Surely one of the most colorful holiday celebrations in the US is that of Mardi Gras and at JFAT we feature a week-long celebration that brings a little bit of N’awlins to all our Guests. Mardi Gras is said to date back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Italy, religious leaders decided rather than abolishing them altogether, to instead incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith.
As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England employing the purple, gold and green as the iconic Mardi Gras colors.
Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”.
It is believed that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when French explorers landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of the holiday’s future epicenter: New Orleans.
They held a small celebration and dubbed the spot Point du Mardi Gras. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes (organizations or associations) have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well, including Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and traditions.
Mama’s Spicy Gumbo
As mentioned earlier, at JFAT we celebrate Mardi Gras each year by featuring an offering of Cajun-Creole specials such as Mama’s Spicy Gumbo, Jambalaya Pasta, and Shrimp Boil, but a few days ago I realized that I had overlooked doing anything for brunch, which is one of our most popular meal periods of the week. So in an effort to make amends I developed a Brunch special that features many of the same ingredients wrapped together with some eggs in the form of an awesome brunch dish… I present to you my Cajun Shrimp & Andouille Scramble!
Recipe – Cajun Shrimp Brunch Scramble
Mis En Place
» 1 TBS Blended oil
» 1 TBS Minced Shallots
» 2 tsp. Minced garlic
» ½ tsp. Old Bay
» 1/3 cup Andouille, diced ¼ inch
» 6 ounces 31-40’s shrimp, with Cajun spices
» 1/3 cup Tater tots, thawed, coarsely chopped
» 1/4 cup Diced tomatoes, ½”
» 1 oz Grilled corn
» 4 ounces Beaten eggs, raw
» 2 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
» 1 tsp. Chopped scallions
Preheat cast iron skillet. Place oil in saute pan and cook shallots and garlic with Old Bay until softened. Add sausage, shrimp and tater tots and cook, turning shrimp until cooked throughout. Then add tomatoes and corn and cook stirring for 30 seconds more. Finally, add the beaten eggs and stir rapidly.
Remove from heat just before eggs are completely set, sprinkle with cheese, and place under a broiler to slightly melt cheese. Garnish with scallions.
Some Creole Goodness