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  • Writer's pictureChiara

⚜️LAISSEZ LE BON TEMPS ROULER⚜️

Mardi Gras Luncheon in México

The recipes included here can be modified in any number of ways. These are mostly vegetarian and truly, no self-respecting Louisianan would say they are in any way authentic. No matter, they were fun to make to my tastes. Any of the main dishes can be gussied up with bones, meats, sausages, seafoods.


I created and presented this festive meal as one of our Vallarta Abuelos International Cooking Class fundraising events on Mardis Gras in 2020. Over 20 guests enjoyed the hands-on class, the get-up-and-dance music, shiny beads, masks and Mint Juleps!

Carnival Fun in México!


I chose Mardi Gras as my date, since we were traveling for a couple months in Australia and were due to arrive home in Puerto Vallarta just before Carnival

That was in February immediately prior to the Covid-19 World Shut-Down.

I plan to be home for Mardis Gras this year and cook up a Carnival feast here in México.


THE MENU


Appetizers:

Mint Juleps and Shrimp or Veggie cocktails served warm in phyllo dough cuplets.


Salad:

Colorful salad using the Mardis Gras colors of purple green and gold tossed with a creamy sweet and tangy dressing.


The Entre:

Savory strewed greens beneath seasoned Quinoa, topped with slow cooked red or black beans, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of Cajun spice and cilantro, served with smoky roasted sweet potatoes and Hush Puppies on the side.


Dessert:

Fresh made Pecan Pralines and fruit with French Market Cappuccinos



*First things first! Put together a great southern zydeco playlist or find one on Spotify*


Mix the Juleps and get started. Put on a colorful apron and some glass Mardi Gras beads. Now have ready some lovely chilled cocktail glasses and pour in 1 1/2 oz (a shot) of Whiskey or Bourbon, add a little powdered sugar and mottled fresh mint into each with one ice cube.

(optional: a splash of lemon) Serve immediately.


The Shrimp or Veggie Phyllo Cups. (serves 8)

Preheat oven to 375*F. (If you can find pre-made phyllo cups Stock up! Impossible in México. The cups can be pre-made and frozen or kept in Frig till needed. I had to use sheets of phyllo dough here. Not a problem, just messier and takes longer.


1) grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

2) carefully unroll one sheet of THAWED (important) phyllo dough onto parchment paper and brush with Ghee or unsalted melted butter. (keep the rest of the dough covered with a damp dish towel so that it doesn't dry out)

3) repeat until you have 5 layers.

4) cut the 5 layers into 12 rectangles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Cut the long side

into 4 pieces and the short side into 3 pieces and press into the muffin tin, tucking in the points.

5) bake for approx. 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown. Slightly undercooked is best.


Fillings

Once mixed all together, chill for later or fill phyllo cups and serve immediately. For vegetarian omit the shrimp and add your favorite minced veggies: bell peppers, mushrooms, aspargus, whatever you like.


1) 16-20 deveined, no tails, cooked and chopped shrimps.

2) 3 scallions finely minced

3) 1 /2 red bell pepper finely minced

4) 3 stalks celery finely minced

5) 1/2 tsp. salt - light sprinkle of pepper - 2 T.fresh lemon juice

6) 1 1/2 cup Mascarpone or cream cheese

7) 3/4 c. mayonaise


Salad serves 8)

This is a salad with variations galore. Traditional Mardis Gras colors are purple, green and gold (purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power). The dressing is light, creamy, sweet and tangy. Perfectly paired with a chilled crisp white or rosé wine.


The salad:

6 cups of arugula, 3 cups shredded red cabbage, 2 pears sliced thinly, a handful of golden raisins, 1 c. Pomegranate seeds, 1 c. dark berries or anything else that sounds or looks good enough to eat!

The Dressing:

3 T. olive oil, 1 c. Mayonaise, 3 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 2 T. pure maple syrup (optional: a dash of cayenne.) Toss with the salad and serve. (optional: garnish with a few chopped pecans)


The Basic Beans

This recipe is best done in a slow cooker (crock pot) otherwise a large kettle on the stovetop will do nicely. They take many hours of cooking, so I start a couple days before serving. (Pre-soaking grains or beans for 12+ hours helps break down certain hard to digest proteins or gluten) Soaked beans from boil to finish can take up to 8 hours or more. I've often turned them off at night and back on in the morning until they feel and taste just right to me. If you're impatient or short on time, use canned beans in their broth.


Use 1 pound of red aduki beans or black beans. Rinse after soaking and set to boil in enough water to cover top of beans plus 2 inches. Check water levels. (optional: use chicken or veggie broth instead of water) Once beans are almost tender, add the seasonings and other ingredients and simmer until ready to serve.


1 can diced tomatoes - 1 chopped red or sweet onion - 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced - 2 T. molasses or brown sugar - 2 T salt - 1 tsp cayenne - 1 tsp. cinnamon - 1 T balsamic vinegar

1 tsp cumin.


The Greens

Collard greens are the traditional greens used in the south, often included will be chard, mustard, kale or spinach. Collards take a long time to stew until tender. This recipe is vegetarian but traditonally lard/hanks/bones or sausages even shrimp could be used. Cook these first and add later to greens in the pot once they've stewed to tenderness.


5 quarts of fresh, washed chopped greens. Peel away from any tough stems. Retain the stems, chop and sauté in olive oil to cover bottom of skillet. As the stems become tender, add 1 large chopped red or sweet onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic. Add the greens. They will cook down and as they do, add more while adjusting the broth of 1 cup + (water or chicken or veggie) to stay moist. When greens are almost tender, add 2 chopped okra or zucchini and simmer until tender. Add the spices: 1/2 tsp salt - 1/4 tsp cayenne - 1/4 tsp brown sugar or molasses 1/2 tsp Filé (sassafras powder) for flavoring and thickening) - 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice. Simmer time will depend on the greens used.


Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes or Yams

Choose 8 smaller sweets or yams. Wash and slice off the tip, then slice each into 1 inch pieces across the length. In a bowl, mix 1/2 c olive oil - 1 tsp. salt - 1 tsp pepper or 1/4 tsp cayenne - 2 T liquid smoke. Toss the sweet potatoes until well covered and pour out onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 350-400* for 30-60 min until a fork pierces the potato easily.


Basic Quinoa

Rinse 1 c. uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh colander and drain well. Combine rinsed quinoa and 2 c. water (or chicken or veggie broth) in a medium sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heart, then decrease heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, approx. 10-20 min. Remove from heat, cover and let stream for 5 min. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Season to taste. (optional: double this amount if you've used water and keep 1/2 for a breakfast porridge - while it's still hot add chopped apples, raisins, apricots, nuts or anything you like and store in frig.)


Hush Puppies

Southern style hush puppies are a welcome addition to any meal as a replacement for bread or tortillas. Yes, they're fried and that's why they're so yummy, right?


1) 1 quart vegetable or peanut oil (Peanut oil is best with a smoke point of about 450* but canola is 2nd best at about 400*)

2) 1 c. plain unsweetened yogurt

3) 1/4 c. vegetable oil, avocado, olive etc.

4) 2 eggs room temp.

5) 4 minced scallions

6) 1 can sweet corn drained well or fresh scraped off cob or frozen and thawed.

7) 1 c. cornmeal

8) 1 c. all purpose flour

9) 1/4 sugar optional

10) 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt


In a deep skillet, heat the peanut oil to 365* F. or 185* C. (preheat oven 200* to keep the pups warm after frying). In a large bowl, add cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and mix well. In another bowl add yogurt, eggs and whisk till blended. Add onions and corn and mix well. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well. When the oil is heated to temperature, drop 6-8 tablespoon size dollops of dough into the hot oil and fry until each puppie is golden brown, turning each to cook evenly for 6-10 min. Take care not to make them too large or cook too long. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on brown paper or paper towels to drain. Repeat with any remaining batter. Transfer puppies to a parchment covered baking sheet to keep warm in oven till serving time.


Pralines

Lay out parchment paper to set pralines on and have a tablespoon sized scoop ready to go.


1) 1 c sugar

2) 1 c packed light brown sugar

3) 3/4 c heavy whipping cream

4) 4 T unsalted butter cut into cubes

5) 1/8 tsp baking soda

6) 2 1/4 c pecan halves

(roasted on parchment paper lined baking sheet in the oven for 10-15 min)

7) 1/2 tsp salt

8) 1 tsp vanilla extract


Add everything but the pecans. salt and vanilla into a medium pot and cook over medium heat. Stir regularly until it begins to foam and boil. When mixture reaches 236*F while stirring constantly, remove from heat and add pecans, salt and vanillla. Stir vigorously with a rubber spatula for 3 min or until mixture begins to thicken. Quickly drop heaping tablespoons of mixture onto the parchment paper and allow to cool till firm.The longer you stir, the thicker the mixture gets. You don't want it too thick the pralines will be too dry. If it's too thin, stir a little more. If mixture starts to cool, place it back on the warm burner (don't turn it back on) I find its best to stir mixture after ever few scoops. When pralines are cool and firm, store in an airtight container. So easy!


French Market Cappuccinos

Use French Roast coffee and add chicory. The amount will depend on how many cups you're making. It's not exact. I used my espresso machine and made a batch ahead of time to heat when ready to serve. Froth heavy cream for a dollop topping on the cappuccinos and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon. Serve with pralines and (optional: sliced peaches, berries, any colorful fruits you like or can find)


This is not a quick and easy meal to make but it sure is a fun and satisfying project.

And Delicious!

Mardi Gras ( or Fat Tuesday) is the last day of Carnival after which we're then meant to head into the austerity of Lent with ashes on our foreheads (at least for some of us - not me!). From ashes to Easter with only a short but welcome reprieve on St. Patrick's Day. So let's drink, eat, dance, sing and frolic while we can. We're supposed to enjoy life!


Laissez Le Bon Temp Rouler! Let The Good Times Roll, baby!














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