Cajun classics to celebrate Mardi Gras

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.55.15 PM  There are a lot of benefits to having Southern in-laws. One of the best perks is the wealth of yummy Cajun recipes that have been passed down through the generations. I’d feel stingy if I didn’t share at least a few of them with you.

Mardi Gras parades will be starting this weekend in the Big Easy, and even though we aren’t there to watch the crews on their floats and catch beads, we can still celebrate with some traditional Louisiana foods. Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo is a staple dish served year-round in the Pelican State. Filled with the holy trinity of Cajun cooking (green pepper, onion, and celery), tender shrimp, and spicy sausage, it’s sure to tempt your taste buds and warm you up. Swap out the shrimp for chicken, crawfish or all sausage if you’d prefer.

Red Beans and Rice is another classic Cajun treat. It’s a great recipe for those days when you are home working around the house. Once started, it just simmers away on its own, needing only a little stir now and again. Super easy, and completely delicious! You can use ham hocks or a ham bone to add that smoky flavor to the dish. Served with hot, buttered cornbread on the side, it’s a taste of heaven on earth.

Next week, look for Mardi Gras dessert recipes: Traditional Kings Cake and Bananas Foster. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. Andouille sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 – 3 cups of frozen okra rounds
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 3 cans peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 2 quarts water
  • Cooked rice

In a skillet, sauté onion, peppers and celery in butter over medium to medium-high heat until soft. Set aside.

In a soup pot, whisk together flour and oil over medium heat to make a roux. Continue whisking until the mixture turns a copper/penny color. Once it reaches the desired color, remove from heat and add in the sautéed vegetables, tomatoes, okra, sausage, water and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer two hours, stirring occasionally. During the last half hour add shrimp. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Red Beans & Rice

  • 1 pound dried red beans
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ham bone or 2 ham hocks
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Cooked rice

In a large soup pot, place beans (rinsed and picked through) and 8 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil. Take off of heat, cover and allow to sit for 1 to 2 hours. Drain beans. Alternatively, you could cover them with water, put on lid, and allow to sit overnight. Drain in the morning.

In soup pot, cook sausage 3-4 minutes or until browned a bit. Remove from pan and set aside for later. Place onion, bell pepper, and celery in pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and bay leaf; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add ham bone/hocks, beans and enough water to cover beans by 2 inches. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours over low to medium low heat, stirring occasionally.

After 2-3 hours have passed and most of the water has cooked down, remove bone/hocks and bay leaf. Add sausage and Cajun seasoning. Cook 10 more minutes.

Serve over rice with corn bread.