Festive Feasting

A delectable post-parade or ball brunch


The Carnival season is long this year since Mardi Gras isn’t until March 1. There’s plenty of time to devour many versions of king cakes and imbibe your choice of beverage, spiked or otherwise. Here’s hoping we will indeed have a full-blown Carnival celebration if COVID-19 doesn’t rain on our parades.

Although New Orleans is known for its Carnival blowout parades, balls and other related activities, there are many celebrations all over the state. In our small rural communities in Acadiana we have “Courir de Mardi Gras.” Of course, there are traditional parades and balls throughout South Louisiana, though not as extravagant as in the Crescent City, but lots of fun nevertheless.

In my small hometown of St. Martinville, we no longer have a parade, but we do have a ball. It’s been a custom of mine to host a brunch the day after.

Always start off with Bloody Marys and mimosas to help to allay those “night after” headaches.

This year I’m making gougères, small, airy puffs of pastry enhanced with Gruyère cheese.



Ju-Ju’s Gougères

I was introduced to these by my friend Ju-Ju, a wonderful hostess and cook.

Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
dash of hot sauce

Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly butter a sheet pan or cookie sheet.

Combine water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Add flour and beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball and comes off the sides of the pot. Turn off heat.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously, until blended. Add cheese, Dijon, dry mustard, salt and hot sauce. Stir to blend.

Working quickly, drop batter by large spoonfuls into a circle, about nine inches in diameter, onto the prepared sheet pan. Repeat and make a second layer on top of the first circle. Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake another 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake until puffed and lightly brown. Poke holes in dough to let steam escape, then serve hot.

Although Gruyère is the classic cheese for these French inspired delights, I sometimes use blue cheese, so you might want to experiment.


Main Course

Jambalaya, My Way

I’ve been questioned many times if the shrimp will be tough since it cooks for 25 minutes. You’ll have to trust me on this. Use 41/50 count shrimp.

Makes about 12 servings
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1½ cups chopped celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound cubed boiled ham or tasso
1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices
4 cups canned, diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
salt and cayenne
2 bay leaves
2½ cups long-grain rice, uncooked

Heat butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes.

Add shrimp, ham and sausage. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink.

Stir in tomatoes and chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add bay leaves and rice. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Do not uncover the pot or stir while the rice is cooking. Cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and serve. Pass the hot sauce!

There is a constant argument about whether jambalaya should be red (made with tomatoes) or brown (made so by caramelizing the onions and other ingredients until toasty brown). New Orleanians lean to the red variety, which usually contains shrimp and ham while to the west of the Mississippi River, the brown version is made with chicken and sausage. Both are good. This is my version using tomatoes.



Italian Cheesecake

Dessert — a rich Italian cheesecake. Splurge because Lent is fast approaching.

Makes one cake
about 8 servings
1½ pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup candied orange

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine cheese, sugar and four tablespoons of flour in a bowl. Mix together eggs and almond extract and gradually add to cheese mixture. Pour mixture into springform pan.

Toss candied orange with remaining two tablespoons flour to coat evenly. Shake off any excess, then sprinkle over the top of cheesecake. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it sets.

Turn off oven and open the oven door slightly. Let cheesecake remain in the oven for one hour.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely. It can then be covered and refrigerated.



My husband is an avid fan of the ubiquitous green bean casserole that often appears on holiday menus but I explained that it’s time to move on to something else. He found this recipe in Southern Living and it’s now his new fave with a few tweaks.

Makes 8 servings
3 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
6 bacon slices, cooked crisp, drained and chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Blanch the green beans in boiling, salted water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Combine the beans, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat evenly. Spread the beans evenly on a rimmed sheet pan and bake until they are tender, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan and bacon. Serve hot.