You don’t have to head to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras on March 8th.
Celebrate at home with a special Mardi Gras gumbo—a flavorful layering of chicken, andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, cayenne, fresh parsley and white rice. It has a chicken stock base and is thickened with a roux (fat and flour—the okra also helps to thicken). Gumbo recipes traditionally include filé powder (pronounced fee-LAY), which is ground sassafras leaves. If you don’t have any, you can skip it.
Dress up in costume (here’s some inspiration). Wear ropes of beads (they’re unisex during Mardi Gras).
Don’t limit the festivities to your immediate household. Since a pot of gumbo serves a crowd, have a Mardi Gras party. Ask participants to bring appropriate desserts and drinks.
And tell everyone to bring their favorite jazz recordings. Give a Louis Armstrong CD or an inexpensive MP3 download as a prize for best costume.
Back to the gumbo:
Gumbo, an African word for okra, is a Creole soup originally thickened with okra pods (the French added the roux). Okra came to America with the slave trade and was introduced into Southern cuisine by African cooks.
As with all recipes, there are regional variations and different styles of gumbo. If you’ve never made a gumbo, see how easy it is in this cooking video with caterer Shelly Everett, a.k.a. The Gourmet Angel: