Country Mardi Gras

  • Listen to the February 26 Morning Edition interview about country Mardi Gras traditions.
  • Check out the recipe for Mardi Gras Gumbo.
  • Here's a recipe for a normal sized gumbo.
  • Learn to make a roux and smothered okra.

    February 26, 2001

    This recipe was developed to feed the crowds of people who gather together to eat after our traditional Ossun Mardi Gras run, a procession of revelers in masks and brightly-colored costumes that winds its way through the rural neighborhood visiting, singing, dancing, and collecting the ingredients for the gumbo. Some households contribute rice, onions, parsley or sausage, but ideally the offering is a live chicken that the revelers are expected to catch in the open fields.

    This is not easy to do, and the hilarity resulting from grownups and children alike running through ditches, over barbed-wire fences and under barns is part of what the households receive in return for their generous gifts. The procession is typically about 12 to 14 miles long with 15 to 20 performances. By the end of the day, the revelers have developed a mighty appetite and are eager to eat the fruits of their labor.

    I have included this recipe here with the idea that the proportions may be useful for other large gatherings, such as receptions, parties, and family reunions.

      - Barry Ancelet, Maude Ancelet's son and professor of Folklore and Francophone Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

    Maude Ancelet's Mardi Gras Gumbo (for 100 people)
  • 55 lbs. chicken, cut up
  • 15-18 lbs. fresh pork sausage, browned well and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 quarts smothered okra
  • 16-18 large onions, chopped
  • 12 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 whole bunches of celery stalks, chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 6 ounces of Tony Chachere's seasonings or Spicy Seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 1/2 gallons warm water
  • 3 bunches green onion tops, chopped
  • 2-3 bunches fresh parsley, chopped
  • 7 cups oil for roux
  • 12 cups flour

    Prepare as for a normal gumbo. Serve in bowls over hot rice.

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    Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
    The recipe for a "normal" sized gumbo.
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 - 4 lb. fryer, cut up
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh pork sausage
  • green onion tops, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper
  • black pepper to taste

    First make a roux, using 1/2 cup each of the onion and bell pepper, 1 stalk of celery, and 2 cloves of garlic to stop the roux. Slowly add the gallon of warm water, stirring. Bring to a boil. Lower fire and let simmer 15 minutes. While this is simmering, in a heavy skillet, brown the pork sausage well. Remove the sausage and cut into bite-size pieces. Add to the gumbo. Drain the grease from the skillet and add about a cup of water to get up the residue from the sausage. Add this to the gumbo for flavor. Add remaining seasonings and the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer 35-40 minutes. Add chopped onion tops and parsley. Make this ahead of time so flavors can steep. Serve over hot rice.

    Note: An old hen makes a good gumbo, but takes 2-3 hours more cooking time.

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    The Perfect Roux
    For gumbos, stews and sauce piquantes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

    Before starting the roux, chop the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic and set them in a bowl by the stove. These need to be ready to throw into the roux to stop the cooking at the crucial moment. The heat of the roux cooks these ingredients and gives the roux a seasoned taste.

    Heat 1 cup of oil in a heavy pot. When the oil is very hot, add 1 3/4 cups flour. (These proportions can be multiplied, but always start with more flour than oil.) Keep the fire on medium. Constant stirring is a must. Don't answer the door if there's a knock. Don't answer the phone if there's a ring. A roux needs your undivided attention. Your eyes should be riveted to the inside of the pot the whole time. About halfway through the cooking process, the roux will become more liquid, but will thicken again to paste consistency as it nears completion. Remember, stick with your stirring spoon. It's easy to burn a roux, but just as easy to succeed with diligence and patience. As you become experienced, you will find that you can cook it with a fairly high fire, but at first it is safer to reduce the heat until you get a feel for what is called "stopping the roux". This involves recognizing the desired color -- a rich brown for gumbos, and a golden brown for tomato sauces -- adding the chopped onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, and removing the pot from the fire, still stirring all the while. The heat of the roux cooks these ingredients which in turn give the roux a seasoned taste. At this point you are ready to continue with whatever recipe has called for a roux. Unused roux can be stored in the refrigerator for months. You should be careful to remember what it is. Children who mistake roux for chocolate are in for a disappointing experience.

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    Smothered Okra
  • 2 quarts fresh okra
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

    Slice tender okra and put it in a heavy pot with a little oil. Add remaining ingredients except tomatoes and cook on a medium fire, stirring often until okra gets past stringy stage. It should be getting very brown by this time. Add tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring. This stage should take about 18-20 minutes. Add 1 quart of water and let simmer, scraping up residue from the browned okra. This enhances its flavor. This freezes very well, and is delicious in gumbo. Use about 2 cups per gallon of gumbo.

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