This year, Mardi Gras, the last big celebration before the solemn season of Lent, falls on Tuesday, Feb. 17. A few years ago, during a trip to New Orleans for a food conference, our good friend Bruce Aidells took me and my daughter Amelia to meet chef Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. She prepared a fantastic meal for us even though her restaurant was closed that day. She said, “In New Orleans, food is a way of taking care of each other.” Needless to say, the food was fantastic.
That meal inspired me to create a Creole gumbo dish to share with my family. We enjoyed the gumbo below accompanied by a tossed green salad and crusty French bread.
The typical dessert served on Mardi Gras is the King Cake, a ring-shaped cake with the texture of a sweet brioche bread topped with brightly colored icing and crystallized sugar. Each loaf is baked with a small porcelain or plastic figure of a baby inside. Tradition has it that if you receive the piece of cake with the baby in it you will have “various privileges and obligations” (according to Wikipedia). You may order one from Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery or Haydel’s Bakery.
Mardi Gras Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 (14-1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion, not drained
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or stock
- 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
- 8 ounces cooked andouille sausage, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- 2 cups hot cooked brown or white rice
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté five minutes. Stir in chicken and sprinkle with thyme and oregano. Sauté five minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
2. Stir in tomatoes, broth and bell pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sausage and hot sauce and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and gumbo thickens.
3. Ladle gumbo into shallow bowls and top each with 1/3 cup of rice and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with additional hot sauce on the side.