I was feeding kids so I went light on the sauce.  You can add as much as you want.  I also serve this dip with the sauce next to it so people can add extra if they want.
I serve this dip with sliced baguette.  I think it is fantastic on bread, but chips would be good too.  If you have any leftover, this dip is so good reheated and smeared on a tortilla. 
The sausage adds a really unique flavor to this dip.  I think that once you try it, it will be a favorite of yours too!
I will be back on Thursday with some more Mardi Gras recipes, so keep your beads on!  Maybe you could even get an adult beverage in one of those yard long glasses that everyone walks around the French Quarter with;)  I am currently drinking Diet Coke out of one.
Spicy “Crawfish” Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup green onion, diced
6 ounces crawfish tails, diced (can also use crab or shrimp)
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce to taste
Beat together softened cream cheese, mayo and Old Bay till smooth.  Stir in crawfish, celery, green onion and hot sauce.  Chill for at least 3 hours.  Serve with crackers.

Cheesy Andouille Sausage Dip
9 ounces Andouille Sausage, usually 3 links
1 small white onion, diced
10 ounces diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb. or 16 ounces Pasteurized cheese product (Velveeta), diced
½ cup green onion, diced
Hot sauce to taste
2 Tablespoons oil
In a medium sized pot, brown diced Andouille and onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, about 5 minutes over medium high heat.  Add cheese and tomatoes and stir frequently till cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.  Stir in green onion and hot sauce.  Serve warm.


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