Fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun
We'll have big fun
On the Bayou.
And with those famous words from Hank Williams ringing in your ears, you'll want to head to the Convention Centre Friday and Saturday with your "chère amie-o" for Winnipeg's annual Mardi Gras celebration and jubilant "thumbing of the noses at winter."
Winnipeg Mardi Gras is one of those events that mitigates the horribleness of winter. For a couple of nights you get to pretend that you're dancing your way through a street party, complete with crazy characters, purveyors of food, vendors of goodies and warm weather musicians.
Last year, chef Quentin Harty and his team presented the usual favourites, including po' boy sandwiches, deep-fried pickle spears, sweet potato fries, gumbo, peel-and-eat shrimp, freshly shucked oysters or sampler platters for the undecided. All of those dishes will be available again, and this year they'll be adding a spicy, bourbon-flamed garlic pepper shrimp and New Orleans Rose farfalle pasta with chicken, spicy sausage and capicola.
The bars, which are scattered throughout the "street," will serve the appetizingly named Swampwater drinks and Southern Hurricane. Cocktails feature the flavours you might expect -- lots of citrus and spice from brands like Southern Comfort, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, Jack Daniels and others.
Entertainment will be onstage and on the big screens, which will flash the names of people tweeting about the party as well as Mardi Gras-type backdrops. Music will be played by WMG first-timer Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, straight from New Orleans. You can expect to share the dance floor with painted models, showgirls (and boys) and you will definitely see Cupid flitting around. This year, two stages will feature continuous entertainment along with the roving performers, the Dating Game and the Mardi Gras Parade, and guests are encouraged to dress the part.
Because the first night of WMG falls on Valentine's Day, Friday will be Singles Appreciation Day and Cupid will be firing little arrows into those singles who are wearing their hearts on their sleeves... literally.
For the more acquisitive partiers, there will be a number of vendors selling fun and sexy items. Look for Black Raven Mercantile, Mr. Lamp Shop and Vicki's Secrets Passion Parties. You can also check out the Mojo Photo Booth.
After you and your Valentine have danced yourselves silly, go home, kick off your boas, your shoes and your fishnet stockings and get a little sillier with one of these "spiked" desserts. You can prepare all of them in advance and even save the Mardi Gras King Cake for breakfast the morning after the party.
Fill Fruit Jar Cocktail
Your choice of a variety of fresh and colourful fruit, cut to bite-sized pieces, enough to fill two small (250 ml/1 cup) Mason jars (with lids) for a total of 500 ml (2 cups)
10 or 12 raspberries
1 kiwi, sliced and peeled
10 or 12 red or green grapes, sliced in half
1 small orange peeled, sectioned and pieces halved
1 small pear, peeled and cubed
1 small banana, peeled and sliced
For the syrup:
5 ml (1 tsp) orange finely grated orange zest
60 ml (4 tbsp) light brown sugar
60 ml (4 tbsp) spiced rum
Wash and prepare all your fruit. Leave the bananas until the last minute.
Prepare the syrup. Dissolve the brown sugar in the rum. Add the finely grated orange zest.
Fill the jars with the fruit (prepare and include the bananas now).
Pour half the syrup mixture into each jar. Put the lid on and give a gentle shake to cover all the fruit. Refrigerate. Serve within 12 hours. Shake again before serving.
I prepared this and put it in the fridge for more than 24 hours and it still looked nice, even the bananas.
A shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky gives this apple crisp a spicy adult edge. You can safely double the whisky and brown sugar combination to pour over the filling if you really want to go all out.
For the crisp, blend together:
250 ml (1 cup) oatmeal
125 ml (1/2 cup) brown sugar
150 ml (2/3 cup) butter
Press a little more than half of the mixture into the bottom of a very well-greased 20x20 cm (8x8 inch) pan.
For the fruit filling:
5 or 6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut up into bite-sized chunks
30 ml (2 tbsp) Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
60 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar
Mix the whisky and the brown sugar together and then thoroughly coat the apples. Spread apples in crisp pan, scraping any remaining sugar and whisky mixture into the pan as well. Cover with remaining crisp mixture and bake at 190 C (375 F) for 40 minutes or until crisp is golden and bubbling.
Cool and serve. Great with vanilla ice cream.
Mardi Gras King Cake
This is an easy version of the traditional cake. Make it in three parts. First, colour the coconut. (The three colours of Mardi Gras are gold, green and purple. If you find the colours aren't as bright as you'd like, it's all right to add a couple of more drops food colouring to your coconut. Just stir it in thoroughly.) Then prepare the cake, followed by the glaze. It would be great served with coffee the morning after Mardi Gras.
75 ml (3/4 cup) sweetened flake coconut, divided into three.
Food colouring: yellow, green and red and blue mixed together for purple.
Divide the coconut into three glass dishes (it could potentially stain ceramic or other finishes). Add 5 or 6 drops of yellow to the first and stir with a fork until all the colour has been incorporated. Repeat with the green in the second bowl. For the purple, follow the colour mixing instructions on the food colouring box then proceed as above. You can sprinkle them on separately or wait until they are dry and mix them together, confetti-style.
125 ml (1/2 c) chopped pecans or walnuts
60 ml (4 tbsp) butter, divided
30 ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup (pancake syrup is fine)
60 ml (4 tbsp) sugar
3 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2 package plain cream cheese (half of an 8-oz brick), cut into 10 cubes
For the bourbon glaze:
30 ml (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
15 ml (1 tbsp) bourbon
125 ml (1/2 cup) confectioners' (icing) sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream
Turn oven to 200 C (400 F).
Grease well a 15-cm (6-inch) ovenproof, shallow dish. If don't have one that small, use a small pie plate and keep the cake and nuts and syrup in the middle. (You will create a tight circle of stuffed biscuit morsels with one morsel in the middle.) Sprinkle the nuts on the bottom. Melt 15 ml (1 tbsp) butter in a small microwaveable bowl. Stir in syrup; drizzle over nuts in pan.
Melt the remaining butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. Separate the dough into 10 biscuits and flatten each to 1/4-inch thickness using your fingers (you don't need a rolling pin for this). Roll cream cheese cubes in cinnamon sugar mixture until evenly coated and place one in the centre of each biscuit. Gather up sides of dough to enclose filling and the press edges together and seal. Gently shape each biscuit morsel into a ball; dip the top in remaining butter, then in the cinnamon sugar. Arrange the balls, sugar-side up, in a tight circle in prepared pan on top of the syrup and nuts. Place last ball in the middle. Top with any remaining butter and cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly then top with glaze (see below) and coconut.
To make glaze: Melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon and confectioners' sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the cream a little at a time and stop before the glaze becomes too thin; add more if it is too thick.
Drizzle the glaze over the King Cake while it is still warm. Sprinkle coloured coconut on the glaze. Scoop up the nuts and syrup from bottom when serving. Keep well-covered if you are not serving it right away. Should be finished in a day or two at most. Serve with coffee or tea.