Mardi Gras Dishes

 

Mark your calendars for March 4, 2014!  Time for Mardi Gras!

Crawfish Maria

Crawfish Maria

When most of us in the U.S. think of this celebration, our thoughts drift to Louisiana but this day is celebrated in many cultures. I am not a native of this fine sate, but am in love with all things New Orleans.  I especially love the foods born from the blending of a variety of cultures and evolved through the need to use local resources, readily available and free.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”—the final feasting before the fasting of Lent, which begins Ash Wednesday.   Fat Tuesday is also called Shrove Tuesday, a name that comes from the practice of shriving—purifying oneself through confession—prior to Lent. Many of the names applied to this day relate to food and eating. In many Latin countries, Mardi Gras is the culmination of the carnival season of revelry and feasting. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, this Tuesday is Fastnacht (fast night), and everyone enjoys the traditional fastnachtkuchen, a rectangular doughnut with a slit in the middle. If you’re not up to traveling to the big Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, you might want to sample some of the foods unique to this area and plan your own party.

I will direct you first to the blog Acadiana Table by George Graham.  His love of the area is apparent in his stories of Cajun and Creole cooking and his luminous photography.  His latest post, “Rox’s Roux” speaks to the lost art of making roux from scratch.  He advised me to check out a book called Season’s of Louisiana by Chef Peter SclafaniIMG_5932

Wow!  This is a beautiful book with easy to follow recipes and mouth-watering photos (available on Amazon).  With recipes like Corn & Crab Bisque, and Creole Tomato Salad, I plan to try many of these offerings. I decided to first try the one below, made with one of my favorites, crawfishAlso called crawdads, these are fresh water crustaceans that resemble tiny lobsters, claws and all.  The meat of these small creatures is primarily in the tail so I usually buy crawfish tails, already picked and cleaned available in one pound packages.  I buy them from a local source that brings them in from the gulf.  Check with your fish monger to see if he/she carries it or can order it for you if you do not live where it is readily available.   They are mild in flavor and much like lobster have sweet and succulent meat, and are versatile in their use.  Worth a try if you have never had them.

Here’s how it goes down.

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity

IMG_5931

CRAWFISH MARIA                                                                        Serves 8

Recipe by Chef Peter Sclafani featured in “Seasons of Louisiana”

1 lb. fettuccine (any type of pasta can be substituted)

1c butter

1c onions, peeled and chopped

½ c celery, chopped

½ c red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1T garlic, minced

1c flour

½c dry white wine

2 quarts crawfish stock (chicken or seafood stock can be substituted)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon oregano, dry

2t fresh thyme, chopped

2t fresh basil, chopped

1T Creole seasoning

2t sea salt

1t fresh ground black pepper

½ t white pepper, ground

¼ t cayenne pepper, ground

2c heavy whipping cream

2lbs. Louisiana crawfish tails

½ c green onions, sliced

¼ c fresh Italian parsley, chopped

  1. Bring a large stockpot of water to boil.  Add salt to make it taste like the sea water.  Cook the pasta until al dente, just cooked through but still firm.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile heat a large stockpot over medium high heat and melt the butter.  Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes.  Add the celery, and bell pepper and sauté and additional 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for one more minute.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook to make a white roux.  Add the wine and whisk into the roux.  Add the stock and continue to whisk to remove any lumps.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Add the bay leaf, oregano, thyme, basil, Creole seasoning, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Let simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the cream and taste for seasoning.  Stir in the crawfish tails, green onions and parsley.  Toss with the hot pasta and divide into 8 bowls.  Serve hot.

IMG_5894

This recipe makes a lot so I cut the recipe in half.  It still made a lot as it is very rich.  This could be a special occasion dish as it is creamy, and has the feel of celebration.  When I make it for everyday, I will cut back a little on the butter and cream.  Still very satisfying but a bit lighter.  I used a commercial Creole seasoning but Peter has a recipe in his book that is easy to assemble.

So thanks to Chef Peter and George Graham for keeping the traditions and cuisine of this fine region of our country alive.  I am already thinking of my Mardi Gras party menu and urge you to do the same.  These resources will really help you get excited for this celebration and for those amazing and vibrant tastes.

IMG_5946This is a sumptuous way to spread the traditions and Louisiana love, one dish at a time.  I am feeling it and sending my love of Louisiana and you to your kitchen.  Until next time, celebrate!  Jeanne

 

 

 

 

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10 responses to “Mardi Gras Dishes

  1. What??? No dish to celebrate Ground Hog’s Day???

  2. I know. It seems Mardi Gras has more to celebrate. Besides, Phil made me mad this year. I really want an early Spring. Hope you are well.

  3. + http://www.FiveGreenAcres.com + Local-minded, synergistic homesteading; artisanal yield.

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  4. Jeanne, one of the happiest trucking layovers we ever had was in Louisiana. I ate etoufee, gumbo, and jambalaya to my heart’s content! Your Crawfish Maria took me right back. Definitely a dish to celebrate!

    • I absolutely love New Orleans and the food. Such a rich mix of cultures and their heritage. I posted a recipe last year for Crawfish Pie. It is also really delicious. It was from John Besh’s cookbook, my New Orleans. If you do a search on my blog it will come up. Definitely worth a try. Check out the blog I mentioned written by George Graham. His recent post on making roux is amazing. Cannot wait to make some gumbo, Thanks for your readership and comments, Kim. I always love hearing from you.

      • Jeanne, thanks again for the links. I’ve had gumbo on my mind lately (in fact, I came home from the grocery store last night with the holy trinity in tow!) and that authentic roux recipe/method is top notch! (Another “must read” blog… so many ideas, so little time… but when it comes to authentic food and flavors, it’s worth it!) Hope you’re stayin’ warm. xo

      • Gumbo sounds like the perfect thing right now but I am afraid it will have to wait. Leaving tonight for California for 2 wks. Will be visiting children and grandchildren. I am sure I will return with stories. Hopefully some warmth will renew my winter weary spirit. How are you guys? Ice storms? This has been a brutal season for many. Grateful for a warm house and good food. Take care. Jeanne

      • Have a great trip, Jeanne, and a warm one, too. Things are starting to melt here — keep your fingers crossed. 🙂 Enjoy your family time!

  5. Thanks, Kim. Maybe it will be spring for all of us when I get back.

  6. Pingback: Gumbo and Other Gobbledygook | a little lunch

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