It’s Mardi Gras (in a few hours)! I’ve spent the past week gorging myself on Better Cheddar* and Le Popeye dip from Langenstein’s, along with lots of king cake and Bunny Bread sandwiches. We’re having jambalaya and king cake for dinner tomorrow night; here are some of my favorites for Mardi Gras (or any time, really):
If you prefer a meatless, Lent-appropriate dish, consider gumbo z’herbes. I make a version from the Gumbo Shop cookbook, which is not dissimilar from this recipe that ran in the Times-Picayune. Leah Chase is known for her Holy Thursday gumbo z’herbes and while her recipe is not meatless, her tradition is wonderful (as is her version, of course, if you like meat). The recipe I use is below:
Gumbo Z’Herbes (Adapted from the Gumbo Shop cookbook) – definitely read through the entire recipe before you start
1 cup olive oil
2 cups flour
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced garlic (really)
6 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp salt
1 lb. mushrooms, sauteed until all the water is gone and they’re nicely browned
1 gallon stock
1 bunch collard greens, chopped (you can substitute 10 oz. frozen greens for any of the greens)
1 small head cabbage, chopped into 1-inch squares
1 bunch turnip greens, chopped
1 bunch mustard greens, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 lb. red beans, cooked, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water (you can absolutely substitute two cans of red beans, rinsed and drained – just omit the cooking water)
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir until you have a peanut butter-colored roux. Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Sautee until the vegetables are tender and start to stick and brown a little. Add the shallots, garlic, herbs, salt, and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Meanwhile – start this before you start the roux, even – in a large soup pot, bring the water/stock and bean water, if using, to a boil. Add the collards and cabbage and boil until just tender. Add the turnip greens, mustard greens, and green onions and return to a boil. You can keep this at a low simmer while you make the roux.
Add the mushrooms to the roux mixture and cook for two minutes. Carefully stir this mixture into the simmering greens and return to a boil. Add the parsley, red beans, and soy sauce to taste.
Return to a boil one more time, then remove from the heat. Serve over rice.
This is best when it’s refrigerated overnight and reheated. The recipe yields about two gallons of gumbo, give or take – if you run with my crowd, it’s enough for you to freeze and have for lunch or dinner just about every Friday between now and Easter. The Gumbo Shop cookbook advises you to freeze a little extra “for emergency penance,” and this will indeed freeze beautifully in Ziplock freezer bags (my preferred freezer storage method, as it takes less space and my freezer is still full of wee tasty birds).
I like to serve all of the above with good French bread and a salad. Put on some tacky beads, make a toast, enjoy your meal, and have a very happy Mardi Gras.
*But please, don’t use Miracle Whip. Really. That would make me cry a little, inside my heart. And if you have a recipe for Le Popeye dip, please share!