Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mardi Gras

I am a granddaughter of New Orleans.

I have never lived there. I don't speak Creole. Or French (with any level of proficiency) but my life has been filled with powdered-covered beignets, thick étouffées, spicy jambalayas, crunchy pralines, savory filé and lots of stories about my family and culture that originated in the Crescent City.

My grandfather was from New Orleans. After being recruited by St. Augustine's University in Raleigh, he and my grandma made a life in North Carolina. He was the track and field, football and gymnastics coach at Winston-Salem State University back in the 1960s and early 70s.

My uncle, enjoying Mardi Gras
Every year my immediate family and I go on a week-long trip to spend time with one another, relax, rejuvenate for the upcoming year and just enjoy life. Last year, we decided to go back to our roots and visit New Orleans. When is the best time to visit? Mardi Gras season, of course! Last year was my first time enjoying New Orleans as an adult.

This year, the Millers are heading back down to the bayou for Mardi Gras and I need to get ready.

I'm getting ready with some gumbo and crawfish étouffée.

Etouffée means "smothered". Basically, you're smothering the vegetables and meat in a roux and seasonings. You can make an etouffée out of anything, I suppose. Typically, it's made with shellfish. So, we'll go with that.

Crawfish Etouffée
Serves 4-6

8 Tbs (1 stick) butter
1 cup EACH finely chopped onions, bell peppers, celery
1Tbs Creole seasoning
1Tbs flour
1 cup fish or vegetable stock, warm
2 bay leaves
1lb crawfish tails
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2Tbs chopped parsley

Melt butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, peppers and cook until soft, 15-20 minutes. Add flour and cook for 10 minutes, until a light blonde color. Whisk in stock, add bay leaves and turn heat  up to High to bring the pan to a simmer. Reduce heat to low for 25 minutes. Stir in crawfish, green onions and parsley. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice.


Crawfish tails with creole seasoning

Blonde roux mixing with the "trinity"

Chopped green onions, waiting for the pan

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo
'Cause tonight, I'm gonna see my ma cher a mi-o


Year-long beaded tree decoration
The Mardi Gras parades are the best part of the season. It's not about the beads and showing your boobs to get them. It's a family event! Everyone takes coolers full of food and drink, camp chairs, ladders (to see over the crowds of people), reusable grocery bags to take home all of the goodies and beads you catch from the floats.
Harry Connick, Jr. is in this photo
Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" in French. Mardi Gras (also called Shrove Tuesday) is more than just the day before Ash Wednesday. It's a lifestyle, a culture, a series of events, parties, parades and masquerade balls that begin on January 6 (also called Twelfth Night or the Twelfth Day of Christmas) and lasts until Ash Wednesday, which is 46 days before Easter Sunday.


At Pat O'Brien's, with the original Hurricane

A balcony decorated for Mardi Gras

A St. Charles Ave streetcar. Made in NORTH CAROLINA!
I can't wait to get back to NOLA and share my adventures with you. Be sure to follow me on Twitter OR Facebook so you can get live updates on Mardi Gras 2013!  

Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Lay say lay bohn tohn roo lay)
Let the good times roll!




2 comments:

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've never been to NOLA. It's on my bucket list though. It does seem that other places are getting into the Mardi Gras tradition, but sadly it seems to be all about drinking and not about tradition and culture.

Nikki said...

Make it happen, Rachel! It's such a wondrous place! I feel that Mardi Gras has turned into St. Patrick's Day and it's all about the drinking and wearing of green. I am not enthusiastic about or connected to that "holiday" any more than most, but I'm all about some drinking and having a good time (in a family-friendly environ).

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