Celebrate Fat Tuesday with the Queen of Cajun Cooking

Throughout every week of the year but one, the makings of Mardi Gras in our house rest in a box on a shelf in the living room closet just waiting for the good times to roll.

Tucked inside the box, amid a nest of bright and shiny Mardi Gras beads, masks and the whirl-a-gig kind of things you can hang from light fixtures for affect, are two cookbooks by Marcelle Bienvenu, the Queen of Cajun Cooking: “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can you Make a Roux?” and “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can You Make A Roux? – The Sequel”

She sent them to me back when Keeping the Feast was just beginning as a monthly feature at The Monitor. Taken with the titles of the cookbooks which turned up in an Internet search of Cajun food, I contacted her for a phone interview for a Lenten feature. The interview yielded a recipe for a fabulous batch of crab cakes along with the aforementioned cook books.

Every year as Fat Tuesday approaches, I take down the box and turn to Marcelle’s recipes for inspiration – not only for Fat Tuesday but for the abstemious meals of Lent.

I am never disappointed with the results.

This year, after whipping up a  really tasty Brunch Casserole from “The Sequel” I called her up to tell her how good the dish was and how everyone here at The Monitor enjoyed it for breakfast when I brought the dish in for the close up you see here.

Just like the last time, Marcelle picked up the phone on the second or third ring and shared a brief, but friendly chat about all manner of things including  the high price of crawfish and  the frenetic atmosphere that swept in withe the Super Bowl and has yet to sweep out -“with the Saints winning, the place is cuckoo. You can’t get in and you can’t get out!”

Bienvenu said there had been so much celebrating in St. Martinsville, La., where she hails from, that she’s looking forward to Lent. “I’ve eaten so much since the Super Bowl that I’m ready for Lent. Just crackers and water starting Ash Wednesday would be alright with me.”

Celebrating  Fat Tuesday with Bienvenu’s scrumptious Brunch Casserole may put you in the same satisfied mind.

Brunch Casserole

Ingredients: butter for the baking pan; 4 cups cubed day-old French bread; 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese; 10 large eggs, lightly beaten; 1 quart milk; 1 teaspoon dry mustard; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 1/4 teaspoon onion powder; 8 to 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled; 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms; 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes.

Directions: preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter a 9X13-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in the baking dish in a layer and sprinkle with the cheese. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and onion powder. Pour the mixture over the bread. Top with the bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover and chill up to 24 hours. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour or until the mixture sets. Tent with foil if the top begins to overbrown. Serve hot and let the good times roll!


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