Is it odd to say I’d never heard of Mardi Gras until I moved to the States? The wife kept bringing it up so I assumed we were in the season. All I knew about it was that it’s a huge party and everybody goes nuts. So far it sounds right up my alley. I wanted to look into it more so we hit up Google. Really, all she had to say was Pancake Tuesday and I’d have known exactly what it was, the day before Lent (which starts this coming Wednesday).
My take on Mardi Gras: French for Fat Tuesday, it’s the mother of all piss-ups (you people in New Orleans what I mean) before you’re supposed to give up something you really like for Lent. When I was a kid I’d always give up sweets (candy) for Lent although I never lasted too long. It was always the easiest thing to tell the parents and have a chance of getting away with it although they weren’t that strict. Back in the day giving up alcohol was a requirement. I don’t know who’s day that was but I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t mine! Today, the main tradition is no meat on Fridays. I grew up with always having fish on Friday so this got me thinking I should do something that is not only a Louisiana favorite but also something you can make on Fridays (that is, if you practice Lent). The missus likes it hot and spicy (too many obvious jokes here) but I only added a tiny kick so feel free to add more if you like.
Traditionally gumbo is made with a roux (flour and oil) which is used to thicken the sauce. This recipe is the Healthy Irishman way-brothy and light, healthy and tasty.
1 lb. wild medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
1 med. red pepper -med. dice
1 green pepper – med. dice
1 red onion – med. dice
1/2 cup celery – med. dice
1 1lb. bag okra – fresh or frozen (1/2 inch rounds)
2 cloves garlic -minced
1 16oz tin chopped tomatoes
1 cups clam juice
1 cup white wine (optional)
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. thyme – chopped
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 quart veg./chicken stock
1 lemon – zested
When I cook a lot of these dishes I try to keep it as low maintenance and easy as possible. I could do without having to wash up after myself if I could get away with it. Some people will attest I’m a messy bastard so I like to limit the pot usage (don’t get too excited, I mean what I cook in) as much as possible.
This is pretty straight forward I think, so here we go.
Preheat a med. large soup pot. If using fresh okra, wash in cold water. Remove the caps and cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to pan followed by the okra, whether fresh or frozen. Saute on med. heat, stirring constantly for approx. 10 mins. or until the slime has disappeared.
Add your chopped veg and garlic and cook for 15 mins. or until soft, stirring occasionally. If the veg start to stick to the pan add another dash of olive oil. Add your wine and let it reduce for 3-4 mins.
Go ahead and add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, cayenne, clam juice and broth. Bring it to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer for another 20 mins.
You can take the recipe this far if you want to do this in advance. When you’re ready to eat add in your shrimp and simmer for 20 mins. I like to finish by adding the lemon zest. It gives it a nice bite.
Taste and season. How easy is that?
Cheers to Mardi Gras!