Going Hardi for Mardi


Ryan Savoie
Executive Chef


Greetings! Since we’re knee deep in Carnival season, I decided to offer some fare inspired by our cousins to the east since they go so hardi in the Mardi Gras paint every year. I hope that this can give y’all a little bit of insight into our process as well as some super interesting history that, for some reason, has been deemed too damn much to read by a sizable portion of our staff. But you don’t win the race if you don’t run it and sometimes the trophy at the end is something that’s not held in your hand, but in your heart. I like to offer a lot of information on our menus as well as little jokes and doo-dads that I think are funny because I like to laugh and, in the words of the world’s leading authority on reading…

As long as we are engaged in storytelling that moves the culture forward, it doesn’t matter what format it is.
– LeVar Burton

So here’s what we’ve got on deck this month. It’s all very delicious according to my mom and she knows everything so…

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo with Potato Salad

Gumbo is a deep-rooted tradition over there in Louisiana and its origin is not as European as many are led to believe. This isn’t surprising considering that The Port of New Orleans was a very popular port for slave traders bringing their human cargo from West Africa. With these Africans came several native plants such as yams, black eyed peas and okra. Soon enough, these were made into food crops that are Southern staples to this day but we’re concentrating first on okra.

As you may have noticed, lots of different gumbos have okra. Almost all of them. It helps thicken the gumbo up. (If you’re curious as to how that happens, go cut up and cook some fresh okra.) How does this pertain to the explanation of gumbo’s non-European heritage? Well, I’ll tell you. In a great many African languages, the word for okra is ki ngombo (or gombo for short) so it isn’t too far of a stretch to think that a stew filled with okra being prepared by the Africans that brought said okra here in the first place might be referred to by the name of the main ingredient.

BUT!!!

Also, following the trend of absence of Europeans in this dish’s history, we have the Choctaw nation. Who, by all accounts, were totally there first and welcomed escaped slaves into their many communities. Now, the Choctaw used the local sassafras leaves in a lot of their cooking. They’d dry it and mash it up and use it is a seasoning. It tastes sort of earthy and lemony if you’ve never tried it. One of the features of sassafras besides the flavor is the fact that it will make your thin soup pretty thick. Since this is more of a history thing and not a science thing, you’ll have to look up the hows on that but I know from experience that it does indeed thicken stuff up. What, you may ask, did the mighty Choctaw call sassafras? Kombo, that’s what, but you probably know it by its Creole name filé (pronounced fee-laay for you transplants out there). So you’ve got gombo from the Africans and kombo from the Choctaw and I’m sure they can both share the origin story because they shared just about everything else with each other during that time. Including big batches of stew.

So, no… in this Chef’s opinion, the French had absolutely nothing to do with gumbo until it was put in front of them by a person living in bondage.

Here at Saint Arnold, we serve a standard chicken and sausage gumbo with a high level of delicious. Standard meaning that there are no wackadoo ingredients like pheasant or scallops. Chicken thigh, andouille sausage, celery, onion, green bell pepper, okra, chicken stock, and a nice dark roux all served with a scoop of our potato salad and a sprankling of that filé I was talking about. We do not serve this with rice due to a consensus that potato salad is hella better than rice in gumbo, no cap. Don’t @ me. Etc, etc.

Crawfish Pizza

Like the McRib, this one doesn’t come around very often. This year we’re adding a little tweak. Instead of Art Car IPA Red Sauce, we’ll be using a mushroom cream sauce. The list of ingredients on this pizza, from bottom to top are: Pizza Dough, Mushroom Cream Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese, Crab Boil Red Potatoes, Andouille Sausage, Button Mushroom, Corn, Crawfish, and a garnish of Blackening Seasoning and Green Onion. The idea behind this came out of the annual questions as to why we don’t have boiled crawfish for sale during the season. I’m not the person to give that answer right now although we do have operators standing by to field any and all queries regarding the glaring absence. What we can offer you is all of the classic ingredients of a crawfish boil on a conveniently sliced and handholdable piece of delicious handmade dough.

With cheeeeeeeese.

Boudin Balls with Remoulade Sauce

Technically, boudin is a sausage even though there’s very little meat in it. If you’ve ever had it, you’ll notice that it’s stuffed into a sausage casing (which is pig intestine if you were unaware). It mainly consists of seasoned rice and chicken liver. There’re other things jammed in there too, but it’s mostly rice and liver. I’ve always thought that it was pretty likely that anyone ordering boudin already knows what’s in there and the mention of liver seems to turn lots of people off but there’s no point in hiding the facts. It can be a polarizing ingredient and it takes a deft hand to use it to good effect. I wouldn’t say that boudin tastes liver-y though since it’s so heavily seasoned.

If that all gives you the creeps, you’re in luck. We won’t be serving the boudin in the casing. We’ll be making little balls and breading them and frying them. This method is arguably the most popular way to eat boudin outside of Louisiana. Probably because you don’t have to mess with the casing. Deez balls will be served with our own outstanding remoulade which, since you were wondering, originated in France around the seventeenth century, and appears to derive from ramolas, a word in the northern dialect of Picardy which means horseradish, which itself came from Latin word armoracea. Sauce itself is actually a French word as well. It appeared in the fourteenth century and comes from Old French sauce or sausse (if you want to be a dick about it), which itself is derived from Latin word salsa which defines anything “salted” or “salt food”. Feel free to memorize this and stun your friends and family at the next get together

Muffaletta Sandwich with Metz Potato Chips

Stacked on our own house baked MuffaLoaff™, you’ll find Olive Salad, Salami, House Cured Ham, Mortadella (which is essentially fancy pants Bologna), Provolone, and Swiss Cheese. While the muffaletta is clearly Italian-ish, no such sandwich exists in Italy. Instead, it is the creation of Sicilian immigrants who arrived by the literal boatload to the Port of New Orleans from the Port of Palermo in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of these immigrants set up shop near the French Market in the lower French Quarter. It was referred to as Little Palermo and the Italian Sector and was home to a grip of several Italian run shops and businesses including several Sicilian bread bakers, who baked a traditional loaf called muffuletto. After baking their bread, they’d hit the streets hollering “Muffuletto!! Caldo!! Caldo!!” They also sold their loaves to area grocers. The plot thickens…

Mr. Salvatore Lupo, of Central Grocery (still there!!), is widely credited with making the first muffaletta sandwich in 1906. Local hungries would stop in around lunchtime, buy a loaf of muffuletto bread, sliced cold cuts, olives and cheese, and eat them standing up. Being a thoughtful purveyor, Ol’ Sal decided to put all the ingredients together on a sandwich in order to ease the burden of trying to eat all of those loose ingredients. The sandwich wasn’t called muffaletta at first, but eventually, the world caught up to this innovation and the name of the bread became the name of the sandwich. This story reminds me to mention that in addition to a rich French and Creole heritage, New Orleans also has a ton of Italian, Irish, and Jewish influence running through its boozed up veins since, if you were an immigrant from Europe, your choices were pretty much New York and New Orleans.

Mini King Cake

The tradition of King Cake goes all the way back to OG foodies, The French. Sometime around the 12thcentury, a few staunch Catholics over there wanted to commemorate the Epiphany, which is a big feast day marking the recognition of Jesus Christ as the son of God himself. They must’ve figured that since the day was a big deal and all, someone should bake a cake, so a cake was baked. This tradition was carried forth into Europe as a whole.

The Catholics (again, as a whole, not just the French) got super busy, spreading their theology through good old fashioned warfare with The Crusades and, eventually, voyages across the Atlantic. Where was all of that cake then? I’m no expert, but it seems like more people would come to your side if you were all “Hey, y’all! Try this cake!”

Alas, they didn’t take that route.

Since New Orleans was settled by French, they brough several French traditions along with them such as above ground cemeteries, malleable sexual morals, and bottoming your car out on pothole riddled streets. King Cake came along for the ride too but had morphed into something quite different from the traditional King Cake over there in Frawnce. It became a sweet, brioche like dough with cinnamon, cream cheese filling, royal icing, and colorful sugar sprankles representing justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold, natch). With a little plastic baby tucked inside, finding it will bring you prosperity in the coming year and the responsibility of providing cake to your posse next year. The baby (or behbeh) itself represents L’il Baby Jesus.


Published February 4, 2021