This post is long overdue…..I wrote it on Ash Wednesday and still haven’t officially posted it yet. Oops!
I love holidays….any holiday. And, this past weekend was chock full of holidays. Of course, there was Valentine’s Day, of which I am not a huge fan. But what about those lesser celebrated holidays such as Chinese New Year (at least in the USA), President’s Day; and, who could forget Fat Tuesday? I sure couldn’t. And luckily, Fat Tuesday more than made up for a ho hum Chinese New Year dinner. (As a side, I knew I should have cooked. My sister in law had sent me a nice cookbook with all kinds of Chinese new year decorations. Our house was decorated more festively than the restaurant. I am not suprised however, I mean, Chinese food in suburban Florida is already questionable…..add that to the fact that the restaurant was very clearly marketing to the Valentines Day crowd. I think I noticed them rolling their eyes when we walked in….and we were a sight. Husband who might not have showered for days, son with oversized hoodie pulled over his head, and daughter wearing the biggest, loudest tutu dress that she could possible find. And me, just begging for a beer, some dim sum and a celebration. Alas, no dim sum. No lion dances. There was deep fried shrimp covered in mayonaise with walnuts sprinkled on top. Yuck. No celebration and bad food=grumpy family. For the first time, I desperatly wanted to be back in Hawaii. )
Fast forward a couple of days to FAT TUESDAY! To get us warmed up for the end of Mardi Gras, I bought a King Cake from Fresh Market. I had contemplated making one but this cake was SO GOOD that I am glad I hadn’t. However, the thing with King Cake is…buried somewhere within the cake is a plastic baby doll or some other kind of trinket. Whoever eats the piece with the baby in it gets the honor of buying the cake the next year. The kids were so excited to find that baby. Aaron got the last piece and what!??, NO BABY! The kids were so dissapointed. I am considering complaining to the store. Why would you buy a King Cake if you don’t get to play “find the baby”.
Anyway, I decided to make gumbo for dinner on FAT TUESDAY. Shrimp Gumbo and Chocolate Lava Cakes. (The chocolate lava cake was a late Valentine gift to my son….who begged me to make them.) I am not from New Orleans….actually I have never even been there so I had no idea if Gumbo is even eaten around Mardi Gras…..but I did know that it was Cajun and thought it would fit the bill perfectly. So, at about 4 pm, I started to search for a good, simple, recipe. That was not easy to find. Finally, I stumbled upon Alton Brown’s Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo. It didn’t really sound easy at all. It required baking the roux for an hour and a half, boiling shrimp carcasses and shells to get a shrimp broth, browning sausage, and cutting a chopping a whole lot of veggies. Not exactly a Tuesday night quick and easy dinner. However, I was quite surprised. There was a lot of downtime, like waiting for the roux, so it didn’t seem too chaotic in my kitchen. I even had time to clean up while cooking!
I followed the steps. I baked the roux until dark brown. I boiled shrimp bodies and made a mess of my stove-top. I browned the sausage. I chopped and diced the onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and tiny baby celery from my garden. I mixed it all together. And it worked! It was really, really good. So good that Aaron did not believe I actually made it (Now, that’s a compliment!). His exact words were something like, ” This is take-out, right? I mean, you made this? It is just so complex and colorful and good. I thought it must be take-out.” (Yes, I have tried to pull that one over on him before.)
So, Fat Tuesday or not. I suggest you try this recipe. I modified it slightly due to lack of certain ingredients and I added okra for more green. I used Alton Brown’s recipe and instead of the file powder, I added about 1 cup of frozen okra.
Give it a try for Mardi Gras or anyday!