It’s Fat Monday, ya’ll!
Lundi Gras (French for Fat Monday) ramps up the Mardi Gras holiday with a full schedule of parades, balls, and of course, the Courir de Mardi Gras—the rural Cajun celebration before the beginning of Lent.
Break out your capuchon (a cone-shaped ceremonial hat), don a colorful mask, tank up with your favorite beverage—it’s time to start begging. Explanation needed? The Courir is my favorite of all the Mardi Gras customs seen throughout Acadiana. Unlike the lavish parades of New Orleans, this celebration takes place in the small communities that dot the region. It is a family event with just as many kids as adults dressing up and riding (sometimes by horseback) from house to house to beg for ingredients to make a chicken and sausage gumbo celebration.
The custom dates back to medieval France with its origin in the Catholic religion, and the garish garb is said to mock aristocratic society. Here in Cajun country, troops of revelers, led by Le Capitaine, move from house to house “begging” for ingredients. My wife Roxanne recalls that when she was little, she would hide behind her grandmother Mo Mo Eve when the “beggars” rode up to their house every Mardi Gras. And when her grandmother appeared on the front porch with a sack of onions or such, the masked merrymakers would break into music and dance. The highlight is at the end of the ride when a live chicken is thrown into the crowd, and the chase ensues.
It all culminates at the communal gumbo when the fiddles bow up, and the squeezebox plays chank-a-chank music for the crowd as the black-iron pots simmer away. This is a colorful Cajun tradition that few get a chance to experience. But my gumbo recipe is one that everyone can enjoy.
Of all the gumbos, chicken and sausage gumbo defines rural Cajun food culture. Deep, dark roux-based flavor is punched with smoky pork andouille sausage, and it’s spiked with just enough heat to make you grab for another beer and beg for another bowl.
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
- 2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
- 2 cups diced yellow onions
- 2 cups diced green bell pepper
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 cups chopped smoked andouille or pork sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces
- 12 cups chicken stock, plus water if needed
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups dark roux, such as Rox’s Roux
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Dash of hot sauce
- 8 cups cooked Louisiana long grain white rice, such as Supreme, for serving
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- Filé powder, for serving
- In a large cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once sizzling hot, add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Brown the chicken on one side and turn to brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a platter and keep warm.
- To the pot, add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley, and sauté until combined. Add the sausage and sauté just until it begins to brown. Add 1 cup of stock to the mixture and scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen the brown bits of flavor. Add the chicken back to the pot.
- Add enough additional chicken stock to the gumbo pot to cover all the chicken and vegetable mixture. Season with cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Add 1½ cups of roux and stir to combine. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and let cook for 1 hour.
- Uncover and remove the chicken pieces. Skim the surface of any excess oil. Taste the gumbo and if you prefer your gumbo thinner, add more stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes longer.
- Uncover the pot and once again skim the surface of any excess oil.
- At this point, you can leave the chicken on the bone or remove the bones and skin from each of the pieces. Just prior to serving, add the chicken back to the pot, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes more.
- Uncover the pot and skim the surface of any excess oil. Sample the finished gumbo and season with Cajun seasoning and hot sauce to taste.
- Ladle the gumbo into large bowls over a mound of rice and garnish with diced green onion tops. Add a bit of filé powder if you like.
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