Let’s start here … Mardi Gras isn’t just a big party. There’s a lot more to the holiday than strong drinks and a
good great reason to party on a Tuesday. Let’s start with some basics …
- Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French
- It’s celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday as a last hurrah before Lent begins (this year, that’s February 9)
- The first Mardi Gras celebration can be traced back to medieval Europe to the House of the Bourbons (I won’t go into all of the history, but if you want to read it all … check it out here.)
- The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold–purple for justice, gold for power, green for faith.
I have an unexplained love for Mardi Gras. (I think it comes from my dad receiving a King Cake each year from a friend in New Orleans. Since my dad had a job that took him to New Orleans during the week for a few years, I apparently attended parades before I could walk.) Each year, I try to bring the spirit of the Big Easy to Dallas in a small way for some friends. Here’s how I do it …
DRINKS … you can’t miss hurricanes, the quintessential Mardi Gras drink originally created by Pat O’Brien’s in NOLA. This year I borrowed a recipe from a NOLA-born chef, John Russ of Lüke San Antonio that he demonstrated at his seminar at the SACC this year. For my group of heavy-hitters, I made the recipe x10. I also like to add a little pineapple juice and just a bit of cherry juice or grenadine to add a red hue. They’re quite strong, so make sure to warn your guests and provide something to dilute it a bit like soda or Sprite. I also use an orange slice and cherry for garnish.
Katrina’s Folly (Recipe from Chef John Russ of Lüke San Antonio)
2 oz Bacardi light
1 oz 151 Bacardi
2 oz Kraken spiced dark rum
2 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz lime juice
2 oz passion fruit juice
Combine and stir. Serve chilled, preferably in a tall glass or red Solo cup.
Since a party cannot exist on a single drink alone, I laid out a bevy of usual suspects so people could make their own concoctions if desired. To really get the party going, I also offered shots of Pinnacle King Cake Vodka (the best of the king cake vodkas I’ve tried–which is a lot … dedication, y’all) and Abita Beer (brewed an hour from New Orleans in Covington, Louisiana). The kind cake vodka is surprisingly easy to drink and it has a nice sweetness without being overpowering. The party shared many a round of shots to toast the night. I chose two Abita brews–their most popular Purple Haze and their seasonal Mardi Gras Bock.
Sustenance at these parties is key. This year I offered homemade jambalaya, Zapp’s Potato Chips, hushpuppies, a King Cake, iced sugar cookies from Pokey O’s, and Cafe Du Monde beignets. Each has some significance …
- Venison and Chicken Jambalaya – because … yum. I’ve adapted the recipe so it can be made ahead of time and cooked in a crock pot. (Send me an email if you’d like the recipe!)
- Zapp’s Potato Chips – they’re made in Gramercy, Louisiana and are “New Orleans kettle-style chips”. I got individual bags from Potbelly along with their Voodoo flavor (nice and spicy) from Tom Thumb.
- Hushpuppies – sometimes it’s important to know your limits when hosting a party. I haven’t ever made hushpuppies … so I left it to the experts and had three dozen delivered by Favor from Dodie’s Reef, complete with remoulade sauce. I should have gotten four dozen because they were the first thing to run out!
- King Cake – the aforementioned friend in New Orleans sends my dad a cake–for years they have been shipped to us from Manny Randazzo’s and are always the traditional flavor that tastes just like a cinnamon roll … only 15x better. This year, my good friend Meryl’s family also sent me cakes from Caluda’s. Many bakeries in NOLA will ship their cakes, by my favorite has been the maple bacon praline version from Caluda’s (it was a flavor of the week option and isn’t available all the time).
The tradition says that a small, plastic baby is placed in the cake and the person who gets it in his piece is “King for the Day”. (It’s also said that he has to bring the cake to the next year’s party. Like that ever happens.)
- Pokey O’s Iced Sugar Cookies – because they’re delicious and festive. (I added the little, plastic babies myself to add a bit more fun.) Call ahead to make sure they have them or to preorder.
- Cafe Du Monde Beignets – it has been a goal each year to make beignets for this party and, this year, I finally did it! The mix that you can get in most stores made it quite easy to throw them together and they were freaking delicious.
Other fun touches I like to add are handing out beads (earned or not) and adding a little fun decor. (My plaster deer head is always festive at my parties …) In past years when I’ve lived in apartment complexes, we’d make sure to throw beads from the balcony, but now that I’ve moved we didn’t have anyone to throw them at … but do that, because it’s a blast.
P.S. Upon walking into my living room this morning … I came upon this scene. It must have been a good party.