"Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler"- Let the Good Times Roll!
Since most people in the South pronounce my name “Mar-di” – and not "Mar-tea" --Mardi Gras has always been a holiday I love to celebrate… I’m the Queen of “Martie Gras”! Did you know that contrary to popular belief, Alabama is the birthplace of Mardi Gras? In 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration. As settlers migrated west to New Orleans, the tradition accompanied them there.
That is me, getting ready to leave on the Duck Dynasty float -- dressed in my camo gear! I have made the trek to New Orleans and Mobile for balls, parties, and parades but most often, I find myself celebrating Mardi Gras at home. Many people don't know what Mardi Gras is. Or Fat Tuesday. The question I'm asked most often is my favorite Mardi Gras recipe ---and why is there a baby in the King Cake?
MY MOST ASKED MARDI GRAS QUESTIONS:
What is Mardi Gras? It is the season of events surrounding Carnival, which begins after Epiphany ands end on Fat Tuesday. (This year, that is February 28th, 2017.) Fat Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, and so it is a final time to indulge before giving up favorite foods for Lent.
Many cities along the Gulf coast with French Colonial heritage celebrate Mardi Gras with parades, masquerade balls, and large food festivals. Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras began in Mobile, Alabama – not New Orleans – when in 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration. As settlers migrated west to New Orleans, the tradition accompanied them there.
Why is there a baby in the King Cake? The cake is associated with Epiphany celebrations at the end of Christmas season. A figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, and is said to represent the Baby Jesus. The person who finds the baby in his or her slice of cake is designated king or queen for the evening and is said to receive good luck and prosperity in the year ahead.
These days, New Orleans bakeries and restaurants are so clever with King Cake flavors... and some even go as far as to place a signature element inside rather than a baby... for example, the fine folks at Donald Link's Cochon Butcher have a pig baked inside their cakes. They even have "The Elvis" stuffed with peanut butter, banana and topped with candied bacon. Go to Willa Jean for a chocolate version and Sucre for one with almond flavor.
What is your favorite Mardi Gras recipe? For me, it has to be gumbo! The secret to a great gumbo is in the roux and having the patience to stir it to that dark brown- almost chocolate color. I learned about making roux (a French technique combining fat and flour as a thickener) from the Godfather of Cajun and Creole cooking, Chef John Folse. Together with Chef Rick Tramonto, football legend Kenny Stabler, and our host, Bob Baumhower, we set the world record for the largest pot of gumbo: more than 5,000 lbs. in a single pot!