At Ease: Celebrate Mardi Gras

Celebrate Mardi Gras with an easy menu to make in your galley. Serve an old school daiquiri and Cajun Meatballs to start, a lively salad featuring the traditional purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras, a luscious gumbo with rice, and some sweet fresh fruit dipped in sour cream. All recipes serve four.

Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

2 tbsp. butter or oil
2 tbsp. flour
Holy Trinity:
2 stalks celery chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash of dried thyme and cayenne pepper
3 tomatoes chopped or 1 lb. canned diced tomatoes
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 cup fresh, frozen or canned okra, chopped (optional) or 1 tbsp. file powder (the okra or file powder will thicken the sauce)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 lb. Andouille smoked sausage or other smoked sausage, sliced
1 lb. cooked chicken, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter or oil in a large soup pot, and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in flour, and keep stirring until the mixture (called a roux) is a light to medium brown color, about 5-8 minutes. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add Tabasco, thyme, cayenne, tomatoes, and water; cook another 5 minutes. Add Andouille and okra. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until gumbo thickens, about 20 minutes. If you are not using okra, mix 1 tablespoon file powder with 1/4 cup hot gumbo stock then add to pot. Add shrimp and chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on rice with extra hot sauce on the side.

Old School Daiquiri
8 oz. rum
8 tbsp. lime juice
4 tsp. sugar

Mix sugar thoroughly with lime, add rum, shake, and pour over ice.

Spicy Cajun Meatballs
2 lbs. small meatballs (frozen cooked*)
Spicy Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. Creole mustard (or yellow mustard mixed with Zatarain’s or Emeril’s Creole seasoning)
Dash each of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce
1/4 tsp. salt (or more to taste)

In a 14-inch sauté pan, whisk together melted butter with all sauce ingredients and bring to simmer. Place meatballs into sauce and cook 15–20 minutes. Transfer to bowl and serve warm with toothpicks.

Mardi Gras Salad
1 large head romaine lettuce
1 cup purple cabbage
1/2 red onion
1 yellow bell pepper
1 cup yellow tomatoes
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

Chop salad vegetables, place in salad bowl and set aside. For dressing, blend mustard and vinegar and slowly whisk in oil, then season with salt and pepper.

Strawberries Dipped in Cream and Sugar
1 quart of whole strawberries, leaves attached, washed
1 cup sour cream
1 cup brown sugar

Put each ingredient in a separate bowl. Hold strawberry by its leaves, dip in sour cream, and then dip in sugar. Enjoy!

Setting the Mood for your Mardi Gras Celebration

Decorate in traditional Mardi Gras colors—green, representing faith; gold symbolizing power; and purple denoting justice. If the weather cooperates, have cocktails under the stars. Trim the boat in fairy lights or Christmas tree lights in a mix of colors—red, blue, yellow, and green are perfect for Mardi Gras and if they flash on and off, even better! Or light a few votive candles in colorful holders (purple, gold, green!) and have a few lanterns on buffet tables to make it easy for guests to see what they are eating. If you have the party indoors, dim your lights and decorate in colorful string lights shaped like chile peppers, flowers, Japanese lanterns or cylindrical accordion shades in Mardi Gras colors! Go to your local party store to find a wide range of lights.

Sprinkle tables with Mardi Gras beads and doubloons like the ones that are tossed to the crowds from the parade floats in New Orleans or place a gold, green or purple runner on your table. Hang decorated Mardi Gras masks, beads, streamers, or pirate-themed-booty in Mardi Gras colors. Wear beads, colorful feather boas and glittery hats! Hang a Mardi Gras flag—your guests will know they’re at the right place when they see the crisp purple, green, and gold hanging at from your boat!

Select and have ready at least 2 hours worth of Cajun or New Orleans jazz music such as:
Bayou Deluxe: The Best Of Michael Doucet & Beausoleil; Best of Cajun: Traditional Songs; Best of Zachary Richard, or traditional New Orleans jazz music – such as clarinetists, Pete Fountain.

Cajun Meatballs

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced red bell peppers
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 eggs
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
pinch of thyme
pinch of basil
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine meats, onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and eggs. Blend all ingredients well with your hands. Season to taste using salt, pepper, thyme, basil, and hot sauce. Continue to mix until seasonings are well blended. Mix in bread crumbs. Shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs and sauté in oil until nicely browned.

Southern Boating, By Lori Ross, February 2016