Sunny Gerhart’s Recipes for a Mardi Gras Feast at Home

In honor of the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, this New Orleans native and St. Roch owner and chef shares a few of his prized Louisiana recipes with us.
recipes by Sunny Gerhart

At St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar, Chef Sunny Gerhart serves up Louisiana inspired fare all year ’round. But in the weeks of Mardi Gras — starting January 6, and running until Fat Tuesday — that food goes to the next level of celebration when delicacies like crawfish are in season, and once-a-year specialties like King Cake are a must. Here, he shares his recipes to make a New Orleans-inspired feast at home.

Pimento Cheese

Serve this classic southern cheese spread alongside roasted oysters or on some good French bread. At St. Roch, it’s a popular starter with fried soda crackers.  

8 ounces cream cheese
1 ½ pounds smoked cheddar cheese or regular white cheddar, grated
2 ½ tablespoons charred scallion, minced
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
10 tablespoons grams Duke’s Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon roasted poblano peppers or raw; small diced or pureéd in food processor
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
½ tablespoon ground black pepper

Whip cream cheese in a stand mixer until very soft. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.


One of the most well-known and celebrated New Orleans dishes, gumbo is a comfort food for many Gulf Coast natives with its rich broth, spicy sausage, okra, and sometimes shellfish — and it gets better the longer it cooks. It’s similar to Jambalaya, but more
of a stew.

6 ounces canola oil
2 pounds andouille sausage, sliced into rings
4 pounds bone-in chicken, whole or leg quarters (pre-cooked rotisserie chicken works well, too)
4 cups yellow onion, diced
2 cups green bell peppers, diced
2 cups celery, diced
4 ounces sherry or other cooking wine
4 ounces flour
4 quarts chicken stock
1 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon gumbo filé (sometimes labeled filé powder, gumbo filé is ground sassafras found in the spice section of many grocery stores)

To taste and garnish
Fresh salt and cracked pepper
Cayenne pepper
Sliced scallions
Minced fresh parsley 

Directions Heat 2 ounces of canola oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottom stock pot until oil is hot and lightly smoking. Add the andouille sausage rings and caramelize them slightly. Once the sausage is golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat and canola oil in the pot; set aside. 

If using raw chicken, sear the chicken skin side down until the skin is a dark golden brown. Flip the chicken and continue to sear until fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the pot and place it aside to cool. Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, pull all of the meat off and reserve the bones to make chicken stock for your next batch of gumbo. 

Turn down the heat. Add the diced onions to the pot and slowly cook, stirring constantly until the onions caramelize and are very dark brown, being careful not to burn. Take your time and be patient. Once the onions are a dark golden color, add your green peppers and celery. Cook the peppers and onions until soft and translucent, another 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until nice and caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the sherry, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the tasty bits and keep them from burning. Reduce the wine until it is almost dry. 

Add the remaining 4 ounces of canola oil and the 4 ounces of flour to the pot. Stir the canola oil and flour continuously (a wooden spoon works best) to make the roux. It is very important to keep a watchful eye and stir the entire time; it will burn very quickly. Keep cooking until the roux starts to caramelize and turns a dark brown color. 

Add the pulled chicken and andouille sausage back to the pot, stir well, then add the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the gumbo simmer for an hour or two, depending on how much time you have — the longer it cooks, the better it will be. Season liberally with salt, lots of black pepper, and enough cayenne pepper to make you happy. Add the gumbo filé and stir well. Garnish with lots of chopped scallions and flat-leaf parsley and serve with sides of rice or potato salad. Sunny likes to have extra filé on the side so folks can add more if they like. Yields enough to feed about eight people, with leftovers.

Potato Salad

How to Make Potato Salad

A rare tradition where it’s OK to mix hot with cold, in the Deep South potato salad is often served scooped into a hot bowl of gumbo. 

2 pounds red potatoes
1 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise 
1 ½ cup sour cream
¼ cup Dijon or Creole mustard
Sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup celery, diced
2 teaspoons celery seed
¼ cup sweet pickle juice
¼ cup Old Bay seasoning

Directions Fill a large pot with water. Add the Old Bay, potatoes, and enough salt for the water to taste slightly salty. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until very tender, almost falling apart. Once the potatoes are cooked, strain and let dry for 10 minutes in a colander.  Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters and add to a mixing bowl. Add the celery, celery seed, and some mayo, sour cream, mustard, and pickle juice — just enough for the salad to come together (you can always add more). Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with minced scallion and parsley. Enjoy

Sunny’s Oyster Po’ Boys

Proper French bread is a must for po’ boys. ”We like to use Ledenhiemer or Gambino from New Orleans,” says Sunny. “It’s the perfect vessel because it has a crunchy texture on the outside that gives way to a delicate inside that truly wraps the filling of the sandwich.


1 loaf of French bread
2 cups vegetable oil
4 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
About 2 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning
1 dozen raw oysters, rinsed and patted dry
Hot Sauce Aioli (recipe on next page)
1 head iceberg lettuce, sliced
Sliced tomatoes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Bread and butter pickles

Directions Slice the bread in half lengthwise, toast it, and set aside.  Heat oil to medium-high in a stockpot or frying pan. Put flour in a bowl and season generously with Old Bay. Toss oysters in seasoned flour, then drop into the oil, around five at a time, taking care not to crowd the pot. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown; remove and set on a paper towel. To build the sandwich: slather each piece of bread with Hot Sauce Aioli. Season sliced tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then build the sandwich: lettuce, tomato, pickles, fried oysters, and the top piece of French bread. Slice in half. Enjoy

Brioche King Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Only to be consumed during Mardi Gras season, Sunny makes a soft, fluffy brioche dough for his
King Cakes (which, for the novice, is essentially an elaborate cinnamon roll flecked with gold, purple,
and green). Louisiana natives know King Cake is fine for dessert — but even better warmed with a cup
of coffee in the morning.   

1 pound all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces sugar, plus 1 cup
1 teaspoon instant yeast
5 eggs, room temperature
⅓ cup warm water
½ pound butter, cubed and at room temperature
¼ cup ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Icing (see recipe)
Purple, gold, and green sprinkles

Directions In a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the eggs and warm water. Mix for 2 minutes until well combined. Add the butter and mix until emulsified, stopping to scrape the bottom of the bowl.  When mixed well, pour the dough into a clean container or bowl that is at least twice the size of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. When the dough has doubled in size, scrape the sides of the dough to deflate and allow the trapped gas to escape. Cover again and refrigerate until cold, 4 hours or overnight.

Mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Portion the cold dough into 2-ounce balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the sugared balls into a bundt pan, with enough space between them for the dough to double in size. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to proof at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until the dough has almost doubled in size and is slightly jiggly.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 2 to 5 minutes until golden brown, with an internal temperature of 185 degrees. Remove from the oven, then remove from the pan to cool on a wire rack.  Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, sprinkle it with any remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture, then spread the icing over the top (I like the icing to be dripping over the sides). Cover with gold, purple, and green sprinkles.

Cream Cheese Icing

Be sure to let your King Cake cool before adding this icing, a tangy, creamy topping to the soft cinnamon-
infused sweet bread. Sunny incorporates the popular filling, cream cheese, into icing instead. Letting it cool will also help the colored sprinkles pop. 


16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions Add the cream cheese to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on high until very soft, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the volume of the cheese has almost doubled and has stiff peaks. Add the sugar and mix until well combined, then add the vanilla extract and salt and mix well.  Turn the speed to low and slowly add the heavy cream. Slowly bring up the speed back to high, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Whip on high until the icing has stiff peaks.


These recipes originally appeared in the February, 20222 issue of WALTER Magazine