mardi gras

New Video Recipe for Mardi Gras 2011

Mardi Gras 2011 is so big people actually tailgate it. Weeks before Fat Tuesday the city of Mobile is overrun with RVs. When it comes to tailgating, Mardi Gras is the big leagues. Football and NASCAR tailgates last at best a week. Mardi Gras goes one more than twice that long. For this tailgate party I’m making Smoked Sausage Stuffed Grilled Meatloaf, BBQ Potatoes Gratin and Barbecue Gravy.  Enjoy this video recipe.

A Brief History of the King Cake

Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the New World in Mobile, AL in 1703.  A half century later residents of the newly established settlement on the Mississippi River called New Orleans wanted to adopt this American style of Carnivàle.  Being neighborly members of Mobile’s Cowbellion de’ Rankin Society ventured west to help out the newcomers.  The rest is history.  Today N’Awlins is famous for its Fat Tuesday celebration but other cities along King CakeAmerica’s Third Coast have a century or more a parading under their belts as well like Biloxi, MS, Pensacola, FL and of course Mobile is still home to the oldest Fat Tuesday celebration in the country.

Many uniquely American customs are part of Mardi Gras lore like secret societies, floats and throws.  Also a key element is the legendary King Cake.  The King Cake is the heart of many a Mardi Gras party.  Little more than a Danish decorated with colorful purple, green and gold sugar or icing the King Cake has something to separate it from the average pastry, a baby.  Each cake has a tiny plastic baby stashed inside.  The tradition being that whoever gets the piece with the baby is the King of the party.  The tradition, like Fat Tuesday itself, predates Christianity in Europe.  King Cake from the amazonThat original Pagan ritual ended with the “winner” being sacrificed.  Thankfully that part of the tradition has fallen to the wayside.

For the longest time King Cake was something to be endured not enjoyed.  It was dry and virtually tasteless but of late Gulf Coast bakers have begun adding flavor to their King Cakes.  Cream cheese is a very popular ingredient these days which provides both flavor and moisture.  Fruits and fruit compotes are also en vogue.  Even those with special diets can enjoy King Cake with recipes for sugar-free and gluten-free cakes now in abundance.

With Mardi Gras just around the corner I urge you to seek out a King Cake from your local baker or order one from the amazon HERE.  Try your hand at one of the great American traditions.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

We Have a Winner!

From June, 2008.

Sort of.

I recently entered the “Share Your Discovery Contest: Presented by Tava.” A food writing contest that highlights my single favorite food discovery in my city. I chose Mobile’s most cherished contribution to the culinary world, West Indies Salad. I was the runner-up to Choked Up With Happy Eating Tears and Adventures in Bento Making.  When you’re done you’re going to want a recipe so HERE it is.  Below is my article:

West Indies Salad – Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama is one of the oldest cities in the new world but these days seems to languish in the shadow of nearby New Orleans. The irony of the situation is that the thing N’awlins is best known for, Mardi Gras, actually started in Alabama’s port city half a century before there was a City that Care Forgot. Members of Mobile’s oldest parading krewe, Cowbellion de Rankin, ventured west in the mid 1700’s to teach the folks in the newly established settlement on the Mississippi River how to celebrate Fat Tuesday. That’s not all the two cities share either. Gumbo? Mobile has it. Fried catfish? Mm hmm, that, too. Antebellum homes, spooky grave yards, and ancient oak tress draped in Spanish Moss? Check, check, and double check.

But Mobile can lay claim to something no one else on the Gulf Coast can . . . it is the birthplace of West Indies Salad. Never heard of it? That is a shame for it is one of the true delicacies of the new world easily on par with Beluga caviar or Kobe beef.

Bill Bayley was a big man usually seen chewing a cigar. As as chef, he traveled the world but in 1947 he and his wife, Ethyl, opened a little shanty south of Mobile in an area that now bears his name, Bayley’s Corner. Mr. Bayley often romanticized that he was inspired to create his signature offering after a lobster dish he encountered while traveling the West Indian island as a mariner. Presumably that dish was civiche, a recipe where seafood like lobster, fish, or shrimp is chemically cooked in the acid of fresh citrus juice.

Mr. Bayley’s recipe substitutes citrus juice with vinegar and employees only one protein, lump white crabmeat from Gulf blue crabs. The recipe’s brilliance lies in its simplicity – over night marinate the crabmeat with finely minced red onion in a solution of apple cider vinegar and ice water seasoned with only salt and pepper. The resulting decadence is equally at home as a luxurious garnish for a perfectly cooked fillet and a glass of fine Bordeaux or alone with a sleeve of saltines and a pitcher of sweet tea.

Mr. Bayley wasn’t done creating legendary recipes. In the 1960’s he was the first to dust crab claws with cornmeal then fry them up crisp and brown. Bayley’s restaurant is still open today and it still serves fresh caught Gulf seafood – Wednesday nights enjoy all-you-can-eat fish and grits, Thursdays all-you-can-eat fried shrimp. Bayley’s Restuant is located at 10805 Dauphin Island Pkwy. Theodore, AL. Call 251-973-1572 for directions.

Although fried crab claws are the better know culinary contribution, West Indies Salad remains the quintessential food of Mobile.

Stuart Reb Donald

Diary of a Wannabe TV Chef – PT 6

This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.

Greener Pastures

WintzellsWintzell’s Oyster House has been in operation in Mobile since 1938. What began as an oyster bar with six stools is now a multi-unit restaurant powerhouse that is unique in character and the standard bearer for what a true Gulf Coast oyster house should be. I escape from the Fern Bar to become a part of this remarkable piece of Mobile history as an associate manager.

Wintzell’s managerial formula is that there are no FOH (Front Of House) managers and no BOH (Back Of House) managers. Rather, all managers work both aspects several times a week. My stint there allows me to work at three of the four stores as well as the commissary which makes a good deal of the gumbo, jerk chicken chili, and other signature Wintzell’s dishes. I also get my first taste of catering.

My employment there also has me working notable events like the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, which transforms the small artist colony of Fairhope, AL into a 200,000 visitor carnival of well-to-do art lovers from across the country. I also spend a week at the original downtown location helping during Mardi Gras. For those who do not know, Mobile, not New Orleans, is the home of American Mardi Gras, having celebrated it for nearly half a century before some engineer decided to erect a city at that peculiar crescent shaped bend in the Mississippi River.

Though the money is great and the experience is good, I have little time left to work towards the ultimate goal of becoming a TV chef. I have not written an article since going into management, over a year in fact. In the summer of 2006, I leave the time-consuming field of restaurant management to become a sous chef for a national chain Italian restaurant.

The chain has a wonderful dedication to quality ingredients and making things from scratch. All in all it is a pleasant experience with one exception, I am dirt poor. On the bright side I do have time to work on my web site and to start writing again. Towards the holidays of 2006, I see an ad that will have a profoundly effect on my quest to become a TV chef.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

Stu’s Latest Kindle Single is Just $2.99

Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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