Whether you call it Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Carnival, one thing’s for certain: It’s party time. If you can’t get out to NOLA (as literally no one in Louisiana probably actually calls it), that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Mardi Gras at home with some festive foods, good friends and spirited cocktails.
But first, you’ll need a traditional Fat Tuesday menu. King cake is a must, and as an ode to the Mardi Gras tradition of going hog-wild with fatty foods before Lent, scarfing down some fried chicken has become something of a tradition. But what about gumbo, jambalaya and po’boys? They eat those too, though that’s because it’s Tuesday and that’s what people in The Big Easy eat. There really are no rules, though NOLA.com’s Ann Maloney, in her article on hosting a Mardi Gras party, suggests indulging in some dishes that invoke the spirit of Nawlins (which they probably also don’t say unless it’s just their accent). And don’t forget about big-batch foods that feed a crowd if you invited all the neighbors.
Pro tip: Many of the recipes ahead feature ingredients that might be tough to get your claws on in some areas of the country. If that’s the case, Maloney encourages you to check out CajunGrocer to get your Mardi Gras party started. Now, all you have to do is narrow down which of these recipes you’ll be making for the big day.
Spinach is wilted in a mixture of garlicky butter and panko breadcrumbs then deglazed with anise liqueur and seasoned with cayenne, Parmesan and parsley before being spooned onto freshly shucked oysters, baked and topped with crispy bacon to create a Louisiana-born oyster appetizer as rich as its namesake.
Easy Paleo Crawfish Dip
This simple cheesy crawfish dip can be made with frozen or leftover mudbugs to make a quick and zesty app.
Louisiana’s version of shrimp cocktail, shrimp rémoulade features jumbo shrimp tossed in a bold and tangy rémoulade sauce.
Spicy Louisiana Shrimp Dip
It only takes half an hour to make this luscious cheesy shrimp dip flavored with Cajun spices, zesty lemon, sweet red bell peppers and Worcestershire sauce for balance.
A Classic New Orleans Cocktail
The Prohibition was surely good to the home of the Saints. At New Orleans staple Pat O’Brien’s, it inspired the creation of the less-than-humble hurricane. This knock-you-on-your-ass cocktail is a sweet combo of passion fruit, lime and orange juices spiked with a full 4 ounces of rum per serving.
If your guests aren’t in a fruity mood, they can imbibe the absinthe-and-bourbon behemoth from The Big Easy, the Sazerac.
This jambalaya recipe kicks up the Cajun holy trinity with verdant jalapeños, unctuous garlic and a generous amount of Cajun or Creole seasoning. Add tomatoes, sliced okra, fresh shrimp, bite-size chicken and rounds of smoky andouille sausage for a vivid flavor that reminds you this recipe hails from the Birthplace of Jazz.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
If Popeye’s isn’t your thing, try this buttermilk fried chicken instead. We recommend upping the hot sauce to one or two tablespoons for a more Louisiana kick. It’s just as tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, but with a more traditional Southern-fried dredge.
Instant Pot Red Beans & Rice
Serve quick and easy no-soak red beans and rich andouille sausage over still-warm long-grain rice and serve it up with a dash (or 10) of vinegary Louisiana hot sauce. You can even make it vegan by ditching the sausage.
This quintessential New Orleans sandwich, first created at the city’s Central Grocery Co. in 1906, feeds a crowd. The muffuletta sandwich is loaded with thin slices of fatty (in a good way) mortadella, dry-cured capicola, Genoa salami, provolone and mozzarella and topped with a tangy (and sometimes spicy) pickled vegetable mix called Giardiniera — all sandwiched between two halves of a round boule. You can even make your own NOLA-style boule at home.
If the muffuletta is the official sandwich of New Orleans, the po’boy is the official sandwich of the whole state. Slow-cooked roast beef or crispy-fried seafood is piled into a soft-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside New Orleans-style French roll with the usual sandwich-fixing suspects and drizzled with creamy horseradish-infused rémoulade sauce.
Try an easy fried shrimp po’boy if you’re short on time or a fried oyster po’boy for a slightly briny taste of the coast in your own home. Or get creative with this nontraditional blackened shrimp po’boy with avocado-mango slaw.
Saucy Creole Shrimp
Zesty fresh chorizo and delicate shrimp are seasoned with Creole and Cajun spices to create this stewlike comfort food. Serve it with an easy yeastless five-ingredient beer bread your guests can use to lap up every last drop of the piquant sauce.
Starting with a deep-hued roux made with bacon fat, this long-cook seafood gumbo with shrimp, lump crabmeat and andouille packs on the flavor with a mix of traditional veggies, rich beef broth and Worcestershire for umami, sassafras-powered filé powder and a kick of Cajun seasoning and Tabasco.
Mardi Gras season is also crawfish season, and a good old-fashioned crawfish boil will feed a crowd with 40 pounds of boiled Cajun-seasoned crawfish, 20 pounds of potatoes, 20 ears of corn and two whole bulbs of garlic. And it’s easy to cut this recipe (or multiply it) to feed whatever size crowd you have.
New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp
Barbecue might be more associated with their neighboring state of Texas, but New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp‘s “barbecue” sauce is uniquely NOLA. A butter-Worcestershire sauce base is seasoned with garlic, Creole spices, oregano, paprika, cayenne and tons of lemon to complement the seafood.
Crawfish étouffée‘s fierce flavor is the perfect down-home-style way to enjoy these tiny cousins of the lobster. Serve it over rice so your guests can easily devour every last bit, from the star ingredient to the heavily spiced tomato-based gravy it’s swimming in.
These puffy, pillowy powdered sugar-covered handmade beignets are an easy way for novice yeast bread bakers to get their Nawlin’s on Café Du Monde-style.
Classic Bananas Foster
Bananas Foster is the ultimate study in sweet contrast: spicy, sultry, ooey-gooey rum-caramel sauced bananas vs. the innocent sweetness of vanilla ice cream melting over an impressively flambéed dessert.
Bananas Foster Pudding
This bananas Foster pudding is the perfect substitute for the classic if you’re hosting a larger party, but don’t let its potluck appearance fool you. Vanilla wafers soak up the scorched rum, becoming pleasantly toothsome before being topped with a sweet, cinnamon-spiced mix of spiked bananas, lush homemade custard and a layer of crisp vanilla wafers for that classic vanilla pudding look.
Rich and creamy with the occasional crunch of the classic Southern pecan, it’s the buttermilk that takes these pecan pralines, a staple of sweet Louisiana snacking, from simply indulgent to decadent.
King cake is a sweet, briochelike ring, braided and baked until it’s golden-brown, then spread with yellow, green and purple icing and sprinkled with sugar in the same colors.
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