It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People from all over are flying, driving and catching trains to this magical city. Locals are finalizing their costumes for each of their favorite parades and marking their spots to camp out for Fat Tuesday. It is so unfortunate that many tourists don’t get to see the variety of the parades. Many tourists think that Mardi Gras is getting plastered, flashing your ta ta’s and maneuvering your way down Bourbon street with the massive crowd. Mardi Gras is so much more! It is for families. It is a torchbearer of traditions for the Mardi Gras Indians. It is a time where we all come together to see our friends and family parade in a krewe or in a school band. It is one of my favorite times of the year.
Even if you can’t be here for Mardi Gras or if you have never been, you can have your own Mardi Gras parade at home with friends. In some cities, they actually do try to re-create the look and feel of Mardi Gras which I think is awesome. New Orleans is contagious and spreads good karma throughout the world!
So you can’t be here, but you can make a pot of gumbo for Fat Tuesday and listen to music from Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffin or oldies like Fats Domino’s. Dress up! Wear your tu tu with pride and laugh until it hurts. It will give the neighbors something to talk about. 🙂 As my favorite movie character said, “Life is a banquet and too many poor sucka’s are starving to death! Live. Live. Live.”- Auntie Mame
I am sharing with you a recipe that was passed down to me by the sweetest Creole woman named Mrs. Saundra. Mrs. Saundra was a cooking teacher at the New Orleans Cooking School in the French Quarter. Every day she would come to work and teach tourists and some locals about the culinary history of New Orleans. She would present live cooking demos and include some of New Orleans most famous dishes- Jambalaya, Bananas Foster, New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Bread Pudding and of course Gumbo! Mrs. Saundra would greet everyone with a sweet smile and a “Hey my babbby”. She was a doll. Miss Saundra was a mentor to me. She wasn’t a trained chef but she was a Creole grandmother and that deserves huge respect! Mrs. Saundra gave me her gumbo recipe and I want to share it with you. I kept up with Mrs. Saundra for quite some time. Even after her bout with breast cancer. I lost contact with her. I pray she is fully recovered, with her grandbabies, cooking a pot of gumbo and sharing New Orleans culinary tales. So as Mrs. Saundra would say, “Enjoy my babyy!” Happy Mardi Gras 2014 y’all!
Makes 10 servings
2 pound cooked chicken (Thighs if available, bite size)
2 tsp. of Cajun/ Creole Seasoning
1 cup of oil (I prefer peanut oil)
1/4 cup of salted butter
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme
1 cup of flour (all purpose)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 cups of finely chopped yellow onions
1 cup of finely chopped celery
1 cup of finely chopped seeded green bell pepper,
1 ½ pounds of sliced smoked sausage (Andouille if possible)
2 pounds of medium sized raw peeled (head removed) shrimp (Gulf Coast Shrimp preferably. It is sweeter and local)
8 cups chicken stock, hot
5 green onion stalks, chopped finely
3 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Gumbo Filé powder, add at table
*Now, if you are a meat lover and can get access to other types of Louisiana sausages. Add Creole Chaurice, a spicy hot sausage. (1 lb. cooked and sliced) and 1 smoked turkey neck.
Season chicken pieces with Cajun-Creole seasoning. Add ¼ cup water in pan. Bake in 350 degree oven until cooked. About 40 to 45 minutes. Save juice in bottom of pan. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet until hot. Stir in flour to make roux. Continue to cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until roux is dark brown. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and butter. Cook until the onions are translucent or clear. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large pot (Dutch Oven).
Add stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Slice sausage and brown in a pan with a little oil. Add a little stock or water to deglaze the pan. That means to stir the brown bites in the bottom with liquid. Add chicken and sausage to the large pot. Add the liquid in the bottom of pan that you cooked the chicken in. Simmer for 1 ½ hours.
Turn the heat off, add shrimp and cover. This will prevent you from overcooking the shrimp. Let it sit covered for about ten minutes. The shrimp should turn a nice pink. Adjust seasonings to taste and skim fat before serving. Serve over hot rice. Garnish with green onion and parsley. Add filé powder and your favorite hot sauce at the table. (Crystal is my favorite)