Happy Lundi Gras, y’all!
Friday, I talked about my dislike of King Cake until I moved to Louisiana and learned that the specialty Carnival dessert was actually wonderful. Today, we’re keeping in the same vein. And it’s all about my first Lundi Gras in New Orleans.
Being a Tennessee girl, my college friends knew I hadn’t experienced Mardi Gras like a local, so during our sophomore year, my roommate and sorority sister, Jessica, invited me and a few other sisters to spend Mardi Gras break at parents’ house. I was thrilled, and we carpooled down to New Orleans the Friday afternoon before Fat Tuesday, excited to be a part of her family’s yearly shindig.
When we arrived in her hometown, we immediately ended up at the tail-end of a parade. We caught a few beads, then met up with her parents, who were absolutely lovely, and we headed on back to their home, where we discussed parades we’d be attending and got to know one another.
We attended various parades during the weekend, catching as many beads as possible, thanks to Ms. Kathy, who pulled me aside and instructed me on the best way to catch the attention of people on floats: Making yourself seem as vibrant as possible by waving your arms from side to side and making eye contact. (It’s all about the eye contact, y’all.)
We had a ball, but by the time Lundi Gras rolled around, we were all exhausted.
There was work to be done, though, and I learned firsthand that many families who celebrate Mardi Gras go all out: Not only with the food and copious amounts of king cakes throughout the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, but with matching costumes that every member of their party wears on Fat Tuesday.
These costumes generally have to do with recent events or something New Orleans-centric, so I was excited to hear our costume design.
Since it snowed in New Orleans the previous Christmas, we were going as snowflakes. And on Lundi Gras, these group costumes are always made in what their family lovingly calls “Ms. Kathy’s Sweatshop.”
That day, we worked creating little blue jackets with snowflake designs on them, as well as fastening snowflakes to painter’s hats. Those of us who could sew manned the sewing machines. Those of us, like me, who shouldn’t be trusted with a needle and thread, were handed a glue gun.
And on Fat Tuesday?
We looked fabulous in our costumes, had a wonderful time at the parades, and caught even more beads while enjoying the company and sightseeing New Orleans had to offer.
It was an incredible first Mardi Gras experience, and whenever it’s Lundi Gras, I harken back to the time I spent during my first New Orleans Mardi Gras, the laughter and the good company and the awe I felt as I watched parade after parade.
So today, in celebration of Lundi Gras, I’ve made us some Shrimp and Grits. I feel it’s only right to feature a decadent Louisiana-centric dish today, and boy, is this a good one:
- For the Shrimp
- 1½ lbs. Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere's Salt-Free Creole Seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup andouille sausage, out of casing
- 4 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup seafood stock (vegetable works, too)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- For the Grits
- 3 cups milk (whole, skim and even almond work here, though if you're looking for something decadent, go with whole milk)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup stone ground grits
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the Grits: In a large saucepot, combine 2 cups of chicken stock and all of the milk. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.
- Whisk in the grits, then season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook, stirring often to reduce clumping, until the liquid is absorbed. This will take around 35 to 40 minutes.
- Once the liquid has been completely absorbed, add the additional cup of stock, then adjust seasonings as needed.
- Let sit for a few minutes to absorb the rest of the liquid, then serve hot.
- [b]For the Shrimp[b]: Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a large mixing bowl and toss with the Cajun seasoning and kosher salt.
- Warm the olive oil over medium heat, then add the shrimp, garlic and sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are lightly browned.
- Add the wine and parsley to the pan, and cook until the liquid is reduced in volume by half.
- Next, add the stock. Turn up the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat.
- Dollop the warm grits into serving bowls and scoop equal portions of shrimp over the grits.
- Return the shrimp sauce to high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce has reduced in volume by half. (This should take just a few moments.)
- Remove from the heat, then whisk in the butter until melted and incorporated in the sauce.
- Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and grits, and garnish with more parsley.
- Serve immediately, and enjoy.
Have you been to Mardi Gras?
Have you dressed up for Fat Tuesday?