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Cook it up for Mardi Gras with recipes from Texas restaurant chefs

King Cake
King Cake

If you aren't able to make it to the Big Easy to chow down on your favorite Mardi Gras grub, create an awesome spread of your own with these Louisiana inspired recipes from Texas restaurant chefs.

Chef Randy Morgan's Fish City Grill Cajun-Style Gumbo


1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
3/4 cup Andouille Sausage-medium dice
2 Cups Yellow Onions-small dice
2 Cups Celery-small dice
2 Cups Poblano Peppers-small dice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Chopped Garlic
3 Each Bay Leaf
3 Teaspoons Dried Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Cup Crushed Tomatoes
3 Cups Okra –Fresh or Frozen ½ inch slice
1 1/2 Cup Chicken Breast-1 inch dice
1 Quart Shrimp-peeled and deveined (reserve shells and head for broth)
3 Tablespoons Filé Powder
3 Tablespoons Parsley –chopped
10 Cups Chicken Broth
3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 Cup Flour


Peel shrimp. In a medium stock pot, bring to a boil shrimp shells and chicken broth, then reduce to low heat, simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and discard shells. In a heavy bottom stock pot, add 1 tablespoon oil and put on medium high heat. Once hot, render andouille, cooking down about 5 minutes stirring. Take sausage out of pot and reserve. In same pot, add ¾ cup vegetable oil and put back on medium high heat. When oil is hot, add 1 ½ cup flour and whisk constantly. Continue whisking approximately 15 minutes. Roux should be a very dark brown. Add back the andouille sausage and next seven ingredients listed. Stir briskly about 30 seconds, add worcestershire and crushed tomatoes. Add chicken broth and stir to incorporate. Add chicken breast and shrimp and bring to a boil. Add filé powder and parsley and turn on low heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

Alligator Cafe's Voodoo Crawfish Enchiladas
By Chef/Owner Ivan Pugh


2 Habanero Peppers
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 Poblano Pepper
1 Serrano Pepper
2 Red Bell Peppers
2 Red Onions
2 Red Tomatoes
1 Pound Crawfish Tail Meat
1 Pound Shredded Jack Cheese
2 Tablespoons Cajun Spice
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Ground Thyme or Oregano
Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
1 Teaspoon Chopped Shallots
4 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Cajun Spice
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt, such as Lawry's
2 Cups Vegetable Oil
10 to 15 Corn Tortillas


For the filling: Roast the chile peppers, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes on a grill or open flame until charred on the outside. Place in a plastic bag or on a tray and cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Pull them out of the refrigerator and reserve 1 red bell pepper, 1 red onion and 1 red tomato for the sauce. Remove the skin and seeds (if desired) from the rest of the peppers while being very careful to not touch your face. Leaving the seeds in will mean your enchiladas are much spicier. For milder enchiladas, leave out the habaneros altogether. Scrape any black char off of your red onion and the outer skin (not good eats). After this is done, you want to mix your peppers, onions, tomatoes and hot peppers and chop them into bite-size pieces.

When the vegetables are chopped, add your crawfish tail meat and half your jack cheese and mix well.

In separate mixing bowl, add the Cajun spice, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and thyme. This spice mix you have created is a great blackening spice so save any extra you have. Some Cajun spices have more salt then others, so taste your mixture. It should have lots of flavor but have a nice balance of salt. If you find you need a little salt, add some seasoned salt or a season-all; if too salty, add a little more paprika, garlic and onion powder.

Once you have your spices mixed together, add half of it to your crawfish mixture and taste.

For the sauce: Add a splash of olive oil to a hot pan over medium-high heat, and then add the butter. Immediately add your garlic and shallots; this will cook quickly so have your cream ready to go. Cook for maybe a minute, stirring constantly (don't burn), and then add your heavy cream. Using a whisk, stir the sauce until it just starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and stir every couple of minutes.

In a food processor, add the reserved red bell pepper, onion, tomato, Cajun spice, paprika and seasoned salt. Puree into a smooth consistency.

Add this mixture to your hot cream and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Do not let the sauce boil over. (Allow the sauce to cool and then chill in the refrigerator if you want to make it ahead of time.)

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan to 350 degrees F.

Using a pair of metal tongs, drop the tortillas 2 at a time into the hot oil for about 10 seconds. Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. Allow the tortillas to cool, but don't chill them. While they are still slightly warm, begin spooning in the filling about one-quarter of the way down the tortillas and then roll tight.

Using a cake pan or a deep casserole dish, place about 1/2 cup of the cream sauce in the bottom of the pan and spread evenly. Add each enchilada side by side until the pan is filled. Pour enough sauce to completely cover the top. Add the rest of your jack cheese and place in the oven to bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The cheese should be bubbling hot and just starting to brown.

John Besh's Shrimp Creole with a Vietnamese twist


5 Pounds Jumbo Louisiana or Wild American Shrimp, peeled and deviened
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Lemongrass
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
3 Medium Onions, diced
10 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
1 Celery Stalk, diced
1 Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
5 Pounds Overripe Heirloom Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1 Tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Branches Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
6-8 Cups Cooked White Rice


1. Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in the lemongrass. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large deep skillet over moderate heat. Add the shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Saute until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.
2. Into the same skillet with the oil and shrimp juices, out the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and the onions, garlic, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and when the sauce comes to a simmer add the bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add the shrimp back to the skillet along with the basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over steamed white rice.

John Besh's Louisiana Shrimp and Andouille Over Grits


For The Grits
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup White Stoneground Organic Grits
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Cup Mascarpone Cheese

For The Shrimp
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
36 Jumbo Louisiana or Wild American Shrimp, unpeeled
Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows)
1/3 Cup Minced Andouille Sausage
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 Piquillo Peppers (roasted red Spanish peppers in a jar)
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Cups Basic Shrimp Stock (recipe follows)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Cups Canned Diced Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Chives
1/2 Cup Fresh Chervil Sprigs

Basic Creole Spices
2 Tablespoons Celery Salt
1 Tablespoon Sweet Paprika
1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice

Basic Shrimp Stock
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1 Onion, coarsely chopped
1 Stalk Celery, coarsely chopped
1 Carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Leek, white part, coarsely chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Pound Shrimp Shells
1 Bay Leaf
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns


For the Shrimp and Grits:
1. For the grits, bring 4 cups water with the salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over high heat. Slowly pour the grits into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low. Stir the grits often to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer the grits until all the water has been absorbed and they become soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the butter and mascarpone. Remove from heat and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the grits in the pot to keep a crust from forming.
2. For the shrimp, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Season the shrimp with Creole Spices and salt. Sauté the shrimp until they begin to brown but are not cooked all the way through. Remove the shrimp as they cook and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, sauté the andouille, garlic, shallots, piquillo peppers, and thyme until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the Shrimp Stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the butter and reduce the sauce until it’s nice and thick, 3–5 minutes.
4. Return the shrimp to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, diced tomatoes, and chives.
5. Spoon a heaping 1/4 cup of the grits into the center of each of 6 large bowls. Arrange 6 shrimp in the middle of each bowl of grits. Spoon sauce around the shrimp and garnish each bowl with fresh chervil.

For the Basic Creole Spices (Makes ½ cup):
Using this spice blend is truly the easiest way to consistently achieve the flavors I grew up with. Once made, the spices will last for six months in an airtight container. Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.

For the Basic Shrimp Stock (Makes 6 cups):
1. Heat the canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the shrimp shells, the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and 3 quarts water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours.
3. Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.

John Besh's King Cake

1 Cup Lukewarm Milk, about 110 degrees F
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Dry Yeast
3 3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Melted Butter
5 Egg Yolks, beaten
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Grated Fresh Lemon Zest
3 Teaspoons Cinnamon
Grated Fresh Nutmeg

2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup Condensed Milk
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
Purple, Green, and Gold Decorative Sugars
1 Fève (fava bean) or Plastic Baby to hide in the cake after baking


1. For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl.
2. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
3. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest.
4. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.
5. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball.
6. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
7. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1.5 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.
8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.
9. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length.
10. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal.
11. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
12. Once it’s doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
13. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
14. For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable.
15. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.
16. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet.
17. Tuck the fève or plastic baby into underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

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