In my world, and for some of you, this is the day when traditionally we clean out the beautiful, fattening rich things like butter and dairy.  Adding flour (and whatever else), we come up with stacks of pancakes and, oh, ok, bacon or sausage…Drooling maple syrup (only the real kind) and maybe a few bananas or even leftover frozen and grated cranberries with toasted pecans and a tish orange peel, my personal favorite.  My own church has a pancake supper tonight at 6 with lots of bacon and lots of fun.  Check out First Congregational Church, nw corner of St. Vrain and Tejon in Colorado Springs.   ( pancake photo: Salahan.com; jambalaya photo: Alyce Morgan)

Christians are getting ready to begin Lent…and, it’s not a time to sit around and think about how bad we are. That’s old school.  Now, it’s an opportunity to review who we are and why….how we stand right now…and even to think about wiping our own personal slate clean so that we can be drawn new. To maybe see a few goals for our spiritual existence or personal life.  It’s a fine time to commit to prayer, to renewed study and to see what comes of it.  We are assured that, as we model ourselves on our Lord and savior, we too can begin again, live again, fall into depths doubting and shouting… and rise once more. Ever hopeful, ever-changing.  40 days of saying to oneself sometime during each day’s prayer-life, “I want to change this one thing; I’m commited to it.”  In other words, Lent is a positive, proactive experience.  Make me new.  Help me take the time to think about what I am, who I am and what I would like to change, who I would like to be…  There’s no crying in Lent (or baseball.)

But, instead of the ubiquitous pancakes, why not whip up a Mardi Gras special before Lent starts tomorrow?  Even if you don’t know Lent from “Rent,” it’s a great time for this dish.  With a little New Orleans background of my own, I was born with what they call the trinity (onions, green peppers and celery) in my mouth.  I’m talking Jambalaya, an easy one. The orignial recipe here is from honored Cajun food writer Maude Ancelet, but comes to us through Andrew Scrivani’s sweet blog makingsundaysauce.com.  Mark Bittman (NYT) mentioned it a little over a week ago and I’ve made and tweaked it, clarifying a few things and changing it up a teense.

In the food world, my recipe will be called “a riff on it.” I will also say I’m in the process of tweaking it even more. I’d like to try it as an oven dish because to find a dutch oven or covered skillet large enough for all of these ingredients (and for them not to be stacked 6 inches high in the pan) is difficult.  I covered my 14″ frittata pan with an assortment of cookie sheet, foil, etc. to getter done.  A bit cumbersome.  Never-the-less.  You may have different pans!  Your dutch oven may be larger or, in any case, you can brown the chicken in batches if you need to. Just make it; it’s delish.  Phew.  Great for … Shrove Tuesday.  Here’s my version:                                                                      (Oh, and it’s time to rent “Chocolat.”)

Jambalaya
serves 4-6 easily

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1# sweet Italian sausage, cut into 2″ pieces
2T olive oil
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
2 stalks celery, ditto
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t dry oregano
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
1 # rice
1/2 t kosher salt-or to taste
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper-or to taste
1/4 t crushed red pepper, optional
1/4 c each sliced green onions (use tops) and chopped parsley*

In dutch oven, or large skillet (will need a lid), brown chicken and sausage in oil over medium heat, turning to cook evenly on all sides.  Remove meats to paper-towel lined platter when nicely browned, but not done.  Add the onions, pepper, celery, garlic, oregano and bay leaf to pan.  Saute well for 10 minutes or so until softened.  Add water, rice, salt  and pepper.  Return the meats to the pot  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer until rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed.  Keep covered and let steep a little while, serving “piping hot.”  In a small bowl, mix the green onions and parsley and let folks help themselves to these for a garnish.
*option:  top with some shrimp grilled with a little bit of Old Bay seasoning

WINE:  California zinfandel.  You also might like a  Beaujolais, often known as a “fun” wine.
DESSERTSomething “sinful” like a hot fudge sundae or 2 pieces of apple pie and ice cream.

Happy Mardi Gras, Happy Shrove Tuesday…..
May your Lent be all you need it to be…………..

Sing a new song (definitely for the next 40 days),
Alyce

And, of course…  NEWS FROM THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN….