I didn’t grow up in a church that observed a Lenten tradition. As an adult, however, I have come to appreciate the tradition of giving up or taking on spiritual practices as a way of drawing near to Jesus.
I came to Fat Tuesday even later, and mostly because I like to cook.
Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday; Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. So Fat Tuesday is the final hip-hip-hurrah Day of Indulgence before one abstains for 40 days until Easter.
I’ve seen Facebook posts today about pancakes and just learned why: pancakes are a traditional Mardi Gras food as families use up the household’s fat, eggs, and dairy before Lent.
I don’t try to clean out the kitchen for Lent. Nope, no way I’m gonna try to eat through the leftover holiday candy, or worse, drink through the liquor cabinet! When discipline takes me along that route, I simply ignore the stash on hand for the time being.
But I do enjoy a good excuse to make a tasty meal, and Mardi Gras has its fair share of options. My vegan jambalaya also happens to be one of my favorite meals. It’s taken a while to get it down, mostly because it’s similar to risotto with a long cooking time. And because it takes a while, I only make it a couple of times a year. But it’s good!
Before I scare you off, let me say this: I don’t do complicated food. I like things simple and straight-forward. This isn’t a 30 Minute Meal, which makes it seem complicated. But it’s as simple as tasting as you go to see if the rice has cooked. And who doesn’t mind a sample along the way? Pour a glass of something refreshing and lean in to the cooking process.
1/4 tsp each cayenne, thyme, basil and no-salt veggie/herb spice (like Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
1/2 tsp each sage and black pepper
3+ c veggie stock, divided use
1+ Tbsp olive oil, divided use
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c diced bell pepper
1/2 c diced celery
3 links vegan sausage, halved and diced (I used one chorizo & 2 Italian)
1/2 c diced fresh tomatoes (in a pinch you can use canned, and if so, use the juice too)
1/2 c tomato sauce
3/4 c brown basmati rice (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1 Tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
3 Tbsp finely sliced green onions
Combine seasoning mixture. Chop onion, celery, bell pepper. Chop tomatoes and sausage.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 of the onion, celery, and pepper mix and cook until vegetables are tender. Add diced tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 ½ c veggie stock and seasonings and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, add more stock by the 1/2 cup and stir occasionally until rice has cooked – similar to cooking risotto.
In another pan, fry sausage and remaining veggies. Just before rice has cooked, add sausage-veggie mix, beans, Worcestershire and garlic; taste and adjust with salt if needed. Before serving, add parsley and green onions and stir to combine.
Serve with crusty bread and your favorite beer.
Note: Traditional jambalaya includes shrimp. I really like Field Roast vegan sausage and though I don’t use it much, this is one dish in which I always use it. However, the idea of vegan shrimp turns my stomach. If you like it, go ahead and add 1 1/2 cups of cooked shrimp. Alternatively, if you’re cooking for meat-eaters you could cook shrimp separately and add it to individual bowls.
We’re a family of four and this recipe typically feeds us with maybe enough leftover for the lucky devil (or saint!) who gets to the fridge first the next day. As a result, I often bump up the ingredients a smidge to have enough leftover for Guy and I to each have for next day’s lunch – you know, add an extra dash of each spice, one more sausage link, just a little more of each veggie. If you’re going to the effort to make this meal, you want to enjoy it more than once.
The broth: I say 3+ cups, and it might just be more on the plus side of things. You just keep adding broth, stirring, and tasting to see if the rice has cooked. Using brown rice does make things take longer and requires more broth, which is why I suggest adding salt only at the very end. I use low-sodium veggie broth, but as this recipe can require 3+ cups of broth for only 3/4 cup of rice, it already has enough salt for our taste.
One more Mardi Gras fact – New Orlean’s official Mardi Gras colors were chosen in 1837 for their traditional Catholic symbolism: purple represents justice, green for faith, and gold for power. While their current cultural connotation means One Hecka’ Big Fun Party, may we, in faith, seek God’s justice in His power.