Mardi Gras

March 3, 2003

Mardi Gras

I’ve never been to New Orleans, maybe I’ll go someday. I’ll certainly eat my way around when I’m there! I’ve been making bread pudding for years (from the Silver Palate cookbook) and love it, as do most who have eaten it with me. Years ago, a friend who traveled often and had been to New Orleans numerous times, told me that my version rivals those of Bourbon Street.
As it is mardi gras, I felt the need to make something to celebrate that. While my dessert was an easy decision, I needed to figure out an entrée. On the epicurious website ( http://www.epicurious.com ) I hunted down some gumbo recipes. I made a double batch of the following gumbo recipe which I changed slightly. For mardi gras, I felt this would be best followed by a good dose of bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
So here’s hoping that you will have a little bit of an adventuresome spirit and dabble in the southern flavors that follow. Both are easy recipes, so there’s no excuse not to try something new, even if you aren’t from New Orleans.
Creole Chicken and Okra Gumbo
Mound some cooked white rice in the center of each bowl.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup sliced frozen whole okra
1 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes*
1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces**
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
Stir vegetable oil and flour in large saucepan over high heat until smooth and dark brown, about 3 minutes. Mix in okra, then chicken broth and tomatoes with their juices; simmer 3 minutes. Sprinkle chicken with thyme, salt and pepper. Add to saucepan. Simmer gumbo uncovered until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season gumbo to taste with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper and serve.
2 Servings; Can Be Doubled.
Bon Appétit, February 1997
*I use Pomi chopped tomatoes, made by Parmalat. If you haven’t tried them yet, you should. They are the best “canned” tomatoes around. They come in a box and are found in with the canned tomatoes. If your store doesn’t carry them, ask them to!
**I didn’t have thighs, but had a pound of ground chicken. I mixed the thyme and some salt into it, and dropped bite size blobs into the simmering mixture (as one would with dumplings). It was excellent! I would do it this way again!
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
This recipe is from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I make it every summer in Vinalhaven, as well as through the year. I have even sent it as snack for Eli’s class in Junior Kindergarten where it got rave reviews!! (the kids didn’t have any sauce with it, instead sprinkled it with powdered sugar)
1 loaf of italian bread ( fresh or a few days old)
1 quart milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Break bread into a large bowl, pour milk over it.
2. In a smaller bowl, mix together sugar, eggs, and vanilla and add to the bread mixture.
3. Allow to soak for at least 1 hour.
4. Spray a 9×13” baking pan with cooking spray, and then pour the bread mixture into the pan.
5. Bake at 350æ for about 1 hour, or until browned and set.
Whiskey Sauce:
1 stick of butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp Whiskey ( I suppose this could be optional )
1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan.
2. Add the confectioner’s sugar and, stirring frequently, heat until really hot.
3. Remove from heat and whisk in the egg.
4. Continue to whisk until mixture cools to room temperature. Add whiskey to taste.
Cut warm bread pudding into squares and spoon whiskey sauce over the top.
8-10 generous servings

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