Time to Feast - Mardi Gras and Carnaval



The period between Epiphany and Fat Tuesday is known as Carnival or Carnaval (the spelling in Brazil). On Ash Wednesday, all the debauchery ends and the deprivations of Lent begin. Food and feasting is a big part of the events. Canival or carnival derives from "carne" or meat and "levare" or remove. In other words, feast and party hard until you give it all up for Lent. In the US, we of course think of the celebration as Mardi Gras.

Although it is celebrated throughout the world, Carnaval is most often identified with Rio. It is the largest Carnival celebration in the world with nearly one million people participating. Carnaval is a blend of traditions and cultures. Portuguese brought the festival, Entrudo, when they settled in Brazil in the 1500s. Over centuries, French culture, African music, Catholic celebration of Lent, and pagan influences created Carnival.

Back in North America, on March 3, 1699, French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what now is considered Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.  To celebrate, they held a small party and called the place, Point du Mardi Gras, - and hosted the first celebration of Mardis Gras - it is unclear if beads were exchanged.  

We think it most fitting to celebrate, with a festive group of family and/or friends, with the traditional foods of either Brazil's Carnaval or New Orleans' Mardis Gras. (links are easy reference to To-Table products for the difficult to find items) 


 Brazilian Feijoada


In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered out a bit. Add the pork shoulder and cook until browned. Then stir in the onions and garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Rinse and drain your beans, and add to the pot, along with the ham hocks, beef short ribs, and bay leaves. Cover with water and simmer (without a lid) for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the stew has thickened and the meat is falling part.

Remove short ribs. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones; discard bones. Shred meat with two forks; return to slow cooker with the smoked sausage and beef broth. Low simmer for another hour cover until sauce has thickened again.  Skim any foam off the top of the stew if needed.

Season with black pepper (and salt, if needed) and serve over rice, with orange slices.

 Caruru de Camarão

  1. Cook the okra in boiling water for 3 minutes, and drain immediately. Set aside.

  2. Stir the manioc meal into 2 cups of fish stock. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.

  3. In a separate pan, sauté the onion and the garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the shrimp and sauté until pink. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Stir the stock and manioc meal into the pan with the onions and shrimp. Add the okra and stir until heated through. Serve with rice.

to make fish stock:

  • 2 Tablespoon butter (or neutral oil)
  • Uncooked Heads, Shells and Tails (of shrimp)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, left whole and peeled
  • 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (approximately 10 to 12)
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Once hot, add butter. When butter is melted (but not yet sizzling), add shrimp shells. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, until shells are aromatic and starting to turn pink.
  2. Add water, onion, salt, black peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, skim off any white scum that rises to the top.
  3. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 90 minutes.
  4. Set up a mesh strainer over another soup pot (or very large container or glass measuring cups) and strain stock from shells. Allow to cool, refrigerate or freeze and Enjoy!


Mardis Gras

Mardi Gras Jambalaya

This Recipe is from "New New Orleans Cooking" by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch published by William and Morrow, 1993

Makes 8-12 Servings

2 tablespoons Emeril's Original Essence, recipe follows:

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Season the duck pieces with salt and pepper.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the duck, skin side down, and sear for 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.

Add the sausage to the fat in the pot and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, 1 tablespoon of the Essence, and black pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes give off some of their juices, about 2 minutes.

Add the thyme, stock, and duck. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 50 minutes.

Remove duck pieces from the jambalaya and cool slightly. Skim the fat. Discard skin and bones and shred duck meat.

Add the rice and bring back up to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Return the duck meat to the mixture. Season the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon Essence. Add the shrimp to the pot, return to a simmer, and cover. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the green onions and parsley to the jambalaya and stir gently. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Adjust the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve directly from the pot.

Shrimp-Tasso-Andouille Sausage Gumbo

 From Southern Living, November 2007 Philip Elliott, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Makes 5 Quarts - Enough for an army or freeze some for later 


1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 medium onions, chopped
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
2 large celery ribs, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 (32-oz.) boxes chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Garnishes: sliced green onions, filé powder


1. Cut first 2 ingredients into bite-size pieces. Place in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, 20 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out Dutch oven with paper towels.

2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat; gradually whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 25 minutes or until mixture is a dark mahogany.

3. Stir in onions and next 3 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 18 to 20 minutes or until tender. Gradually add broth. Stir in sausage, tasso, thyme, and black and red ground peppers.

4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir in shrimp the last 15 minutes of cooking; stir in parsley. Remove from heat; serve over hot cooked rice. Garnish, if desired.


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