There’s nothing like being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The floats, the music, the costumes, the, ummm, beads. But especially the food. Mardi Gras is a time for celebration, with delicious dishes steeped in history that recall the very best of southern cooking—with a Bayou twist. But you don’t have to be in New Orleans to enjoy this flavorful fare. Use a few favorite recipes to create your own Mardi Gras menu.
It’s considered America’s first cocktail, and its appearance at your Mardi Gras soiree will certainly have people feeling festive. This classic version the French Quarter’s Kingfish bar is “mixed with mostly NOLA-made elixirs,” said Wine Enthusiast, and is “a seriously stiff belt.”
Photo via Epicurious
A good muffuletta delivers a punch beyond a traditional deli sandwich and is a great option for a daytime get-together. This recipe from Epicurious uses Brooklyn bar Achilles Heel’s famed sandwich as a guide, and while it may seem like a whole lot of protein (cooked ham, mortadella, spicy Calabrese salami, and Genoa-style salami, aged provolone, and fresh mozzarella), trust is: it’s worth it. And even better, it will feed a houseful of people, so don’t worry about paring down that invite list. A few of their tips: Italian bread is better than French (sorry, Francophiles), and there’s not shame in buying multiple rolls and cutting off the rounded edges so it looks like one huge sandwich sliced into individual pieces.
Photo via Southern Living
Where else would we look for a classic étouffée to prepare for Mardi Gras but Southern Living. Their crab and shrimp version is bound to be a crowd-pleaser. Not a fan of shellfish? Substitute chicken or go with portabella mushrooms for a vegetarian option.
Photo via Food & Wine
If you’re going to make a gumbo and you don’t want to go with traditional seafood, try this chicken and okra version from Food and Wine. The trick here is a good quality stock and jerk seasoning. But if you’re looking for shortcuts to reduce prep time, use their tip that incorporates already-cooked rotisserie chicken.
Red Beans and Rice
Photo via Food Network
New Orleans’ own Emeril Lagasse is the authority on local fare, and his red beans and rice will have your mouth watering. The recipe calls for smoked sausage, smoked ham hocks, and bacon grease, so, while it’s certainly not diet friendly (or vegetarian friendly, for that matter) you probably won’t care once you have a few spoonfuls.
Photo via Epicurious
It’s not Mardi Gras without a King cake, and, fortunately, you don’t have to be on Bourbon Street to eat a slice. This recipe from famed New Orleans chef John Besh uses a trio of decorative sugars (purple, green, and gold) to sprinkle over the cake while the icing is wet in order to achieve the signature look. Tradition calls for a miniature plastic baby doll toy to be tucked into the cake—a symbol of the Christian Holy Day—but don’t fret if you don’t have one lying around; you can pick one up from Louisiana King Cake kings, Haydels, Gambino’s and Manny Randazzo.