Even if you aren’t making a trip out to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, you can always let the good times roll by dishing up some Big Easy classics. Fat Tuesday is the biggest day of this season-long party, marked by a feast before the Lent period begins. Why not host a Mardi Gras-themed dinner party? Get inspired by these spicy Cajun and Creole flavors, with a side of serious cocktails.
Crawfish boil. A New Orleans staple, crawfish season begins in February - just in time for Mardi Gras - and lasts through June. Crawfish boils, like much of the food from this region, are low-key and low-fuss. In most seafood shacks, seasoned crawfish are unceremoniously dumped on a newspaper-strewn table, along with corn on the cob and potatoes, and eating with your hands is expected. If you decide to go this route at home, make sure you offer finger bowls or wet towels for your guests!
Jambalaya. This hearty rice dish is built on the Cajun mirepoix: instead of carrot, celery and onion, the base begins with onion, celery and bell pepper. A traditional New Orleans jambalaya is made with Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp, seasoned with a Creole spice mix that includes garlic and onion powder, paprika, dried thyme, oregano, and other secret spices that vary from recipe to recipe.
Hush puppies. This Deep South favorite makes for a great starter or bar snack. Hush puppies are basically balls of fried cornmeal dough. You can up the ante and do it like the locals: make catfish hush puppies. Either way, they’re delicious, especially when served with tartar sauce or a remoulade.
King cake. The special dish that makes it a true Mardi Gras feast is a King Cake. This round, twisted cake is iced and decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple to represent faith, power and justice. And while some countries hide a literal king trinket inside the cake, the lucky individual who finds a miniature baby in this Mardi Gras version of the King Cake gets to be king for the day!
Classic cocktails. It’s no surprise that New Orleans has a rich cocktail history; some of the best-loved classics are thought to have originated there. So channel the spirit of this pleasure-loving city when you mix up some drinks. Depending on your crowd, go extra boozy with the sophisticated Sazerac or Vieux Carré. Milk punch is a deceptively cozy drink; just be careful with your bourbon pour.
Wherever you are, salute the Mardi Gras festivities with a celebratory feast of wonderful food and drink!