Family Mardi Gras Celebration!
Most of my family is from the New Orleans, Louisiana area. My grandparents lived in the French Quarter of the city for many years, so I was exposed to the incredible food culture of the city early on in life. My grandfather, especially, had a love of French cuisine, which is pervasive in the Nola cooking, and ultimately passed on this passion to myself.
We always celebrate Mari Gras each year in honor of my grandfather, who was even the King of Hermes one year. I was fortunate to attend the Mardi Gras celebration on many occasions and had the opportunity to participate in the Hermes ball one year.
Usually, after a holiday when chicken or turkey was served my grandmother usually made gumbo with fresh chicken stock made from the carcass of the bird. I always looked forward to the dark, rich, and thick stew that was full of delicious sausage.
If you can find Andouille sausage it will make this dish great. If you can’t find it in your local store you can always substitute smoked sausage or Kielbasa. I like to start off the meal with a classic New Orleans cocktail called La Louisiane Cocktail.
La Louisiane Cocktail
This is one of the classic old cocktails you can find in New Orleans. I rarely see it offered anywhere other than the Big Easy. This cocktail is the perfect intro to a Mardi Gras celebration, and I often serve it before my chicken gumbo.
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
½ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. Benedictine
3 dashes absinthe
Maraschino Cherry to garnish.
Place all the ingredients in a tall glass and stir with ice until chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe and top with a few cherries.
My recipe for chicken broth is quite herbaceous and serves as a perfect base for creating chicken soup or other chicken broth-based soups. You can also freeze the stock and have it ready at a moment’s notice. I often will make this stock with the leftover carcass from a roast chicken dinner, to get even more mileage out of my chicken.
2T Olive oil
1 large onion peeled, halved, and sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1 whole clove of garlic, cut in half crosswise
½ t dried basil
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried tarragon
½ t dried oregano
½ t black peppercorns
1 T salt
4 bay leaves
2-pound chicken carcass, necks, and gizzards if you have them
4 quarts of freshwater
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large 8 qt stockpot. Add the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes to release some of the flavors.
Add the chicken carcass and 4 quarts of water into the pot, and sprinkle in the herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Skim any cloudy scum from the top of the stock as it forms during cooking.
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
1 Chicken around 4 lbs cut into serving pieces
1 lb. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt to taste
1t Black Pepper
1 ¼ t white pepper
1 t mustard powder
1 ½ t cayenne pepper
1 ½ t paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t gumbo file
1-½ cups flour
2-½ cups oil for frying like Corn, Peanut or Vegetable oil
¾ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped celery
¾ cup finely chopped green pepper
9 cups chicken broth (see my recipe for basic chicken broth)
1 ½ cups Andouille sausage sliced into ¼ inch coins (substitute smoked sausage or Kielbasa)
1 bay leaf
2 t minced garlic
1 package frozen sliced okra (or fresh if you can find it)
Long grain rice for serving
If you are making my basic chicken stock recipe to use in this dish you should have the breasts, legs, and thighs with skin still on them for use in the gumbo. I usually add another pound or so of boneless skinless thighs to increase the dark meat content in the dish.
Blend salt, peppers, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, and file powder.
Place the flour in a bowl and add two teaspoons of the spice blend and toss to blend into flour. Rub the remainder of the spice mixture over the chicken pieces.
Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and coat well, shaking off excess. Reserve the remainder of the flour for the roux.
When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces skin-side down in the hot oil in two batches. Cook chicken for a few minutes on the skin side until golden brown. Turn and cook the other side for a few more minutes until it is browned too. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat for the second batch of chicken.
When the chicken is finished cooking, drain off all but about 1 cup of oil from the pan into a bowl. Return the pan with 1 cup of oil to the heat, and add the reserved flour, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is dark golden brown in color. Add chopped onion, celery, and green pepper to the roux and stir to blend well. Remove from heat.
In an 8 qt stockpot, heat the chicken broth to a boil. Add the roux to the broth a little at a time while constantly stirring with a whisk. Once all of the roux has been incorporated into the broth, add the sausage coins, and keep stirring. Cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, keeping the sausage from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add cooked chicken pieces, bay leaf, and minced garlic, and frozen okra to the pot, and reduce heat. Simmer the gumbo for about 40 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the gumbo, and chop and shred the chicken, discarding any bones. Add the chicken back to the pot and stir to incorporate. Serve with rice spooned into the middle of the bowl and sprinkle gumbo file over the top. I like to use a glass or bowl to press the rice into and place it in a bowl to make it more attractive.