Even though the Mardi Gras parades have been canceled, you can still treat your palate to something special on Fat Tuesday.
So many things are being done virtually or from home over the past year, and Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is no exception. Even the annual Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans have been canceled this year. That’s not to say you can’t still enjoy classic Cajun and Creole dishes.
We’ve collected a few of our favorite Mardi Gras entrée, dessert, side, and drink ideas to help you bring a bit of the Big Easy to wherever you might be. Best of all? You can prepare these tasty dishes and drinks at any time during the year. Jambalaya and beignets turn up on my recipe rotations quite a bit.
So, let’s get this party started. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t party with rum. Invented at New Orleans’ Pat O’Brien’s in the ‘40s, the classic hurricane recipe calls for a boozy blend of light rum, dark rum, orange and lime juice, passion fruit puree, and grenadine. Monin’s red passionfruit syrup or even Welch’s passionfruit juice can be substituted if you can’t find the puree. Don’t forget that fun and curvy hurricane glass to serve it in.
Any Cajun meal or party needs a big bowl of classic jambalaya to bring a taste of New Orleans to the room. It’s actually fairly simple to prepare. I recommend Zatarain’s brand both for the Andouille sausage and the jambalaya mix. Just follow the recipe on the box and you’re good to go. You can add in chicken, shrimp, or ham if you please. I like to make a double pot of it, as it’s one of those dishes that’s even better the next day.
Gumbo often gets confused with jambalaya. They are similar in nature and have a lot of the same ingredients, but the two do have a few differences. While jambalaya is typically a thick mixture that’s cooked with rice, gumbo is more of a soup-like dish that’s served over rice. A gumbo recipe is made using the “Holy Trinity” of New Orleans cooking: celery, bell peppers, and onions. Gumbo also has okra; jambalaya does not.
Étouffée is a dish with shellfish served over rice. Food Network’s shrimp étouffée recipe employs the use of the “Holy Trinity” used in gumbo, as well as shrimp, diced tomatoes, a Bayou Blast of seasonings (paprika, oregano, garlic powder, thyme, and the like), and shrimp stock. You’ll be making a roux, which involves butter and flour cooked over medium heat.
The muffuletta is a classic New Orleans sandwich that combines Italian and French Creole flavors. It consists of a homemade olive salad (similar to tapenade) and layers of thin-sliced Italian deli meats such as soppressata salami, mortadella Italian sausage, and capicola as well as provolone cheese. If you can’t find traditional muffuletta bread (Italian bread topped with sesame seeds), ciabatta or focaccia are great substitutes.
Olives, capers, roasted red peppers, and either giardiniera or pepperoncini are used as the spread for the deli meats. The secret to the great taste is to let the sandwiches sit for an hour before serving. This allows the juices from the olive salad to spread throughout the sandwich.
There’s nothing more New Orleans-y than a plate full of fluffy powdered sugar-covered beignets. They’re also Louisiana’s official state doughnut. They do require an investment in the baking process, as you have to let the dough rise for several hours like you would with bread. This recipe from Southern Living explains it all. The recipe calls for a Dutch oven, but a deep fryer works just as well.
Insider Tip: Before you even think about gathering the ingredients, get yourself a deep fryer. Even a small one will work fine. The key element to perfect beignets is consistent heat. You can use a deep pan and a thermometer, but it’s going to fluctuate on the heat and you’ll end up with less-than-perfect beignets.
The green, gold, and purple-sprinkled cake is named for Three Kings Day, which is explained a bit below. This round fluffy symbol of goodness is very similar to a cinnamon roll in texture and taste. Check out Southern Living’s recipe for this iconic cake.
This cake typically has a tiny plastic baby inserted into the bottom after baking. The baby symbolizes Jesus in the Christian community and is also a symbol of good luck to the person who finds it (that person is also responsible for purchasing or baking next year’s king cake). Be sure to warn your family or guests, as it’s not very good luck to start Lent with a trip to the dentist.
Mardi Gras Cupcakes
If you’re not feeling the king cake baking vibes, but still want to make-it-yourself, try this cupcake recipe. With infusions of nutmeg and lemon throughout—and rich cream cheese icing sparkling with gold, purple, and green sugar—you won’t miss the king cake at all.
This bananas foster recipe is the perfect end to your Mardi Gras bash. It’s made with fresh bananas and vanilla ice cream, and topped with a sauce made with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The recipe does call for the heating of rum, so be extra careful with this aspect of the recipe.
What Is Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday?”
Whether it’s parties, parades, or all-out dining debauchery, Fat Tuesday (Tuesday, February 16, 2021) is the day before the fasting season of Lent (which begins on Ash Wednesday). It serves as the last day of the Carnival season, which is about a six-week period of parties that take place around the world.
In the U.S., New Orleans is the most well-known Mardi Gras participant. Originating in France (Mardi Gras translates to “Fat Tuesday”), Mardi Gras and was most likely brought to the U.S. by French settlers and explorers.
The Carnival season is kicked off on Three Kings Day (or Epiphany), which is on January 6 (the twelfth day of Christmas). Three Kings Day represents the end of the Christmas season and the time when the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus Christ.
Have you prepared any of these Mardi Gras recipes? Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments.