Whether you call it Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, the same day seems to mean one last culinary celebratory event leading up the the date Lent begins on the Christian calendar. Festival season in many cultures encompasses the period between Epiphany & Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday is the celebration of & end of Mardi Gras as we know it in the South. In our family whether we are in New Orleans, Mexico or Texas it is cause for Gumbo, stews, etoufee or jambalaya. Wherever you find yourself this day let the good times roll & make it hot, hot, hot!!
Start your Fat Tuesday off with Shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico over Poached eggs. A quick 10 minute breakfast. In the words of my Cajun friends; "Talk about good, Cher, nes pa?"
Poached Eggs & Shrimp for two
2 large eggs
2 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. garlic
salt, pepper & red pepper flakes
2 slices Roma tomato
fresh baby spinach leaves
2 whole grain English muffins, sliced & toasted
Poach the 2 eggs at the same time you are sauteing the shrimp for this dish. If you have never poached an egg, here is a quick how to Poach guide.
In small pan saute garlic in butter, add shrimp, quickly sautee shrimp till opaque. Add seasoning & white wine. Remove from heat. Place toasted English muffins the serving plate, add 3 to 4 fresh baby spinach leaves over the bottom half, ease the poached egg onto the spinach (as you can tell from the photo I enjoy my eggs soft), garnish with 1 slice of tomato, carefully set the jumbo shrimp onto the tomato & serve with lemon wedge on each plate.
“Gumbo, of all other products of the New Orleans cuisine, represents a most distinctive type of the evolution of good cookery under the hands of the famous Creole Cuisinieres of old New Orleans.”
The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (1901)
My friend Vickie Thibodeaux said years ago as she taught me to make Gumbo..."the Roux is all important but the onion, celery & bell pepper are the holy triumvirate!" She taught me to make the roux & get it nice & dark like a cup of Cajun coffee. Roux is equal parts oil & flour which is browned & used as thickening in many South Louisiana & French style dishes. A roux makes or breaks a pot of gumbo. Anytime I have tried to rush that process I have been truly disappointed. If I do not have a full 20 minutes to make a good roux then I'd better not bother. This seafood gumbo is based on a recipe I have used for years from one of my favorite Louisiana cookbooks. A book called "Cajun Cooking" has recipes compiled from kitchens across South Louisiana & like any community or church cookbook the tidbits are endless & the flavors superb. The cover has a great photo of a sweet Cajun Grandmother peeling shrimp which puts a smile on my face each time I see it.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup flour
2 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined
4 oz. Wild Caught Crab claw meat
4 oz. Oysters, *Gulf coast oysters
2 Quarts Water
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lbs. okra, fresh or frozen
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt, Pepper & Cayenne Pepper to taste
File, a seasoning made from ground Sassafras root used to garnish Gumbo when served.
Saute Shrimp & crab meat with 2 tbsp of the oil in a large pot, add water & set aside.
In remaining oil make the Roux: Mix oil & flour together in a large cast iron skillet, stir every few minutes, at first roux will be light brown (coffee with cream color), continue stirring for several minutes longer till the roux is a dark brown or rich brown coffee color. The roux will be very hot, then add the onion, bell pepper, celery & cook vegetables slightly. Add in the garlic & okra. Continue sauteing till slightly browned.
Add the sauteed vegetables & oysters to the seafood, along with the can of diced tomatoes, stir well. Add seasonings, Worcestershire sauce & cook slowly for about 1 hour.
Finally add parsley & serve over mound of cooked rice. In our home we always serve gumbo with File. A light sprinkle at the edge of the bowl is nice & adds a certain: "Je ne sais quoi!" (a certain "something")
*Anytime I use fresh Gulf Coast Oysters in my gumbo I use the liquid the oysters have along with the water or stock for my gumbo.