Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday a day of complete celebration and sybaritic revelry before the austerity of Lent. The town that invented it was New Orleans and with it came a wide parade of delicious foods.These are a blend of sweet and savory but all united in tremendous flavor.
One of the most famous is the King Cake, This came from Quebec to the Crescent City through French Canadian explorer Pierre le Moyne D'iberville.It is a sweet, yeasty buttery treat, first served at Epiphany December 6th through Twelvth Night up to Mardi Gras. A trinket , usually a toy baby doll , is placed inside it. This toy, represents the baby Jesus and is considered lucky to find with the finder being declared king or queen of that party.The icing is symbolic too, the purple means justice, green is faith while gold is power. Wash it down with two famous drinks of the season, the Hurricane or the Vieux Carre, named for the famed New Orleans hotel. The first is a wild mix of light and dark rum mixed with orange and passionfruit juice with a touch of grenadine.The second is a rye whiskey and cognac cocktail.These can also be great washing down spicy andouille sausage and dirty rice or super crispy southern fried chicken with a Cajun spice batter. Another must have is cheesy grits. These are grits mixed with scallions and cheddar made creamier with eggs and butter. Depending on where you are gator is sometimes on the menu. The meat from those snappy creatures can be made into fritters to be served with a remoulade,a fiery and easy to make mayo and mustard mix.
Mardi Gras goers may go wild over the many beads they collect but they equally go crazy over jambalaya. Shrimp and sausage are the anchor ingredients of this classic stew but there also the Cajun holy trinity of onions, celery and bell peppers added for color and flavor.Tomatoes and garlic are included for more taste along with dried thyme and bay leaves.Long grained rice is also served with it to sop up this wonderful stew. NOLA kitchens are redolent with the smell of gumbo during Carnival time as well. This is a heavy stew of shellfish and tomatoes , sometimes thickened with okra Okra is call gumbo too, depending on where you are in southern Louisiana. The dish is usually seafood but it can sometimes be made with chicken, duck or beef and even squirrel and rabbit on the city's outskirts.Andouille sausage is also added to either to give it a piquancy .Of course the Cajun holy trinity is added too along with sassafras for color. Vegans can enjoy gumbo z'herbes, usually cooked for Lent , that is chock full of turnips, mustard greens and spinach. The day ends with King Cake or the classic beignets. These are fried puffs of heaven made with flour, eggs and milk. Yeast gives them their airiness and their golden brown coloring comes from a fry in vegetable oil. They are heavily dusted with confectioners sugar and served with New Orleans style coffee, a blend of rich dark coffee blended with chickery and boiled milk.
Laissez le bon temp roulez. Let the good times roll during this festive time. It is celebrated with good food ,good drink and a night of endless good revelry!