Origins of Mardi Gras
Have you ever wondered about what the origins of Mardi Gras were and what their religious and cultural significance means to us in the United States and around the world? I imagine the brightly colored festivals, loud music, flavorful food, and large groups of people out in droves celebrating carnival in New Orleans, but in fact that is only one aspect of what Mardi Gras , “Fat Tuesday” truly means.
Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it is celebrated in many countries around the world—those with large Roman Catholic population. It is celebrated on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. In early Roman history, the Roman government wanted to incorporate some of the peasants’ traditions into the religious obligations of lent and that is how the feasting and festivals of carnival were created . Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, and cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of foods for fasting.
Brazil, Venice, and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year. Mardi Gras is a French word that translates to Fat Tuesday. Mardi meaning Tuesday and Gras meaning fat.
Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the United States in New Orleans territory when French explorers settled in the area around 1699-1701. In the mid 1850’S, students from a local New Orleans university donned bright colors of purple, green, and yellow and danced in the streets and made merry, like they had observed on a trip to Paris during Mardi Gras. Now you can find the yearly event in New Orleans just before lent. Many popular Cajun and Creole dishes and drinks are eaten this time of year for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Some of the most popular being Gumbo, Jambalaya, Poor Boys, Beignet, and the popular Mardi Gras drinks called Hurricanes. Please enjoy these fun twists on traditional Mari Gras favorites!
Cajun Chicken Gumbo with Sonoma Spice Queen Spices
Cajun Chicken Gumbo
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 package Sila’s Andouille sausage or similar
1 large green bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
5 stalks celery
1 large white or yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup flour plus 1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoon SSQ Cajun Spice
1 ½ Tablespoon SSQ Poultry Mix
1 ½ Tablespoons neutral oil
4-6 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 12 oz can whole tomatoes in sauce or petite diced tomatoes
1 Teaspoon Salt
· Chop bell peppers, onion, garlic, and celery into small dice
· Melt butter in a small pan and add flour to make rue
· Cook rue on low for 30-45 minutes stirring every few minutes until it is a dark golden brown (not burnt)
· Cut sausages in half and then cut into small- medium size pieces
· Cut chicken breast into small bite size pieces and set aside
· Heat a large deep pan ( not a stock pot) to medium high heat and add sausage.
· Brown sausage for 1-2 minutes and add oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and ½ salt
· Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes until onions and veggies start to sweat
· Using your hands, take canned whole tomatoes and crush up until they are small and set aside with tomato liquid
· Add tomato and spices to mix and cook for 1-2 minutes
· Add 4-5 cups of chicken stock
· Cover pan with lid and cook for 20 minutes on medium
After 20 minutes add chicken breast and cook for 3 minutes
· Add other ½ Teaspoon salt
· Add rue to gumbo and mix quickly until thoroughly combined
· At this point add additional chicken stock if gumbo is too thick and cook for 3-4 minutes on low
· Taste- and if you want more salt add additional salt to taste
· Mince green onion to serve on top
· Serve under your favorite long grain white rice
· Shake a little Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce on top
Notes: I am allergic to seafood, so I do not include any shrimp in this recipe but feel free to add shrimp right before you add the rue to gumbo as they cook fast. You can also blacken shrimp with Cajun spice and serve on top.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can use vegan sausage and substitute chicken for your favorite protein product. You can substitute butter for vegan butter for the rue. If you are GF use your favorite GF or potato flour for this.
Classic Gumbo is served with a scoop or two of rice on top and not underneath.
New Take On An Old Classic Hurricane
Modern Day Hurricane Cocktail with a Twist
2 shots top shelf medium color and bodied rum (there are many choices at Willabees Petaluma
4 oz fresh squeezed orange juice ( store bought is ok)
Juice of ½ lime
2 shot passion fruit syrup
1 shot Floraluna Apothecary Pistachio Cherry syrup
1 shot Little Apple Treats Ginger Limeade Shrub
Orange and Lime Segments for garnish
· Combine ingredients and shake with ice for 20-30 seconds and pour over ice.
· Optional – Add a good splash of lime bubble water
· Add orange and lime garnish to side of cocktail class
Notes: If you want it sweeter add a little more syrup. If you want to use a light or dark rum feel free to. Try adding 4 oz of lime bubble water for a refreshing mocktail.
You can purchase the syrups shrubs at my shop Sonoma Spice Queen