The last few years, I have forced my friends to come over to my apartment for a Fat Tuesday feast. I generally claim to be incapable of cooking but would pull out all the stops for a little Mardi Gras gumbo and cornbread. It would be an evening of general merrymaking and debauchery.
This year, due to busy schedules and whatnot we celebrated Fat-Tuesday-On-A-Sunday (With No Work On Monday). I made a last minute decision to swap out gumbo for jambalaya (and am so glad I did!). I was horribly deficient at documenting the whole process, but it all turned out beautifully!
Pre-feast-cooking, I ran 9 miles for half marathon training. Though it was a biting 20ish degrees on Sunday, I forced myself to run outside. The thought of running for 90 minutes on a treadmill is debilitating, and it’s quite possible that the actual race will be on an extremely cold day, so I need to get myself acclimated to the elements! After I finished my run, I hobbled (no, really) back to my apartment where the next few hours are a bit of a haze. I think I ate something. I definitely showered. I refused to take a nap (bad choice!).
Between running outside and spending time in my sauna-like apartment (thanks to the uncontrollable, clanking, hissing heat pipes), my body temperature was all out of whack. I had mentally pieced together an outfit which included: a striped cashmere sweater, some high-waisted booty shorts, nude fishnets, my new tan Frye boots (OBSESSED!), and a bracelet length white faux-fur jacket. I had an issue with the boots (the fishnets were not helping the boots glide on like I needed them to), and after 10 sweaty minutes of repeatedly trying to get the boots on, I threw in the towel. I opted for some six-inch black suede booties. In my hotbox apartment, this seemed like a fine choice. I failed to realize that the resultant MILES of leg exposure and lack of true winter coat were going to be bad choices. When I made it downstairs (running late, and barely able to move anyway), I made the decision to ignore the elements rather than haul my ass back upstairs and change my outfit to something more sensible. [For your information: I died a little bit every moment that I was outside. It was FREEZING.]
We cooked at my friend Matt’s apartment and he was my co-chef. I arrived there around 4:45 in the afternoon, and we immediately headed to the grocery store [it was a few blocks away. I cried while we walked there.] As you can see, space is at a premium in New York, and not just in apartments. Sometimes you build a grocery store and you don’t ensure that the carts can get through everywhere.
After we’d procured all of our ingredients, we got to chopping, grating, sautéing, and boiling. We had a grand time listening to the “Girl On Fire” Pandora station [not to be confused with the “Katniss Everdeen” Pandora station], chatting, and prepping. On the menu was:
Jambalaya: We made a few modifications here.
1. MEAT: One commenter on epicurious makes the observation that this recipe, according to serving size allows for HALF A POUND OF MEAT per person! I mean, really! That is just too much meat! We pared down the meat and made some modifications. I think we ended up with:
1 pound of applewood smoked bacon
1 pound of Andouille sausage
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 pound of shrimp (already cooked and deveined; added at the last minute with the scallions)
2. GARLIC: Many people mention that this recipe needs it, so we added 3 cloves of minced garlic. We had JUST bought the garlic at Morton Williams, but when I sliced into it, it had a green center! EW! I did some internet research and apparently it doesn’t HURT you to eat the green-centered garlic, but it might taste a little bitter. There was NO way I was going back out in that frigid nightmare, so I just chopped around the green.
3. DICED TOMATOES: The recipe calls for 3 -10 ounce cans of peeled diced tomatoes and green chiles. Like. As if they are one thing? No. We added one 28 ounce can of peeled diced tomatoes and two fresh chopped jalapenos.
4. DUTCH OVEN: Also. I didn’t really read this recipe THAT carefully before I selected it but it’s important to note that you need a dutch oven to make it! If I hadn’t been at Matt’s I would have been screwed at the moment I had to transfer my food-making-vessel from the stovetop to the oven. Also, I now need a Le Creuset dutch (french?) oven of my own. I’ve been totally spoiled by using his.
Cornbread: Ina is a goddess. No modifications necessary.
Pound cake: We halved the recipe and made cupcakes. The cupcakes cooked for 25 minutes.
Cream cheese frosting: We halved this as well, then split it into thirds and dyed it gold, purple, and green for Mardi Gras. Matt informed me that the colors all stand for something: gold = power, purple = justice, and green = faith.
It took a long time to prepare all of the food, but it was so worth it. (I kept wondering how people EVER find the time to cook like this on a regular basis. Admittedly, I am a very slow chopper, but still!) We had a scrumptious evening of drinking wine, visiting with dear friends, gorging on Mardi Gras fare, and watching the Queen Bey documentary. [Obviously, hilarity ensued: honestly, WHY was she walking around recording herself on Photobooth? Flip-cam, anyone? iPhone? But in the end, everyone still loves that Bey. Who wouldn’t?!]
Laissez le bon temps le roulez!