Let the good times roll with a Mardi Gras menu


On Feb. 13, about a million people will descend on New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. My husband is a Louisiana native, and in honor of the festival, I have crafted some fun recipes for a Mardi Gras soirée at home.

A must-make dish is gumbo. It requires love and patience, but don’t worry, the flavor will reward you.

Expect to spend one and a half hours of hands-on cooking and more time simmering. If you want something easier, try my Hurricane Cake, which was inspired by the classic New Orleans cocktail.

I also whipped up crawfish maque choux topped with andouille. Maque choux is a traditional corn sidedish served in Louisiana (think of it as the ultimate creamed corn). It has its roots in Native American and Creole cuisines. The crawfish elevates this, making it worthy of a main course. It’s incredible. Enjoy!

Crawfish Maque Choux

3 ears of corn 

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

2/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2  cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 pound crawfish tails and meat

2 cups sliced andouille sausages

Salt and pepper to taste

Toasted French bread for serving

Place corn in their husks in the microwave and microwave for 5 1/2 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. You may need to wear an oven mitt to handle them. Strip off the husk, slice the corn off the cob and then turn the knife around and with the dull side, scrape the cob to get the corn milk out. Set aside.

While corn cooks and cools, slice the onion, celery, bell pepper and andouille.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat the butter and canola oil. When hot, add the onion and celery and cook 5 minutes. Then add bell pepper and flour and cook 4 minutes. Add whipping cream, crawfish and corn and stir thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the maque choux cooks, spray another skillet with cooking spray and brown the andouille on each side, 2-3 minutes per side.

Top maque choux with andouille and serve with toasted French bread. This dish is rich, so serve it with greens or a salad. Serves 6.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

1/3  cup, plus 1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2  cups chopped red onion

1  cup chopped green bell pepper

1  cup chopped celery

8  cups chicken stock

1/2 cup water

4  cups rotisserie chicken,  shredded

3  cups sliced andouille sausage

3  cloves of garlic

1  teaspoon soy sauce

1  teaspoon hot sauce  (optional)

1 1/2  teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce

1/2  teaspoon Cajun seasoning

2  bay leaves

Pepper to taste

Long grain rice for serving

When making gumbo, it’s crucial to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start cooking. I make a dark roux, which takes more time but has incredible depth and is the reason people rave about my gumbo. A dark caramel roux will take 35-40 minutes, a chocolate roux will take about 50 minutes.

Chop all the vegetables, shred the rotisserie chicken, and slice the andouille. Have all your ingredients within arm’s reach and start the roux. You will need a cast-iron skillet for the roux and a stockpot for the stock.

Pour the chicken stock and water into the stockpot and turn it on low. When the roux is done you will incorporate the two. The stock must be hot or it will separate. I turn the stock up to medium-low after I’ve been stirring the roux for 25 minutes.

In the cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form around edges, stir in the flour. You will likely have to reduce the heat soon to medium-low. You will adjust the heat throughout the gumbo-making process. If it starts to smoke, pull the pan off and lower the heat, but keep stirring. Always keep stirring. Be sure to scrape the sides of the pan constantly as you stir. I set my temperature at medium-low.

The roux will become thinner and darker as you go. The darker the roux, the more flavorful the gumbo. I stop at dark caramel or a light chocolate. The caramel has almost a hint of creaminess, but the chocolate has more depth. When it reaches one of those colors, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and stir to coat. Cook 1 minute and then turn off the roux.

If the chicken stock is bubbling, whisk the roux and vegetable mixture in, one big spoonful at a time. Be sure to whisk until combined so it doesn’t separate. If the stock is not hot, turn it up and add the roux when stock is hot.

Once combined, add all remaining ingredients except andouille. In another pan, sauté andouille on each side and then add it to the gumbo. Reduce heat to a low simmer and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with rice, garnished with green onions and parsley. Serves 6-8.

Tip: If the gumbo is salty, do not add salt to your rice when cooking.

Hurricane Cake

1  yellow cake mix   

1/2  cup dark rum

1/2  cup orange juice

1/2  cup canola oil

3  large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1  tablespoon grenadine

Grenadine Rum Sauce:

1  cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup dark rum

1/4 cup grenadine

3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, 1/2 cup dark rum, orange juice, canola oil, eggs, orange zest, and 1 tablespoon grenadine for 2 minutes.

Pour into a greased Bundt cake pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan.

For the sauce, whisk together powdered sugar, dark rum, grenadine and melted butter until smooth.

Take a toothpick and prick the cake repeatedly, 30 times, then pour half the sauce over the cake, allowing it to soak in. Spoon the rest of the sauce over the cake before serving. Serves 10.

Juliana Goodwin is a food columnist, cookbook author and avid traveler. She loves to create food, share recipes and encourage entertaining. If you have a question concerning a recipe, email julianalovesfood23@gmail.com.