Celebrate Mardi Gras without gumbo, po’boys and king cake? Unthinkable.
Debris Po’Boy from The Po’Boy Shop
Partners Dave Schmidt and Mark Ferguson are about to celebrate their first Mardi Gras at Decatur’s The Po’Boy Shop. Neither is a native of New Orleans although Schmidt has been perfecting his Cajun recipes for more than 20 years. We tried just about every one of the house specialties - red beans and rice, Cajun meat pies, crawfish pies, jalapeno hush puppies and the delicious house made remoulade and horseradish sauces. The food is about as authentic New Orleans as you can get this far from the Big Easy because they use Camellia red beans for the red beans and rice, Gulf seafood for the sandwiches, salads and sides, and bread from New Orleans’ 120-year-old Leidenheimer Baking Company for the po’boys. And what lovely po’boys they are. There are more than a dozen varieties including shrimp, oyster, crawfish, catfish, grouper and more. But we tried the house specialty, the debris po’boy, a big mess of a sandwich piled high with tender roast beef and dressed with horseradish sauce. It’s so addictive that when we just couldn’t finish the regular (which is huge), we saved it and tackled it with a knife and fork the next day so as not to miss a single bite.
New Orleans-Style Gumbo from Casseroles
To make a proper gumbo you need two things - a dark, rich roux and a seasoning mix of onion, celery and bell pepper, the holy trinity of Cajun cooking. The gumbo from Betsy McKay’s Casseroles meets those requirements and more. The Morningside neighborhood shop offers an array of bake- or heat-at-home dishes from breakfast casseroles (think French toast casserole) to main dish casseroles like Paella Mixta (seafood, chicken and chorizo cooked with saffron rice). For Mardi Gras, preorder their New Orleans-style gumbo. You can tell from the dark brown color that the roux was carefully made (she says her cooks spend an hour-and-a-half whisking to get the roux just right) and the mix of smoked sausage, andouille sausage and shredded chicken breast make for a very substantial dish. A quart of their gumbo served over rice would easily feed four. There’s no heat except for the bit in the andouille sausage, so this gumbo won’t startle anyone. Pick it up at the shop tucked away at the bottom of a strip of shops that face Highland Avenue. To get there, come around back and use the entrance on Lanier Boulevard.
$18 per quart. Available at Casseroles, 1393 North Highland Avenue, Atlanta. 404-228-3260. Call ahead to reserve. casserolesatlanta.com/
King Cake from McEntyre’s Bakery
A king cake decorated in purple, gold and green is a must for any Mardi Gras celebration. Ryan and Steve McEntyre (generations three and four of the family bakers) of McEntyre’s Bakery in Smyrna began baking king cakes when Hurricane Katrina blew New Orleans natives into the area. Ryan researched recipes and created what he calls an Atlanta-style king cake available with a choice of two fillings - cinnamon-pecan or cherry-cream cheese-pecan. And instead of sprinkling the cake with colored sugar, the bakery drizzles the cake with colored icing. “We created something that looks like a party and tastes really good,” he says. The pillow-soft cake is wrapped around your chosen filling and baked into a big oval that would make an impressive centerpiece for any party. The cakes come with the traditional “baby” so you can tuck it in wherever you wish. Make sure you do and then provide the person who finds the baby with the address of McEntyre’s so they can serve a McEntyre’s king cake when they host next year’s Mardi Gras party.
$32.99 per cake serving 15-20 people. Available at McEntyre’s Bakery, 1184 Concord Road SE, Smyrna or the Dallas location inside CrossRoads Gallery, 8774 Dallas Acworth Highway, Dallas. Delivery is also available. Call 770-434-3115 at least 24 hours in advance to place an order and discuss delivery. The bakery is closed Sunday and Monday so order by 5 p.m. on the Saturday before for a Tuesday pick up or delivery. atlantakingcakes.com.
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