Mardi Gras is tomorrow, but they’ve been partying in N’awlins for weeks, now, so I don’t think I’m too early.

I’ve always liked Louisiana Creole and Cajun cooking (I learned a long time ago they are VERY different and the locals don’t like them to be confused by us northerners) but, while I make a jambalaya-type meal fairly regularly, I haven’t made a real Gumbo in years.

There’s a Creole Gumbo and a Cajun Gumbo.  Creole Gumbo usually has tomatoes.  Cajun Gumbo NEVER has tomatoes.  Creole Gumbo roux can be blond or peanut butter-colored.  Cajun Gumbo is deep red-brown and smells like heavy roasted coffee when cooking.  I’ve burnt a couple of Cajun roux’s in the past – which may account for why I haven’t made it in such a long time.

Today, I decided on a Creole-style Gumbo with a dark peanut butter-colored roux.   I used a mixture of bacon grease and oil for the roux.  There are as many Gumbo recipes out there as there are people who make it,  and as I was trolling through the many different recipes, I found everything from bacon grease and pig fat to light canola oil  to use in making the roux.  It was still a bit nerve-wracking cooking the roux as it really can go from perfect to ruined in a matter of seconds.  And I’m a bit out of practice.

But this one came out perfect.  I could have pushed it a bit further – and next time I make it I probably will – but it came out damned fine!

Mardi Gras Gumbo

  • 1/2 cup bacon grease
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 qt clam juice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into rings
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, cut up
  • 1/2 pound frozen, sliced okra
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp
  • Cooked rice
  • Diced tomato for garnish

Heat bacon grease and peanut oil in a heavy large Dutch oven over high heat until almost smoking. Add the flour and stir until desired color (dark red-brown for the more adventurous) about 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately add celery, onions and bell peppers, andouille, and chicken thighs. Cook 10 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom of pan often. Mix in spices. Add clam juice, Chicken broth, and canned tomatoes. Boil about 15 minutes, stirring now and again to keep from sticking. Add okra, reduce heat and simmer until okra is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add shrimp to gumbo and simmer until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Mound rice in soup bowls. Ladle gumbo over. Top with tomatoes.

I didn’t have any Louisiana long-grained rice, but I did have some Carolina heirloom long-grained rice (Thanks, Mike!!) that went perfectly with it.

And a good, strong cup of Community Coffee would have been nice. I don’t think I’ve had Community Coffee since the ’70’s when Tim Beech, my Louisiana Navy-friend, turned roommate, brother-in-law, and finally ex-brother-in-law, had it sent out to us by his parents.  We actually got quite a few CARE packages from Louisiana back in those days and I remember fondly that really dark coffee.

Ah… sweet youth… Them were the days!

Okay… several hours later…


We needed dessert.

A quick chocolate pudding did it for us!

Chocolate Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes. Whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth.  Cool, chill, eat.

It’s still chilling, but the whisk tasted great!