It’s always amazing how quickly the Mardi Gras celebration seems to creep up after New Year, isn’t it? It just doesn’t seem like it should be time yet for Mardi Gras, but for the past week New Orleans has been party central as revelers have lined the streets for nightly parades.
The big feasting day, of course, is Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent. Many Christians give up something during the 40 days of Lent, often sweets or alcohol. Fat Tuesday — a day of indulgence — is the day to get it all in before the self-imposed fast.
Whether you’re preparing to fast during this season or you simply want to join the Fat Tuesday celebration, here are some Mardi Gras recipes to create your own special feast if you can’t make it to New Orleans this year.
Hurricane – The Mardi Gras Hurricane is probably named so because after one or two of them, you feel like you’ve been hit by a storm the next morning. Vodka, gin, two types of rum and amaretto go into this fruity drink. It’s not for the faint of heart or the person with the car keys, but if you want to celebrate in true New Orleans' style, some version of the Hurricane should be on the menu.
Virgin Hurricane – Let the kids, and the designated driver, enjoy a Mardi Gras drink, too. This version of the drink is non-alcoholic, but it still looks like what everyone else is drinking.
Slow Cooker Louisiana Red Beans and Rice – If you have to work on Fat Tuesday and don’t have a lot of time to cook when you get home at night, this slow cooker recipe is perfect. You'll need to brown the sausage and sauté some vegetables on the stovetop first, but that can be done the night before if necessary. After eight hours of cooking on low, you’ll come home to the main part of your Mardi Gras feast ready to eat.
Red Beans and Rice Salad – Traditionally, Fat Tuesday is not a meatless celebration. It’s a day to indulge, after all. But, there’s no law that says you have to eat meat on Fat Tuesday, either. This salad gets its flavor from a Creole vinaigrette instead of pork, and it’s fresh and filling.
Shrimp Etouffee – This classic Cajun dish holds back on the spice so everyone in the family can enjoy it. A dark roux creates a rich, creamy base for this stew-like dish that is served over rice. If you can get them, crawfish can be substituted for the shrimp.
Covered in powdered sugar, beignets are a sweet Mardi Gras treat. (Photo: Keri/flickr)
Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce – This New Orleans staple is a very rich (eight egg yolks, heavy cream!), sweet bread pudding with a sauce so decadent, it’s best to leave this for the once-a-year Mardi Gras celebration. It’s perfect served 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven.
Beignets – Beignets are a classic Mardi Gras dessert (or breakfast). Crispy fried dough covered in powdered sugar doesn’t sound that amazing, but when done right, it’s delicious. Paired with a rich cup of coffee, you could start or finish your Fat Tuesday with a beignet or two.
King Cake – The King Cake is the ultimate Fat Tuesday dessert. It’s shaped like a ring, and traditionally, a little prize (often a plastic baby to symbolize baby Jesus) is hidden inside. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the prize is supposed to hold the feast the next year. Another tradition is to use various colored icing or sprinkle the cake with colored sugars, as in this recipe. However, if you’re concerned about artificial food dyes, leaving them out won’t change the taste of the cake at all.