Mardi Gras 2011: Are You Ready to Party Down?

Mardi Gras 2011: Are You Ready to Party Down?

Food & Drink

Mardi Gras 2011: Are You Ready to Party Down?

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Well, Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season are just about here, and maybe you’ve got a Mardi Gras bash planned for this weekend or on Fat Tuesday. If so, we’ve got some party food ideas for you, Bourbon Street style.

Of course, nobody celebrates Mardi Gras like New Orleans, and after all the city’s been through with the oil spill, Katrina and more, those folks deserve a good party. But no matter where you live, Mardi Gras is a great time to get together and celebrate.

Mardi Gras food choices are rich in tradition, and if there’s one indispensable dish, it’s the King Cake. The ‘King’ reference relates to the three kings who presented gifts to the Baby Jesus in the manger.

The most basic King Cake, and most traditional, consists of a ring of twisted bread topped with icing or sugar. It’s usually colored purple, green and gold (the traditional Mardi Gras colors) with the use of food coloring. Some varieties have filling inside, often cream cheese or praline.

You can find King Cakes this time of year at most local bakeries or even supermarket bakeries—or you can order them from www.kingcakes.com or from www.haydelbakery.com or other online sites.

Who has the baby?

Much of the fun of the King Cake comes with the tiny plastic baby hidden inside the cake. Custom has it that whoever gets the slice of cake with the baby is crowned as a Mardi Gras King…and must host the next Mardi Gras party.

Don’t muff the…muffuletta

Among other Mardi Gras food favorites is the muffuletta sandwich made with smoked ham, salami and the classic olive relish—which is key to its flavor. (Try our delicious muffuletta recipe.) For a big party, the sandwiches are often served on a long roll, and carved into manageable portions.

Another popular Mardi Gras staple is gumbo, the thick and spicy Creole stew or soup concoction that typically consists of rich stock (seafood or chicken) plus okra, shrimp or crawfish, sausage, rice, celery, bell peppers and onions. Check out our Mardi Gras Gumbo recipe.

Jambalaya and Red Beans and Rice are other tasty bayou choices that grace many a Mardi Gras buffet table. And for the morning after, those New Orleans-style donuts they call Beignets.

Traditional beverages poured at Mardi Gras gatherings, depending on the time of day, include coffee and chicory/café au lait. We have a simple recipe for that, too. Of course, much stronger stuff is also frequently served including Bloody Mary’s, mint juleps and milk punch (made with bourbon or brandy, half-and-half, superfine sugar, vanilla extract and nutmeg).

Remember feathers and beads

If you are hosting a party, you’re going to want to accessorize, using the purple/green/gold Mardi Gras colors and lots of trinkets. Your local party store can probably provide things such as the aforementioned little plastic babies, plus the colorful shiny beads, doubloons and plumed feathers and masks associated with this festive season.

If you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, turn your street into Bourbon Street and celebrate it at home with family and friends. Put on some Dixieland jazz or Cajun/Zydeco music, turn it up loud and have yourself a good ol’ time!

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