Fat Tuesday

When it comes to pulling out all the stops, Mardi Gras is the ultimate celebration for this local couple and their friends.

by Judie Byrd
Eileen and Ace Thurman transform their house into a parade of color and splash as Eileen decorates for their annual party. This festive gathering includes their children, three grandchildren and their dear friends, Mary Margaret and John Clay, along with their kids and grandkids. With six little ones under the age of 6, well, you can imagine the hubbub and excitement.
     Costumes are optional, but flashy, New Orleans-style outfits are expected.
     An over-the-top, decorated dining table welcomes everyone and sets the stage for good times. Shared love and friendship are the heart of this party, but abundant food is central to making this celebration roll. NOLA devotees all, these revelers each have their own hearty Creole favorites.
     One special touch is Eileen’s tradition of helping the children decorate cookies. Pastry bags filled with bright Mardi Gras colors are double secured with twist ties so the kids can squeeze to their hearts’ content. See that recipe online.
     The Thurmans and Clays share all their recipes with their best wishes — laissez les bon temps rouler!

Earl’s New Orleans Old Fashioned
Yield: Makes four, six-ounce drinks
Named for Eileen’s dad, this Old Fashioned is typical of New Orleans since, unlike its Texan counterpart, it contains no soda.
• 1/2 cup cherry syrup
• 25 drops angostura bitters
• 3/4 cup water
Pour all ingredients into 24-ounce decanter and fill to top with your bourbon of choice. To serve, pour into Old Fashioned-style glasses filled with ice.

Eileen’s Hot Crabmeat Dip
Yield: serves 8-10
• 8 ounces cream cheese
• 1/2 stick butter
• 1 pound white crabmeat
• 2 packages dry McCormick sour cream mix
• 2 cups milk
• Salt to taste
• Frozen or dried chives to taste
1. Melt cheese and butter. Stir in crabmeat. Make sour cream as directed on package, using milk. Fold into crab mixture along with salt and chives to taste.
2. Serve warm with plain or garlic Melba toast rounds.

Dottie’s Jambalaya
Yield: serves 6-8
Eileen’s mom, Dottie, raised her kids on this dish and now her grandkids love it. The joy of this recipe is how easy it is to throw together. A simple bake makes it ready to serve.
• 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild sausage
• 2 large onions, chopped
• 1 large green pepper, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 stalk celery, chopped
• 1/4 cup chopped parsley
• 2 bunches green onions, chopped, including tops
• 1 stick margarine, softened
• 1 large can mushrooms drained
• 2 cans beef consume
• 1 small can tomato sauce
• 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
• 4 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Pepper to taste
v1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1. Fry and drain sausage. Combine all ingredients in a four-quart casserole dish.
2. Cook covered at 400 degrees for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Then uncover and cook for an additional 10-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Peppy’s Crawfish Étouffée
Yield: serves 6-8
Mary Margaret says this dish is best if you make it the day before serving, then carefully reheat. It is named after her mother-in-law, Peppy, who is 88 years old and still happily cooking in Monroe, La.
Sauté in one stick of butter:
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 cup sliced green onions
• Several ribs celery, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, chopped
When vegetables are tender, add:
• 1 can chicken broth
• 3 pounds crawfish tails (with fat), dredged in flour
1. Season to taste with hot sauce, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, salt, pepper, a bit of ketchup, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and lemon juice.
2. Cook just until crawfish are done, being careful not to overcook. Serve over steamed rice.

New Orleans Pecan Pralines
Yield: 12 pralines
Eileen says the secret to success to making pralines is using a good candy thermometer.
• 1 cup brown sugar        
• 1 cup white sugar 
• 1/2 cup evaporated milk
• 2 tablespoons butter       
• 1 cup pecan halves
1. In a large saucepan, dissolve sugars in evaporated milk and boil to 228 degrees, stirring occasionally. Add butter and pecans. Cook until syrup reaches 236 degrees.
2. Beat until somewhat thickened and beginning to cool, but not until it loses its gloss. Quickly drop by tablespoons onto a long sheet of foil or a greased marble slab. The candy will flatten out into large cakes.