Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

Happy Mardi Gras all. Today we have Tortilla Soup (vegetarian) and a hearty Beef Stew with Red Wine.

The TCB and Apple Alexander are also on the menu.

Our first Mardi Gras at the Cafe was in 2005. We decided to celebrate the occasion with some decorations (beads and masks naturally, and this horrible blow-up jester that refused to stay inflated) as well as some traditional New Orleans fare.

A regular customer offered to loan me her copy of Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, the cookbook that is largely responsible for spreading the word about Cajun and Creole cooking. So I set out to make Gumbo.

As I read through the recipe it occurred to me that Gumbo was essentially fried chicken and a bunch of other stuff floating in gravy. Hey, I'm a southern girl. I know fried chicken. I know gravy. How hard could this be? Ha.

The Monday before Mardi Gras I lugged all of my cast iron to the cafe (no small feat) and prepared for an evening of cooking. I started by multiplying Chef Paul's recipe times ten. That's about 25 pounds of chicken and 5 pounds of andouille sausage, not to mention mountains of chopped onions, green peppers and celery (known in Louisiana as the Holy Trinity).

Sometime after frying the chicken and facing down the illusive black roux, I called Michael for some reassurance.

"So I just wanted to talk this through with somebody. You ever made a recipe that called for a cup and a half of cayenne pepper?"

I don't remember his exact response, but it was something along the lines of ARE YOU SEROUS?!

The Chicken and Andouille Smoked Sausage Gumbo was sublime. And yes, I used every bit of the cayenne. I'm still asked occasionally if I'll ever make it again. It would be de-vine with the Orgeat Punch (I saw a copy of In the Land of Cocktails on his coffee table) Nick served at his Mardi Gras party last Saturday.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Let the good times roll!