It’s Mardi Gras today and that means Lent starts tomorrow. For those who follow the tradition, this post features recipes for Lenten meals. Greens are tricky in some ways. They are great with something porky like bacon or sausage, but these ingredients are out for Lent — or a meatless meal. To be honest, I never understood how feasting on seafood was a hardship and why it represents deprivation, but I guess that’s why Catholicism is an important part of my past, but not a current part of my life. Too much form and not enough substance to suit my view of spirituality. But to each his or her own, I say. If it works for you, bravo!
Green gumbo has an unusual place in the LaFleur home. It always amused me that while Harris loves greens in just about any form — except for kale — green gumbo is his culinary kryptonite. It seems that his mom made a batch back in the day and it didn’t “agree” with him. Let’s leave it at that. So I’ve long been curious about whether I could turn that experience around. Plus virtually all of the green gumbo recipes I’ve read have pork in them. So I had a double challenge. I thought about how to ramp up the umami and eliminate the bitterness, and according to Harris, I’ve done it. My inspiration was Oysters Rockefeller, the legendary dish from Antoine’s in New Orleans. You could add a dash of Pernod or absinthe if you like.
I’ve paired the gumbo z’herbes with parsley potato pancakes, smoked salmon and crème fraiche. I wanted a substantial, but still light entrée to accompany the intense green soup, and this is a recipe that’s easy and fast to make and could stand on its own or could be paired with a salad for another meatless meal.
The playlist is a mixed bag of tunes that appealed to me. Something to warm you if it’s cold where you are. It’s chilly in south Louisiana today with possible snow flurries tonight. Crazy way to laissez les bons temps rouler. Somebody posted a suggestion on Facebook. Instead of giving up meat or whatever for Lent, better things to forego include guilt, fear of failure, blame, apathy and hatred. Sounds like a plan. All that and good seafood, too. Maybe it’s well to think about Mardi Gras as Lent arrives and take a cue from this tradition:
“To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.
Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.
Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD’s in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year–people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?
It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.
Now that part, more than ever.
It’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88’s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don’t and promising yourself you will next year.
It’s wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who–like clockwork, year after year–denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.
Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.”
― Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories