We all wish we could head down to N’awlins and partake in all things jazz, beads, and general debauchery, but there’s this thing we call reality. That doesn’t mean the party can’t come to us.
Mardi Gras cuisine is even more accessible than you think. We’ll give you such a good spread, the only thing you’ll be missing is a hangover. Now download some Preservation Hall tunes, and let the good times roll!
The kissing cousin of gumbo, jambalaya is prepared with the rice in the pot (as opposed to separately in Gumbo) for a thicker consistency. Similar to paella, the two are often confused.
It’s understandable since they use similar ingredients, such as the Cajun “holy trinity” of onions, bell peppers, and celery. You’ll usually find a combination of andouille sausage and other proteins like chicken and shrimp, but folks have their preferences.
2. Po’ Boy Sandwiches
Overflowing with meaty fillings like roast beef, fried chicken and seafood such as fried catfish, shrimp or soft shell crab, we enjoy sinking our teeth into this French bread gut-buster.
Their name is a reference to striking service workers in the early 1900s when restaurant owners would give away handheld meals to these unemployed “poor boys.” Find them at various delis or make just as quickly at home. Getting them fully loaded resembles a burger: lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo, even onions.
In Louisiana, these breakfast saucers of happiness signify that Lent is about to begin. Pancake Tuesday (a.k.a. Fat or Shrove Tuesday) gets celebrated by consuming mass quantities of flapjacks. You eat fatty foods before it’s time to start a religious season associated with fasting.
Fortunately, most greasy spoons don’t care what time of the year it is; they’re happy to drop off a short stack any ‘ol day.
4. Oysters Rockefeller
Named after oil baron and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, this dish is considered as rich in flavor as he was in wealth. Broiled oysters get served on the half-shell, topped with bread crumbs, herbs and swimming in a buttery sauce.
This particular mollusk is found in every white linen, seafood establishment. If you’re learning to get comfortable around oysters, this is the gateway dish.
__5. Pecan Pralines __
Pecan pralines, (or “pee-khan prah-leens," as properly pronounced when in New Orleans) are the unofficial candy of the South. They’re crunchy, sugary and coveted by anybody with a sweet tooth. A temperamental treat, this candy store find requires lots of love and stirring to execute correctly.
6. Red Beans & Rice
Simple, yet satisfying, this starchy duo is a staple in many cultures around the world. An iron-packed meal in itself, it is typically doctored up with sausage or ham. You’ll often find the holy trinity (see Jambalaya), plus bay leaf and cayenne in this magic pot of beans. When ready, it’s served over white grains.
7. Fried Catfish
This tasty whiskered swimmer is so popular in New Orleans it even has a national holiday (June 25th)! Catfish is best dusted in cornmeal and fried up. Squeeze a wedge of lemon, serve with some coleslaw, and done. Bonus: it’s one on a short list of foods high in Vitamin D.
8. Bread Pudding
Is it bread or is it pudding? It’s both! Day old bread is the star of this chewy show. While some cuisines make it savory, authentic Southern kitchens create a proper dessert. Baked and finished with a boozy bourbon sauce, it’ll fulfill all your carb fantasies.
9. Shrimp & Grits
Look no further for Southern comfort than shellfish in buttery ground corn. This pairing is as epic as peanut butter and jelly. Traditionally served for breakfast, you’ll be craving this deliciousness long after. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands to prepare the grits, your best bet is ordering them off a menu.
10. Bananas Foster
Last, but certainly not least is the rock star of desserts. Often plated tableside, bananas get sauteed in sugar and butter before a server pours alcohol over it and lights it on fire. Once the flames subside, it’s served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Richard Foster, the former chairperson of the New Orleans Crime Commission, is the lucky man this particular treat is named after. We’d say don’t try this at home, but something tells us you’re not going to listen.