Mardi Gras falls on March 5 this year, so there’s still time to join in the festivities with a New Orleans-inspired menu. The five recipes here showcase Louisiana flavors and ingredients in easy-to-prepare dishes.
1. Louisiana Seafood Gumbo
Louisiana chef John Folse created this gumbo for Walk-On's Independence Bowl college football game, held earlier this season, but this Creole soup-stew also makes for a celebratory Mardi Gras meal. There are as many variations of gumbo as there are parade floats, but they all start with a saute of onions, bell peppers and celery—“the holy trinity” in culinary terms—and are thickened with a brown roux. Chef Folse’s version also includes lots of local seafood, such as crab, oysters and shrimp, as well as andouille sausage.
Photograph courtesy of Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar
2. Jambalaya Pasta
Jambalaya, a saute of rice, vegetables and seafood or meat, is as iconic a dish as gumbo in Louisiana. At McPhee’s Grill in California, chef-owner Ian McPhee gives the classic his own spin by using orecchiette pasta in place of rice and enriching the mixture with creme fraiche, but sticking with the traditional Cajun seafood seasoning and andouille sausage.
Photograph courtesy of California Milk Advisory Board
3. Creole Black Skillet Pistachios
A hot cast-iron skillet, unshelled pistachios and an assortment of seasonings are the essentials for this quick-cooking Mardi Gras snack. The combination of Creole spice, bourbon, garlic and sugar infuses the nuts with authenticity. Chef Tory McPhail recommends eating the pistachios as you would eat crawfish, by first tasting the shell to experience all the seasonings, then removing the shell to get to the crunchy nut inside.
Photograph courtesy of American Pistachio Growers
4. Crawfish Mashed Potatoes
The small crustaceans known as crawfish—or mudbugs to the locals—are indigenous to Louisiana and show up in many preparations. Here, chef David Woodward adds cooked crawfish tail meat to scratch-made mashed potatoes to create a hearty side dish with the flavors of bayou country. The potatoes are simmered in Creole crab boil spices to reinforce the regional connection.
Photograph courtesy of Idaho Potato Commission
5. Mini Muffuletta Sandwiches
University of Texas is holding a Mardi Gras feast for students, serving a New Orleans-inspired menu at the end of February. Muffuletta sandwiches, rooted in NOLA’s Italian community, are one of the items on offer. These are typically made on long French baguettes, but this mini version uses ciabatta buns for a more portable, individual sandwich, layering on the traditional sliced salami, provolone and smoked ham. A housemade olive tapenade jazzes up the filling.