Mansfield church’s Mardi Gras culinary celebration set tonight

MANSFIELD – Area residents will enjoy a Mardi Gras Culinary Celebration featuring Cajun cuisine today at the St. James Church Fellowship Hall.

The St. James International Dinner Series presents the sixth five-course international dinner offered in the series, which is presented twice a year.

The dinner is a combination of a sit-down and buffet style, to bring more of a “party atmosphere,” said Shannon Fernandes, a co-organizer of the event.

“Food is set up in stations so people could try the different types of food they preferred,” she said.

Over the past several years, the series has featured an authentic culinary experience of England, Goa, Paris, Hawaii, Mexico and now New Orleans.

“We are having a Thai dinner in the fall,” Hernandes said.

The menu for the celebration, prepared by church members, includes virgin hurricane drinks and starters of crawfish cardinal and oysters Rockefeller dip followed by muffuletta sandwiches, consisting of a muffuletta loaf split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, capicola, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, ham, Swiss cheese and provolone.

The signature olive salad, consists of olives diced with the pickled celery, cauliflower and carrot seasoned with oregano and garlic and covered in olive oil.

The main dish of the meal, prepared by Sylvia Crossen, includes red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya.

“Beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine traditionally made with red beans, bell pepper, onion and celery, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf, and pork bones, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice,” said co-organizer Rowena Gibbons.

Gumbo is a dish that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century consisting primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions.

Jambalaya is a blend of rice and various other ingredients – but usually with celery, bell peppers and onions – with various meats and seafood.

The side dish, prepared by Gibbons, is sweet and sour collard greens with Vidalia onions, honey and lemon balsamic vinegar; “a perfect compliment for the spiciness of the red beans and rice and jambalaya.”

The dinner concludes on the sweet notes of New Orleans’ signature King’s Cake prepared by Fernandes, a cinnamon-roll like cake inside with sugary icing with traditional Mardi Gras colored sprinkles on the outside, and Bananas Foster, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Dark rum is added to the dish last and ignited and served over vanilla ice cream.

The flaming dish was created in 1951 by Paul Blang at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, La., she said.

For the first time in a dinner offered in the series, the evening’s celebration will include live music with signature Cajun tunes and plenty of dancing, Fernandes said.