Coast Cooking

Add these dishes to your Mardi Gras menu

Serve cornbread with red beans for a different and delicious take on this classic.
Serve cornbread with red beans for a different and delicious take on this classic. Special to the Sun Herald

For many people, Mardi Gras food means King cake.

Yes, king cake is excellent, but it shouldn’t be the only food on your Mardi Gras menu.

Chances are you’ll be having friends over on Fat Tuesday and maybe even a lot of friends.

What’s a poor foodie to do? The answer is simple, get out the biggest pot you’ve got and make a one-pot dish that is hearty, inexpensive and delicious.

Jambalaya, red beans and rice and gumbo all fall into the one-pot category of big crowd food. All are considered classics, and when made with care, all are delicious.

Making inexpensive and hearty food does not mean rushing through a recipe or taking short cuts. Remember, a short cut that saves you time also short cuts quality and flavor.

Take your time and sauté those vegetables until they are almost caramelized, buy the best-quality ingredients you can afford, and season in layers, so you build layers of flavor.

Lastly, taste, re-season and taste again.

I’ve added one other recipe that I hope you like. It’s a smoked fish dip based on the ever-popular smoked tuna dip that has been a mainstay on the Coast for years.

The dip can be made with tuna, but red fish or amberjack makes interesting substitutions.

All of these recipes can be doubled or tripled, just stay with the suggested proportions.

Jambalaya

2 cups Mississippi grown rice

5 cups chicken stock

1 pound large wild caught Mississippi shrimp

1 pound chopped Conecuh smoked sausage

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

1 cup chopped celery

Red pepper flakes, fresh ground black pepper, coarse sea salt

Sauté the sausage in oil until well-browned, remove and set aside. Add the shrimp to the same pan, turn the heat to high, and cook quickly, just 1 minute or so. Remove and set aside. Add the vegetables to the pot, add more oil if needed, season aggressively, reduce the heat to medium low and sauté for 15 minutes. Add the sausage, rice and 4 cups of stock. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Do not peek. Remove lid, taste to make sure the rice is done, give it a good stir, taste and re-season as needed, add the shrimp and serve at once. Add more stock as needed.

Red beans and Rice or Cornbread

1 pound dried red beans

1-2 cups chopped smoked sausage

Chicken stock to cover, plus 2 cups more

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

1 cup rice

Optional: serve with cornbread instead of rice for a different take on this classic. 1 package cornbread mix.

Sauté the sausage until well-browned, add the vegetables and cook 10 minutes more. Add the beans, cover with stock and simmer slowly for 2 hours lid on, or until the beans are tender. Combine the rice and 2 cups stock in a rice cooker or pot with a tight-fitting lid, cover and steam on low for 20 minutes. Serve the beans in bowls with a 1/4 cup of rice as a garnish. If you go with the cornbread option, use any of the prepared mixes, follow package directions, but make sure to pour the batter into a smoking hot, greased pan to get a brown crust, then bake. Cornbread is always better with butter.

Smoked Redfish dip

1 whole Redfish (or amberjack)

1 onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 chopped tomato

Tony Chachere’s season

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup cream cheese

Season redfish with Tony’s. Smoke for 4 hours at 250 degrees. If you don’t have a smoker, make your own with a hotel pan layered with wood chips, a sheet of tinfoil, the red fish, then tent with more tinfoil and sealed well around the edges. Remove fish and debone when done. Dice onions, celery and tomato. Mix the redfish (2-3 cups) with vegetables. Add mayonnaise and cream cheese, combine. Serve with crackers or pita bread.

Simple Sausage Gumbo

2-3 cups chopped smoked Conecuh sausage

1 pound large peeled shrimp

1 large chopped onion

1-2 chopped green bell peppers

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup butter or oil

4-6 cups homemade chicken stock

Red pepper flakes, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

This recipe starts very much like the jambalaya recipe, but the roux makes all the difference. Sauté the sausage until well-browned, remove and set aside. Turn the heat up to high, add more oil if necessary, add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute, remove and set aside. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat to medium low and sauté for 20 minutes. Remember to season as you go. In a separate heavy-bottom pot, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat, whisk in the flour and stir, stir, stir until it is a deep dark brown and the smell is fragrant. As soon as you smell it, you know you’ve got it right. Remove from heat at once, and add the roux to the vegetables and combine thoroughly, add the stock, the sausage, stir until the roux is completely incorporated. Simmer 15 minutes, add the shrimp and serve at once.

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