A Month of Mardi Gras Cooking – Let’s start with gumbo

When you live on the Gulf Coast, you are usually just a hop, skip, and a jump away from New Orleans.  Most Gulf Coast residents have a fondness for that place, and when Mardi Gras rolls around, cities and towns large and small hold their own festivities with parties and parades and balls.

Mardi Gras, for those who are unfamiliar, is historically the Catholic last hoorah just prior to Ash Wednesday, which signifies the start of the Lenten season of self-denial leading to Easter.  These days, though, there are fewer Catholics and more parties.  Although the word is that American Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, AL, most would concede that this six-week sequence of events, culminating in Fat Tuesday shenanigans, was perfected in New Orleans.


You wouldn’t catch me in this crowd for nothin!

As much as I adore New Orleans and have visited many times, I wouldn’t be there at Mardi Gras to save my life.  A friend of mine, who apparently likes crowds, described a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of people on Fat Tuesday in which a person could take their feet off the ground and yet still remain upright.  No thank you.  At my age, I have come to value my personal space.  Not to mention, I know what New Orleans smells like during normal times.  I’m not adventuresome enough to check it out during Mardi Gras.

What I will check out is their food.  I’ll be cooking Cajun and Creole all month long.  Which brings us to gumbo.

Here are your ingredients:

1 c flour

1 c strained bacon drippings

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

2 crushed garlic cloves

1/2 c chopped parsley

2 tsp thyme

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 bay leaves

3 c chicken stock

14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 lb andouille sausage, sliced

1 lb frozen sliced okra, thawed

2 lbs of medium deveined, unpeeled shrimp

1 lb sea scallops

4-5 fillets of flounder or grouper, cut into wide strips

Gumbo starts with the roux, which in my recipe consists of 1 cup strained bacon drippings and 1 cup of flour stirred in a non-stick pan with a wooden spoon.  My roux sometimes takes up to 45 minutes.  This is where my kids come in…

photo (17)

The Saints shirt is purely coincidental.

Free child labor.  They learn quickly not to burn themselves.  Nolan did this while I washed up some dishes.  He’s a great helper.

It is important not to scorch the roux while browning it at least to the color of a dull copper penny…

photo (20)

To the hot roux you will add bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley, and garlic cloves.  Cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mixture will be dry.

photo (21)

While that is cooking, peel the shrimp, adding the peel to a pan with enough water to cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain out the shell and reserve two cups of the shell stock.  Refrigerate the shrimp.

To a large stock pot, add the roux and veggie mixture, shell stock, tomatoes, chicken stock, all seasonings, and sausage.  Simmer 2 hours.  Add okra.  Simmer 30 minutes more, and add all seafood.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Serve over a scoop of rice with Tobasco to taste and sliced baguettes.

photo (19)

Hellooooo, Gumbo! Muah…I love you, gumbo.


About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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5 Responses to A Month of Mardi Gras Cooking – Let’s start with gumbo

  1. mindbender99 says:

    I just got very hungry… Mmmmmm

  2. My husband told me about this last night and said I had to copy down the recipe! I am notorious for forgetting about things and burning them and I saw the part about being careful not to scorch the roux!! I think I will copy this down and have him make it! I love New Orleans too! I was there when I was 12 and absolutely fell in love with it! You son looks so adorable cooking in his Saints shirt and….no pants!!! haha!!! Love it!

    • Joyce says:

      Yes, our dress code is pretty relaxed. How long were you in New Orleans?

      I had to mix up a little more roux because I had accidentally made the gumbo a little too watery, and my husband reminded me of a tip my brother had shared with me…I was going to experiment with it a bit more before publishing, but it might help you. He told me to turn the heat up high and cook it in 10-15 minutes. When I made my second batch, I did just that – put the heat on med-high and just kept stirring like mad, occasionally removing it from the burner while still stirring. It turned a chocolately brown and, as you can see, and really thickened up the gumbo the way it should be. Maybe you can put the hubs to work on the roux?

      I find it less daunting to make this in stages – we made the roux in the morning, chopped veggies a little later, peeled shrimp a little while after that, etc. Also, I forgot…just before serving I add a can or two of lump crabmeat, undrained. There are gumbo crabs we can buy around here, but I just prefer the meat without all that shell. Good luck!

  3. Lu says:

    I’ve only ever heard of gumbo and never tried it – although the Cajun and Creole foods I have eaten were absolutely delicious 🙂
    I think your recipe warrants a little exploration into gumbo territory!

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