For a lot of people, Fat Tuesday aka Mardi Gras is the perfect excuse to eat too much, drink too much and just all around have way more fun than imaginable. These days very few people stop to think of the religious implications of the day.
Historians will tell you that festivals resembling Mardi Gras go back thousands of years, long before Christianity. Ancient Rome held festivals to celebrate the harvest seasons with free-for-all indulgences in all that had been reaped. Once Christianity arrived in Rome, old traditions were incorporated into the new faith. Debauchery became a prelude to the Lenten Season with its demands and disciplines.
Much of the foods and merry-making revolving around Mardi Gras is simply a way of consuming all those “sinful” things that might tempt us during Lent, a time of abstinence. Meats, eggs, milk, butters, fats – all things that we should avoid for forty days. Drink is also a temptation, as Lent is a time of sober reflection and preparation for salvation.
All religious endeavors and sobriety set aside, for me this as good an excuse as any to eat New Orleans Style. Over the course of about a year, Bayou cooking has become my new favorite. It brings all the flavors of France (creams, butters and yummy sauces) with all the spice Hubby loves about Mexico. That’s what I call a win-win situation. I’m happy, Hubby’s happy and Kiddo’s in heaven so long as I leave out the shrimp and crawfish usually associated with Creole inspired dishes.
Needless to say, this Gumbo recipe was a big hit in our house. Hope you enjoy it, too.
Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
1 large Yellow Onion
1 large Red Bell Pepper
2 Celery Ribs
1 lb Smoked Sausage
4 Garlic Cloves
1 Rotisserie Chicken
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Flour
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Creole seasoning to taste
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
6 cups Chicken Stalk
2 Bay Leaves, fresh
2 cups Rice
2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Butter
Kosher Salt to taste
Green Onion for garnish
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, whisk in flour. Continue whisking until the roux has cooked to the color of chocolate milk, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, the roux will continue to deepen and develop.
Peel and chop onion, set aside. Core, seed and chop bell pepper, set aside. Rinse celery, trim and discard ends, dice remaining ribs, set aside. Slice sausage into 1/4-inch thick rounds, set aside. Mince garlic, set aside. Remove skin from rotisserie chicken, strip meat from bones. Shred meat and set aside.
Stir onion, bell pepper, celery, and sausage into the roux; cook 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, Creole seasoning, Cayenne Pepper and a pinch of red peppers flakes for extra heat; blend thoroughly. Pour in the chicken broth and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken, and simmer 30 minutes more.
Add rice to the insert of an Instant Pot, add water, butter and salt. Lock the lid in place, select RICE setting, WHITE RICE; 13 minutes and press start.
Cooker will pressurize, then cook for the selected time. Turn cooker off, open release valve. Once steam is gone, fluff and set aside.
To serve, ladle gumbo into bowls. Top with a rounded serving of rice. Snip green onion for garnish, sprinkle over the rice. Serve and enjoy.
This is delicious with warm bread to sop up any liquids remaining in the bowl once the Gumbo is gone.
Today is also National Almond Day. Can’t have Mardi Gras without a Kings Cake. And what an easy cake this is – a puff pastry filled with an almond paste, then glazed and sprinkled with Mardi Gras Sugar. Perfect!
Almond Kings Cake with Mardi Gras Glaze
1 (17.3- oz) package frozen Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
8 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup sliced Almonds
1 tablespoon Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Almond or AP Flour
1 tablespoon Rum
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
Thaw puff pastry. Unfold the pastry sheets and place each one on its own rimmed baking sheet. Press down on any cracks to repair them, and gently roll the pastry to smooth it out. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place butter on counter and let soften to room temperature. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add one of the eggs, and beat until creamy, 30 to 45 seconds more.
Place the almonds and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Turn the almond meal into the bowl with the butter and sugar. Add the flour, rum and vanilla, and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just incorporated.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg.
Remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator. Paint a 1-inch border of the beaten egg around the edges of one pastry sheet. Spoon the almond mixture into the center of the pastry, pressing it with the spoon just until it meets the egg wash. Do not let the filling get onto the egg wash border. Place the second pastry sheet over the filling, and press down on the edges firmly to seal. Brush the top with egg wash.
Bake until the cake is puffed and brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack before decorating.
Mardi Gras Glaze
1-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons Milk or as needed
1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract
Yellow or Gold Sugar
Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and whisk in enough milk to make a smooth, but still fairly thick, glaze. Add the extract. Spread the glaze evenly over the cooled cake, and then sprinkle the sugars over the glaze in large stripes. Let set for 20 minutes before serving.