Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, February 21 this year.  It’s traditionally celebrated on “Fat Tuesday” which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.  It’s a wonderful celebration filled with plenty of food and drink…New Orleans style!  We like to celebrate Mardi Gras every year with a fun and festive meal at home.  Sometimes we are with friends and family and sometimes it’s just us.  Either way, the drinks are flowing, and the food is plenty.  Any reason to make a themed meal, right?

I like to have a big entrée that allows us to have plenty of leftovers.  This year we are making Spicy Gumbo.  To keep us lubricated, we’ll be enjoying a cocktail while we cook.  And for an appetizer and dessert, we’ll be snacking on a simple themed treat.  It’s an easy menu that I’ll walk you through how to make!

Mardi Gras White Chocolate Covered Pretzels – These are a wonderful finger food to serve as an appetizer or dessert option.  The recipe makes a lot, is simple to whip up, and is the perfect amount of sweet and salty.  You’ve probably had something similar before or at least seen a similar treat…chocolate covered pretzel rods for Christmas is quite popular.  This is a great customizable recipe for different holidays (speaking of Christmas).  Change up the sprinkles or sanding sugar or use colored candy melts and skip the sprinkles to prepare this recipe for St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, Easter, you name it!

The recipe can be found here.

Start by lining 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  This is where the chocolate will set once the pretzels are dipped.  I also prefer to use baking sheets so I can move the pretzels around to save counter space before it’s safe to put them in a container.  If you choose, using parchment paper or wax paper directly on the counter will also work fine.

Use a double boiler to melt the vanilla almond bark.  Once melted, drop 8-10 pretzels in the chocolate and make sure they are fully coated.  Use a fork or toothpick to lift the pretzels out of the chocolate (one at a time) and let any excess chocolate drip off.  Place on the baking sheet, leaving a small amount of space between each pretzel.  Top with sprinkles.

Repeat this until all the almond bark is gone.  Work in batches so the sprinkles are added to the chocolate before it sets otherwise, they won’t stick.  There is enough chocolate for approximately 100 pretzels.  I use pretzel snaps (square shape), but traditional twist pretzels will also work well.  I also like to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate.  I like that it helps the chocolate melt evenly, doesn’t burn easily, and it keeps a melted consistency throughout dipping.  If you don’t have a double boiler or prefer to not use one, simply melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  You might have to reheat the chocolate every so often as you work as it will start to thicken and harden.

Let the pretzel sit on the counter until the chocolate is set, about 15-20 minutes.  It doesn’t take long!  Once set, enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container on the counter.

The recipe can be found here.

Our main course is Spicy Gumbo.  Gumbo is a famous New Orleans dish that is a mix between a thick stew and hearty soup.  It’s a wonderfully flavorful concoction of chicken, sausage, and vegetables served over rice.  I think the trick to making this dish is patience!  You want to make the roux, then add the vegetables, then the meat, stock, and spices, let it simmer, and serve it hot off the stove.  It’s bursting with flavor and amazing ingredients and has the perfect amount of heat!

The recipe can be found here.

Start by preparing all the ingredients.  I like to have everything ready to go before I start cooking so I can just assemble and not feel rushed.  Slice the chicken and sausage, chop the veggies, mince the garlic, etc.  Set all ingredients aside.

Heat 2 Tbsp of canola oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper then add to the Dutch oven and cook until completely cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a plate.

Using the same Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook until cooked through and lightly browned, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove the sausage to a plate.  I like to use chicken sausage, but andouille sausage is the most common ingredient.

Reduce the heat to low.  Add ½ cup of canola oil and the flour to the Dutch oven.  Whisk to combine then increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture becomes a light brown color, whisking continuously.  This step should take about 10 minutes.  You don’t want to rush the roux.

Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Stir to combine and cook for about 5-6 minutes or until tender.  The roux will darken during this step but that’s OK.

Add the chicken, sausage, salt, cayenne, black pepper, garlic, thyme, diced tomatoes (including the juice from the can), chicken stock, and bay leaves.  Stir to combine then bring the mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.

Remove the cove and continue to simmer for an additional 25 minutes on low heat.  Stir occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.

Add the thawed okra and ½ cup of fresh chopped parsley.  Stir to combine and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.  While the mixture is simmering for the last time, prepare the rice according to package instructions.  You want about 6-8 cups of cooked rice for serving, about 1 cup per person.

Once done, remove the bay leaves.  Add one cup of rice to the center of each bowl you will be serving.  If you want the rice to stay intact and in a round shape, use a measuring cup to scoop the rice and press the rice down gently, then invert the measuring cup in the center of the plate to release the “ball” of rice.  Ladle the gumbo around the rice.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

The recipe can be found here.

I love this recipe.  It’s a bit spicy but the rice helps cut down on the heat.  There is plenty of tender meat and veggies, and the broth is very flavorful.  It also makes great leftovers!

Our cocktails are a Blackberry Bourbon Smash and a Blueberry Bourbon Smash.  Both are made the exact same way, simply use blackberries or blueberries, based on your taste preference.  It’s not too sweet yet has enough flavor to cut the bourbon and still be fruity and fresh.  It’s very refreshing.

Start by adding lime juice, simple syrup, blackberries or blueberries, and mint to a lowball glass. Muddle together.

Add bourbon then fill the glass with ice.  Top with club soda and stir.

Skewer 3-4 blackberries or blueberries on a toothpick.  Use as a garnish with a mint leaf.  Enjoy!

The recipes are for ONE cocktail each.  Blackberry Bourbon Smash or Blueberry Bourbon Smash.

I preferred the blackberry, but Andrew preferred the blueberry.  Both were good so maybe have one of each and vote for your favorite…just an idea to get the party started!?!?!?

Happy Cooking and laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)!

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