Setting The Mood For Mardi Gras

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - February 01, 2006
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For the past 20 years, veteran showman and producer Jack Cione has presented his Mardi Gras Follies at Pearl Harbor. When security issues getting on base made the event’s continuation impossible, Jack thought that was the end of his lavish annual extravaganza. But in stepped Sarah Richards, president of the historic Hawaii Theatre, and the show was “saved” for 2006.

Mardi Gras Follies will be presented Feb. 3-5 as a benefit for the Hawaii Theatre. The show will feature showgirls in spectacular Las Vegas-style costumes singing and dancing to favorite tunes, and headliners such as Cathy Foy, a former Miss Hawaii, Carsi Green, part owner and chef at Cinnamon’s in Kailua, and award-winning performer extraordinaire Poilicious. There will be everything from ballroom dancing, the tapping of Les Jazz Hot, the sultry tango stylings of Mariko Lyons and Claudio Otero, and the marimba sounds of Greg and Junko MacDonald, who have opened for such stars as Jimmy Buffett, Harry Belafonte, Julio Iglesias and Kenny Loggins.

So plan to attend the Mardi Gras Follies, and get in the mood with this recipe for jambalaya, which is dedicated to Jack and everyone involved with the show.

In Louisiana, food cooked in Creole style combines sautéed tomatoes, onions, celery and peppers, and usually includes rice. The many local ethnic groups - French, Spanish, Black and Indian - all influence this cooking style. Most Creole seasoning contains garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika.

Cajun originally pertained to the French Canadian settlers in Louisiana, and Cajun cooking combines French methods with rural Southern ingredients. Cajun seasoning also contains garlic powder, salt, onion powder, cayenne, nutmeg, chili powder and sometimes cumin, paprika and thyme. Variations are abundant in these seasonings, and you can experiment and make a seasoning mix you like best.


* 1 tablespoon canola oil
* 1 large onion, diced
* 2 ribs celery, chopped
* 1 large green pepper, diced
* 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno peppers (optional)
* 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
* 1 (14- to 16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
* 2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt tomato sauce
*1 (14 ounce) can vegetable broth (no msg and low-salt)
* 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 pounds fresh ahi, cut into chunks
* salt and pepper, to taste
* paprika
* cooking spray
* 8 cups cooked brown or white rice

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or deep skillet. Saute the onion, celery, peppers and garlic until soft. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and broth, and stir to combine. Add seasonings, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

While sauce is cooking, coat a nonstick pan with cooking spray, season ahi with salt, pepper and paprika to taste, and cook on high until browned on both sides, but not fully cooked through. Set aside and keep warm. Add fish to finished sauce and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes longer on low heat. Serve over cooked rice.

Makes eight servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 250 Total Fat: 4 grams Cholesterol: 50 milligrams Sodium: 873 milligrams


In last week’s column, the photo of Chef Cheh Chieh Chang should have been credited to photographer Gene Allen.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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