For Mardi Gras (February 13, 2018).
So many seasonal times up-and-coming! And my computer being on the fritz hasn’t helped much… yesterday’s Valentine’s salad was supposed to be posted this past Tuesday, and today’s Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) post was supposed to have shrimp in it. I’m dealing with just having moved (fairly much) as well as limited mobility (surgery on my knee to remove a tumor last December). I am grateful that I’ve discovered how WordPress can let you pre-set dates before uploading posts automatically — the three posts prior to the Valentine’s Day salad post were happily at least nearly ready to go!
But I can’t find healthy-for-the-environment shrimp yet up this way in my new digs. Nor is the factory-farmed over in Indochina shrimp healthy for those people raising it up. (The shrimp I used in the Valentine’s Day salad was previously frozen by me last November).
Mussels, however, are also quite tasty, and feel free to use either or both items. I’m able to find mussels farmed in New England (or eastern Canada) around here, and this is satisfactory. If you have crawfish available, add those as well. While I do pre-cook and shell mussels and/or shrimp for the following dish, such is not practical for crawfish. It will be messier to eat!
For those who are Paleo, sub in cauliflower rice for the regular rice. This recipe is gluten-free.
BTW, this year is New Orleans’ 300th birthday!
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: up to 2 hours
Rest Time: None
Mardi Gras Creole? Mussels, Andouille, Okra, Rice
- 1 bag of mussels. Around here this is about 3-5 pounds. (Without shells, the weight was 7.5 ounces (200 grams).)
- 6 ounces (175 grams) Andouille sausage, pork or chicken. Mine was pre-cooked chicken Andouille sausage, but your availability may vary, and may be better…
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced.
- Cooking oil for the onions – I use avocado oil. You can use butter, for the French influence.
- 16 ounces (450 grams) marinara-style tomato sauce. Either home-made, or choose a jar with the least amount of unwanted ingredients, and with no added sugars.
- 3 regular stalks celery, coarsely chopped.
- 6 ounces (175 grams) okra, see preparation below.
- 1 bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped coarsely. Any color you choose.
- 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms.
- 2/3rd cup wine (white or red, preferably dry), with extra reserved if needed. Alternatively, use water.
- 2-3 cloves minced garlic.
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (depending on taste).
- Hot sauce (I used Chohula). Add gradually, perhaps in 1/4 teaspoon increments, until you get the heat where you want it. Taste!!
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cooked rice – I used Basmati and cooked it according to directions in a rice cooker. While not authentic, it was to hand, and I really like Basmati. (1 cup rice + 1.5 cups water). A rice cooker will keep the rice warm and ready if it is done before your Creole dish – the rice (Basmati, anyway) will take 30 or so minutes to cook. Again, cauliflower rice is great, too.
Bring a pot of water to boil, sufficient to hold the mussels. Add the mussels. When the water comes back to a boil, watch them carefully. The mussels will open up and soon the water will begin to foam and rise. Remove from the cooktop, and drain.
Remove the mussels from the shells, discarding any that don’t open. Remove any “beard” (basically a seaweed growth that sometimes hangs on to shells, and may attach to the meat inside). Reserve the mussels (up to a day before preparing the actual dish, in the fridge).
Chop up everything that needs to be chopped up.
For the andouille: if you buy andouille sausage that has not been pre-cooked, pan fry it in advance. Slice it or crumble it (whichever is appropriate), and cook it in a skillet with a touch of oil until it is hot all the way through. You will be cooking it further in subsequent steps.
For the okra: I used frozen okra. You can use fresh or frozen, but at this time of the year it may be easier to find frozen, especially up here in New England. Cut off the tops, and then slice them longitudinally from top to bottom. You only need to remove the bottom tips if they’ve turned brown.
In the pot you plan to add everything into (well, other than the rice): add a little cooking oil, then the onions. Turn the cooktop heat to medium and sauté the onions until they are at least translucent, and a little bit brown, about 25 minutes.
Add in the marinara sauce. Allow to simmer, lowering the heat as needed. Add the sausage, okra, celery, mushrooms, wine (water). Simmer another ten minutes. Add the garlic and paprika, salt and ground pepper. You can add the peppers now – I like mine more au dente than most folks, so I wait longer, but you don’t need to! Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix as you need.
Make sure the liquid remains as a thick stew; if you need to, add more wine or water, maybe an eighth of a cup. Stir periodically, and let the flavors meld. The full simmering time since adding the tomato marinara sauce should end up being about an hour; about 15-20 minutes before ending, add the peppers (if you haven’t already). Add in, and adjust, the hot sauce to taste. Lower the range temperature as you see fit… no frivolous boilings or anything, just a slow steady heat with an occasional bubble.
About 3 minutes before the dish is ready, add the mussels, and mix them in. They are basically already cooked, and you don’t want to overcook them; but you do want them heated all the way through.
Serve out some rice in a bowl, and add a portion of the food from the saucepan to each bowl. Sit back and enjoy.
Interestingly, one can easily sex mussels. We have one of each gender – you can tell them apart by color. But they taste exactly the same.
What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole food? Apparently, the major difference is the role of the tomato, at least when it comes to ingredients. It is a little more complex than this, however. Creole can be called “city food”, whereas Cajun is sometimes called “country food”. And it is more complex even than that: For some clarification and edification check this fascinating link: Louisiana Travel: Difference Between Cajun and Creole. Both are fascinating and tasty cuisines informed by a strong variety of world cultures, as French, west African, and Acadian people met Native traditions, and created sometimes-uneasy foodways.
(Regards the mussel photo: It is a boy and a girl… Yeah, I did have to look it up!)