Good times roll: Party on with these Mardi Gras recipes


From left, Mississippi University for Women culinary arts students Lauren Weaver of Starkville, Sarah Grete of Clinton, Paige Lovette of Meridian, Alexa Hunt of Roxie and Ashton Rucker of Vaughan are pictured Feb. 11 with Mardi Gras dishes they made for their food styling course. Themed dishes prepared, from left in front, are king cake, opera cakes and fried shrimp po'boys with comeback sauce. Behind those are Cajun crayfish pasta, left, and Creole jambalaya.

From left, Mississippi University for Women culinary arts students Lauren Weaver of Starkville, Sarah Grete of Clinton, Paige Lovette of Meridian, Alexa Hunt of Roxie and Ashton Rucker of Vaughan are pictured Feb. 11 with Mardi Gras dishes they made for their food styling course. Themed dishes prepared, from left in front, are king cake, opera cakes and fried shrimp po'boys with comeback sauce. Behind those are Cajun crayfish pasta, left, and Creole jambalaya. Photo by: Chris Jenkins/MUW University Relations


Culinary arts major Sarah Grete created the recipe for this crayfish pasta with Cajun cream sauce.

Culinary arts major Sarah Grete created the recipe for this crayfish pasta with Cajun cream sauce.
Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff


The recipe for these layered mini opera cakes was developed by MUW culinary arts major Paige Lovette.

The recipe for these layered mini opera cakes was developed by MUW culinary arts major Paige Lovette.
Photo by: Chris Jenkins/MUW University Relations


Mary Helen Hawkins

Mary Helen Hawkins



Jan Swoope



Next Tuesday -- Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday -- is Mardi Gras season's grand finale. Feb. 25 marks the culmination of Carnival celebrations. It's the last day and night of eating anything we want before the ritual feasting of the Lenten season. Food styling students at Mississippi University for Women's Culinary Arts Institute recently set out to design and prepare a tempting Mardi Gras menu, and share the recipes with Dispatch readers.


"The Food Styling class was given the assignment of coming up with Mardi Gras recipes," said CAI Chef Mary Helen Hawkins. "Each student could select any recipe, plating and props for the photo shoot."


The goal of food styling is to prepare and style food for the camera. A food stylist is trained to maintain food so that it will look its best on TV in commercials, in movies or in print media like magazines and menus.



"You have to learn to be meticulous. You can't just throw it on a plate," said Paige Lovette, a senior culinary arts major from Meridian who would like to one day open her own bakery.


"We could choose our own recipes for this from any source, and then we went over our menu to make sure we didn't duplicate," explained Alexa Hunt, a senior culinary arts major from Roxie. Some of the students even developed their own recipes.


The final menu showcased some of the best of Mardi Gras and its prominent New Orleans vibe. Dishes included jambalaya, crayfish pasta with Cajun cream sauce, fried shrimp po'boys with comeback sauce, king cake and opera cakes.


In the MUW commercial kitchen Feb. 11, culinary majors completed final recipe steps before thoughtfully plating foods to be photographed for the food blogs they will present to the class at the semester's end.


With deliberation, Lauren Weaver of Starkville, an MUW junior, positioned edible pearls one by one on her king cake with food tweezers. Lovette carefully placed decoration on her opera cakes -- layered cinnamon cakes with cream cheese icing on the bottom and top layers and a center of chocolate ganache. Sarah Grete, from Clinton, draped colorful beads along the plate rim of her savory crayfish pasta.


"They enjoyed the assignment," said Hawkins. "It gave them the opportunity for a real-world experience to try out some of the food styling 'tools and tricks' they have learned."


Grete, for example, experimented with microwaving wet cotton balls to provide "steam" for her pasta dish in photos. She also cooked the sausage pieces separately to give each piece the perfect sear for the camera.


"If you have ever wondered why your dish doesn't look like the magazines or the photo on the box, don't feel bad," said Hawkins. "It's more than likely a food stylist has spent hours preparing the perfect product to be photographed."


See more of the students' Mardi Gras recipes at Click on the lifestyles link and laissez le bon temps rouler -- let the good times roll.






1 pound pasta of choice


1/2 cup sweet cream butter


1 bunch chives


6 ounces sliced button mushrooms


1 sliced red bell pepper


2 teaspoons garlic minced


1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning of choice


1/2 pound peeled and cooked crawfish tails, drained


1/2 pound your choice of sausage, cooked


2 cups heavy cream or half-n-half


2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded


1/4 teaspoon red peppers flakes


2 tablespoons olive oil



  • Follow directions on pasta package.


  • In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.


  • Add green onions, red bell pepper, and mushrooms to skillet; saute 3 minutes.


  • Add garlic and 2 teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning to skillet and saute 4 minutes.


  • Add heavy cream and Parmesan, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Keep warm (You can add half and half to thin mixture out.)


  • In another skillet melt the rest of the butter.


  • Add the crawfish tails and sausage and 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Add to sauce and pour over pasta.


    (Source: Recipe by MUW culinary arts major Sarah Grete)





    Prep Time: 15 minutes


    Cook time: 45 minutes


    Serves 6-8 people



    3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided


    2 tablespoons Slap Ya Mama/Cajun seasoning, (adjust to suit heat preference)


    10 ounces andouille sausage, sliced into rounds


    1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces


    1 onion, diced


    1 small green bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced


    1 small red bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced


    2 stalks/ribs celery, chopped


    4 cloves garlic, minced


    14 ounces can crushed tomatoes


    1 teaspoon salt


    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


    1 teaspoon each dried thyme and dried oregano


    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder)


    1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce


    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


    1 cup thinly sliced okra (or 1 teaspoon file powder)


    1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (short grain or long grain)


    3 cups low sodium chicken broth


    1 pound raw shrimp/prawns tails on or off, peeled and deveined


    Sliced green onions and chopped parsley, to garnish



  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the sausage and chicken pieces with half of the Cajun seasoning.


  • Brown sausage in the hot oil; remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add remaining oil to the pot and saute chicken until lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon; set aside.


  • Saute the onion, bell pepper and celery until onion is soft and transparent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).


  • Stir in the tomatoes; season with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes (or Cayenne powder), hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and the remaining Cajun seasoning. Stir in the okra slices (or file powder), chicken and sausage. Cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally.


  • Add in the rice and chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low-medium. Cover and let simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked, while stirring occasionally.


  • Place the shrimp on top of the Jambalaya mixture, stir through gently and cover with lid. Allow to simmer while stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through and pink (about 5-6 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the shrimp being used).


  • Season with a little extra salt and pepper if needed and remove from heat. Adjust heat with extra hot sauce, Cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning. Serve immediately with sliced green onions and parsley. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.


    (Source: Cafe Delites,, via Alexa Hunt at MUW)






    1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 30 shrimp)


    1/2 cup all-purpose flour


    1 large egg


    1/4 cup milk


    3/4 cup cornmeal


    1 teaspoon paprika


    1 teaspoon garlic powder


    1/2 teaspoon cayenne


    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


    1 teaspoon salt


    1 teaspoon black pepper


    1/4 cup canola oil



    For the sauce:


    1/2 cup mayonnaise


    2 tablespoons ketchup


    2 tablespoon hot sauce (like Texas Pete)


    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


    1/4 teaspoon black pepper



    For assembling po'boys:


    4 crusty French rolls


    1 tomato sliced, to taste


    Lettuce shredded, to taste


    Pickles, to taste



  • If using frozen shrimp make sure shrimp are fully defrosted. Remove shells and devein if not purchased that way.


  • Set up breading station: On one plate, spread out the flour. Crack the egg into a bowl, add the milk and beat lightly with a fork. On another plate, spread the cornmeal, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, dried thyme, dried oregano, salt and black pepper and mix them with your fingers.


  • Warm the 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Use 1/4 cup or enough to generously cover bottom of pan.


  • Set out a cookie sheet and line it with paper towel.


  • A few at a time, dredge shrimp in the flour. Transfer them to the egg mixture. Cover shrimp lightly with egg mixture, being careful to shake off any excess egg. Transfer to the cornmeal mixture and coat them evenly.


  • Frying in batches of approximately 10, gently place the cornmeal-coated shrimp into the hot oil and cook undisturbed 2-3 minutes, until batter is crispy and golden brown on one side. Flip shrimp using tongs and cook for another 1-2 minutes.


  • Once shrimp are golden brown and crispy on both sides, gently transfer them from pan to prepared sheet pan with paper towel to drain excess oil. Repeat this process until all shrimp are cooked.


  • Turn oven to "warm" setting, or about 175 F. Leave sheet pan with fried shrimp in warm oven while you prepare remaining ingredients for sandwiches.


  • To make the sauce mix ingredients together quickly with a spoon and set aside. Cover and store refrigerated until ready to serve.


  • Slice each bread roll down the side, leaving the very ends uncut to create a nice pocket to fill with shrimp. Slather each roll with sauce on one side and then stuff in a layer of lettuce, tomato and pickle. Finally stuff the sandwich with as much shrimp as will fit. Drizzle with more sauce and add more tomato, pickles or lettuce to taste.


    (Source: Sauce/Amy Johnson, Po-boys/Frank Racette,, via Ashton Rucker at MUW.)






    For the cinnamon swirl cake:


    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour


    2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder


    3/4 teaspoon salt


    2 teaspoon cinnamon


    3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature


    1 1/2 cup granulated sugar


    3 large eggs room temperature


    1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


    1 cup buttermilk



    For the white chocolate ganache:


    5 ounces white chocolate, coarse chop (x3, for 3 mini cakes)


    3 tablespoons heavy cream (x3)


    Gold, purple and green food dye



    For the cream cheese buttercream:


    8 cups confectioner's sugar


    1 cup (2 sticks) sweet cream butter


    16 ounces cream cheese


    4 teaspoons vanilla extract



  • For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a full sheet pan with parchment and cooking spray. Sift flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. Set aside.


  • Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.


  • Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Fully incorporating after each addition.


  • Separate the batter into two separate bowls and add the cinnamon to one of the bowls and mix well.


  • Pour the vanilla cake in the sheet pan making sure to cover most of the surface area. Proceed to pour the cinnamon batter over the vanilla batter covering any open spaces left. Take a toothpick and swirl the batters together.


  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Place cakes on wire rack to cool 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack.


  • For the cream cheese buttercream: Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla and mix well.


  • Add in the confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate between additions. (If the icing tastes a little too sweet, add a pinch of salt to cut through the sweetness some.)


  • For the white chocolate ganache: Combine white chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until chocolate is almost completely melted.


  • Remove from heat and add in 1-2 drops of gold food coloring. Continue to stir until remaining chocolate is melted and mixture is thoroughly combined. Repeat these steps twice; once with the green food dye and another with the purple food dye. (You want a thick pipe-able mixture. If too thin let it rest in the refrigerator until it thickens.)





  • Use a square or rectangle shaped cutter to cut out multiple pieces from the cake.


  • Using a number "1M" piping tip, pipe a 9-by-9-inch square of dots with the cream cheese icing onto one of the cake squares (3 across and 3 down).


  • Lay another cake square on top pressing lightly to secure it, but not hard enough to squish the icing underneath.


  • On the next layer use another "1M" piping tip to pipe another 9X9 square of the ganache alternating between all 3 colors. Layer another cake square on top of the ganache.


  • Repeat "Step 2" on top of this layer.


  • Finish off the cake with purple, gold, and green sugar pearls and sprinkles.


    (Source: Recipe by MUW culinary arts major Paige Lovette)






    For the dough:


    1 package (2 1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast


    1/2 cup warm water (110-115°)


    1/2 cup warm milk (110-115°)


    1/3 cup vegetable shortening


    1/3 cup sugar


    1 teaspoon salt


    1 large egg


    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour



    For the filling:


    1 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)


    1/2 cup granulated sugar


    1 egg yoke


    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    1 tablespoon cornstarch


    3 tablespoons cinnamon


    1/4 cup packed light brown sugar



    For the glaze:


    3 cups confectioners' sugar


    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


    3 to 4 tablespoons water


    Purple, green and gold colored sanding sugar sprinkles



  • To make the dough: Combine warm water, warm milk, yeast and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a stand mixing bowl. Mix on low until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes.


  • Slowly add shortening, egg and vanilla until shortening is in small lumps throughout the liquid. Add 2 cups of flour and mix on low until combined. Switch to dough hook and add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn mixer to medium speed and let mix for 5 minutes to easily knead dough.


  • Grease a bowl with nonstick spray and add dough, cover with clean towel or cling film and let rest in warm area for 1 hour or until doubled in size.


  • To make the filling (make while dough rises): Combine cream cheese and sugar in stand mixer until smooth, add egg yoke, corn starch and vanilla and continue to mix until combined. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar in a separate bowl until combined.


  • Once dough has doubled, punch down dough and split in two equal balls. Roll dough out on floured surface until approximately 4 inches wide and 12-14 inches long. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over entire surface then cover with half of the cinnamon mixture. Roll dough width wise like a cinnamon roll. Pinch edges to rest of the dough then tuck one end into the other, creating a circle.


  • Place on baking sheet with parchment paper. Repeat for second cake. Allow to rest for 30 minutes-1 hour until doubled again in size. Preheat oven to 350 F: bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown and when thumped sounds hollow. Allow to cool slightly on cooling rack. Make glaze.


  • To make glaze: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until a thick glaze forms. May need to add more water or powdered sugar to get correct ratio.


  • Place slightly cooled king cakes on plate or cake board. (Can add baby if desired under cake at this stage) then drizzle glaze over cake. Immediately cover with sprinkles in 3 sections each of purple/green/gold sanding sugar.


    (Source: Recipe supplied by Ashton Rucker at MUW)



  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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