Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, originated as a festive celebration in predominantly Roman Catholic venues.
The holiday falls on the eve of Ash Wednesday, a period of fasting marking the start of Lent that leads to Easter Sunday. It has, however, become more secular and widely celebrated in New Orleans over time, now spanning a full week of indulgence, merriment and feasting before the long period of fasting and rigor.
Along with legendary parades and world-famous floats, Mardi Gras is famous for indulging in New Orleans favorites, a fabulous amalgamation of Cajun, Creole, French, Spanish, West African and indigenous cuisines.
With Mardi Gras fast approaching, Stacker has compiled a list of 10 classic New Orleans dishes you can make to celebrate using Allrecipes.com, Southern Cooking Scholarship, and Food Blogs from New Orleans.
Perhaps the most typical Mardi Gras food, king cake is a flaky bread-like dough shaped like a ring, decorated with green, gold and purple, colors that respectively represent faith, power and justice.
Check out this authentic New Orleans royal cake recipe and don’t forget to hide a little baby figurine inside the cake – whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake is the host of the birthday celebration. ‘Next year.
A classic Creole and Cajun dish, jambalaya consists of savory rice combined with smoked andouille sausage, seafood or meat (or both), vegetables and spices. The rice is cooked in a broth with the rest of the ingredients, and soaks up the spices and flavors of the dish. This recipe combines andouille and chicken but can be adapted to the addition of other proteins such as shrimp.
The name “gumbo” comes from a West African word for okra. The dish is as cross-cultural in origin as Louisiana itself, with African American, Native American, and French influences. This classic Cajun Chicken and Sausage Okra recipe starts with a roux to thicken the soup.
Red beans and rice
Kidney beans and rice represent a dish historically made on Mondays in New Orleans, the city’s laundry day. The dish’s long cooking time, yet relatively convenient preparation, suited the business of washing and reusing the ham bones from Sunday night dinner.
Today, red beans and rice can be eaten throughout the week. This recipe benefits from slow preparation, as well as a 24-hour stay in the fridge so the flavors can continue to develop.
Étouffée comes from the French verb “to suffocate”. Crawfish, Louisiana’s favorite small prehistoric crustacean, is smothered in a buttery roux and tossed with Creole spices, but this recipe allows for the use of shrimp in place of the crawfish if they’re not in season or if crayfish are not available.
Po’ boys, or “poor sandwich boys,” originated during the 1929 New Orleans streetcar strike as a nutritious, inexpensive meal for striking workers. The sandwich, served on French bread with remoulade sauce and some sort of fried protein, remains popular in the city today.
This recipe uses catfish, but substitutions of shrimp, oysters, or even fried chicken are not uncommon.
As much an excuse for New Orleans residents to congregate in their backyards as a dining experience, crawfish boils are central to Crescent City’s social and food culture.
While boils are usually cooked outdoors in massive vats, this recipe is a slightly scaled down version of the classic boil, which includes a massive amount of crawfish, fresh corn, potatoes, sausages, and more. , all boiled in a spicy broth. Best enjoyed in a sunny garden.
Perhaps no New Orleans food is more famous than donuts and a steaming cup of latte from the legendary Café du Monde, a French Quarter institution. The crispy, hole-free donut is covered with powdered sugar and eaten hot. This recipe uses mostly pantry staples and is friendly for home cooks.
Shrimps and Grits
Few dishes are more comforting than shrimp served over creamy oatmeal. Although its precise origins remain a mystery, one food historian believes that the birthplace of the dish was Mozambique. This recipe uses andouille sausage for the smoke and two types of cheese in the grits for maximum luxury.
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Maque choux is a vegetable side dish made with fresh corn, peppers and onions braised in bacon grease. Considered to have Cajun, Indigenous, and Spanish influences, the original maque choux is said to have used seasonal vegetables grown in Louisiana gardens. This recipe also uses garlic and celery for extra flavor.