Mardi Gras food, as is true of Mardi Gras in general, is largely rooted in tradition. When the focus is put on Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, it is understandable that seafood and Creole dishes have attached themselves to the Fat Tuesday celebrations. This includes a popular Creole dessert that is known as king cake. A few adult beverages also find themselves commonly tied to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so they deserve consideration as well, provided that you are old enough to enjoy them. You will find the seasonal specialties in just about every restaurant and bar in the city.
Jambalaya & Gumbo
Jambalaya & Gumbo
Whether or not you visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, your visit won’t arguably be complete without trying some jambalaya. A Louisiana Creole dish that has Spanish and French influences, Creole jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans and comes in a few different varieties. One variety is more common than others and is often referred to as "red jambalaya." Red jambalaya combines meat with the "trinity" ingredients of celery, peppers, and onions. The meat is usually chicken or sausage. Tomatoes are also added, and there is a tendency to toss in some shrimp or other seafood as well. Another famous Louisiana dish that many Mardi Gras celebrators like to indulge in is gumbo. A heavily-seasoned stew-like dish, gumbo once again features the trinity ingredients of celery, peppers, and onions. Meat or seafood are also used, though not together in the same dish, as this is generally frowned upon. Shellfish, such as shrimp and crawfish, are common ingredients on the seafood side. Chicken, rabbit, squirrel, and duck are common meat options. Okra and roux are also used and serve as thickeners. Crawfish etoufee, Creole baked chicken, and shrimp bisque are just a few other examples of dishes that you are likely to encounter during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or at any other time of year, for that matter.
King Cake Image: Infrogmation (flickr)
After enjoying some jambalaya and/or gumbo, those who are celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans might treat themselves to some king cake. Closely associated with Mardi Gras traditions in the Southeastern region of the United States, king cake takes its name from the biblical three kings and is a cinnamon-roll type of cake with sugary icing and sprinkles. The sprinkles are colored purple, green, and yellow, as these are traditional Mardi Gras colors. It is interesting to note that king cake has a small trinket inside. This trinket often comes in the form of a small baby to represent Baby Jesus, and whoever gets it is often rewarded with special privileges and obligations. Also interesting is the popularity of king cake during the Christmas season in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, and a few other countries.
Sazerac & Hurricane Cocktails
Sazerac & Hurricane Cocktails Image: Infrogmation (flickr)
Should you be interested in sampling an adult beverage that is often enjoyed during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you can belly up to a bar and ask for a sazerac. Sometimes credited as being the oldest known cocktail in America, this potent drink is a combination of Peychaud’s Bitters, cognac or rye whiskey, and absinthe or Herbsaint. Other alcoholic beverages that are associated with New Orleans and Mardi Gras are hurricane cocktails and mint juleps. A hurricane cocktail is sweet, thanks to its mix of rum and either fruit juice, syrup, or grenadine. Also sweet, mint juleps are traditionally made with four ingredients and served in a silver cup. The ingredients are bourbon, sugar, water, and mint leaves.
Top image: Southern Foodways Alliance (flickr)