Serve New Orleans style dishes during Mardi Gras season

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Photo by Ann Cipperly Ansley Joy Rezek, who is 10 years old, enjoyed learning to cook as part of her math class. Shrimp with Easy Remoulade Sauce makes an enticing appetizer to serve for a New Orleans style dinner. During the Mardi Gras season, serve a meal with recipes inspired by the cuisine of New Orleans. Some of the dishes, such as the Slow Cooker Jambalaya, New Orleans Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits would be delectable fare to serve while watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

By Ann Cipperly

Looking out the window in front of my computer this morning, it seems like being in Baton Rouge was much longer than just a year ago. We generally stop overnight in Baton Rouge or New Orleans on our way to Houston. Last year I didn’t want to make the trip, but looking back now, it was a good thing since we have been homebound for months. These stopovers are generally the highlight of the trip since we can savor  Creole and Cajun dishes.

When we returned last year, I wrote about our favorite restaurants in these two cities. While we have made many trips to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Don began going much earlier when he was growing up. He remembers going to Antoine’s when he was in grammar school. There was something about the meal that didn’t appeal to his parents (no surprise). To appease them, the waiter went to the cellar to get an aged, fine brandy to cap their meal.   

Although the parades have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, there will be house floats, and the cuisine of  New Orleans can still be celebrated and enjoyed. Some of the following recipes, such as the Slow Cooker Jambalaya, New Orleans Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits are tasty dishes to serve while watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

The tradition of Mardi Gras goes back to medieval France and began in America as a French Catholic tradition. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which is the last night of dining on rich foods before the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent begins 47 days before Easter. This year, Mardi Gras will be held Feb. 16.

Mobile is credited with holding America’s first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703. By the 1730s, the event was annually celebrated with parties and festivals in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras season begins on Twelfth Night of Christmas, Jan. 6, also known  as Epiphany. This is believed to be when the three wisemen visited the Christ Child. Tradition says the Mardi Gras colors were selected from the jewels in the crowns of the wise men.

These colors of purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power abound during Mardi Gras season in decorated trees, wreaths and other décor for a festive, celebratory look. These colors are also used on a king cake. 

The tradition of the king cake was brought from France to New Orleans. It can be similar to a coffee cake or pastry topped with icing or sugar and decorated with the Mardi Gras colors. Some cakes are filled with cream cheese or laced with cinnamon.

Most king cakes have a plastic or porcelain baby, which symbolizes Jesus, inserted in the cake. Whoever is served a slice of cake with the baby is king for the day. They are also responsible for hosting a party or providing a king cake the following year.

Instead of a baby in the cake, some insert a coin. Either one of these should be inserted in the cake after it is baked. Be sure to let guests know to check their slice to avoid choking.

A few years ago, a friend hosted a Mardi Gras themed tea. She made a lovely king cake with a plastic baby baked in the batter.  When the cake was served, the baby was not found. It must have melted, and I think everyone was wondering who ate the baby.

King cakes are available at local grocery stores, or you can make your own. Kathy Hughes makes a delectable king cake using packaged crescent rolls and a cream cheese filling. Kathy inserts a plastic baby after the cake is baked before she adds the icing and colored sprinkles.

Instead of a king cake for dessert with your New Orleans style dishes, bread pudding would also be yummy. If you make Clay Humphries’ recipe from Commander’s Palace, you can adapt the sauce. Instead of adding  bourbon, you can add a couple teaspoons vanilla, or you can serve the bread pudding with a caramel sauce.       

Shrimp Remoulade is almost always a hit. It can be made using boiled or oven-roasted shrimp. While shrimp is easy to cook, you can have the shrimp cooked at the seafood shop in the grocery store or purchase cooked shrimp. 

If your family doesn’t like foods too spicy, just adjust the seasonings in the recipes to suit their taste. Try adding a small amount to taste, then add more if needed.  

I can’t write about New Orleans without mentioning my friend, Nancy Parker, who was a well-known and beloved news anchor in the city. The daughter of Patsy and Bill Parker of Opelika, Nancy died tragically in a plane crash. She continues to be honored for her work and helping others. I will have more information on this soon.

Look over the following recipes and assemble a menu for treating your family with a taste of New Orleans during the Mardi Gras season.

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Shrimp with Easy Remoulade Sauce

Can use boiled shrimp.

Oven Roasted Shrimp

Large shrimp

Kosher salt and pepper

Olive oil

Lemon or lime juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Place shrimp on a foil-lined sheet pan. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Brush or drizzle equal parts olive oil and lemon or lime juice over shrimp.

Roast in oven for six minutes.  Can chill and serve later.

Easy Remoulade Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

3 green onions, sliced

2 Tbsp. Creole mustard

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried

Combine ingredients and stir until well blended.

Shrimp with Classic Remoulade Sauce

Char Warren

Serve with boiled shrimp.

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup tarragon vinegar

¼ cup prepared mustard

¼ cup horseradish

2 tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

Tabasco, if desired

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. paprika

Dash of cayenne

2 Tbsp.  ketchup

1 cup olive oil

½ cup green onion, chopped

Mix all ingredients, but olive oil, celery and green onion; add oil gradually. Beat with whisk. Add celery and onion. Makes two cups.

Crawfish or Shrimp Etouffee

Terry Andrus

3 lb. peeled crawfish or shrimp

3 sticks butter

3 bunches thin green onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 cups water

1/3 cup cornstarch added to 1/2 cup cold water

Salt and pepper

Tony Charchere‘s Seasonings

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Steamed rice

Tabasco sauce, if desired, with serving

Sauté green onions and garlic in butter on low heat for 10 minutes. Add 3 cups water. Add crawfish or shrimp. Add salt and pepper and Tony Charchere’s Seasonings. Cook 20 minutes on low heat.

Thicken with cornstarch and water mixture. Add parsley and cook 5 minutes more.

Serve over steamed rice. Serve with Tabasco sauce, if desired.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

Annette Andrus

1 ham bone

8 cups water

2 tsp. garlic

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp. Tabasco

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 lb. dried red beans, washed

3/4 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onions

1 and 1/2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. oil

1/2 lb. ham, cubed

1/4 lb. hot sausage, sliced

1/2 lb. smoked sausage, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 cups cooked rice

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place ham bone, water, garlic, salt, Tabasco, Worcestershire and beans. Cook uncovered, over low flame. Sauté celery, onions and garlic in oil until transparent.

In another pan sauté ham and sausage; drain. Add cooked meats and seasonings to beans. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook over low flame until beans are soft and creamy for 3 hours.

Add parsley before serving. Serve over hot, fluffy rice.

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Carole Perryman Smith

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, baked and cut into small, bite-size pieces

1 lb. Conecuh sausage, sliced into small discs, cooked

1 (28 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes with juice

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chicken broth

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dried parsley

2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. dried thyme

In a slow cooker, mix the cooked chicken, cooked sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper and thyme.

Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 4 hours on high.

Serve over white rice. Serves 12.

Grillades and Grits 

Caro Law Duncan

1¼ lbs. boneless pork loin chops

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. Tony’s Creole Seasoning

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms

1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1½ tsp. chopped fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

3/4 tsp. chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper, optional

1/4 tsp. salt

Trim fat from pork chops, and cut pork crosswise into thin strips. Combine flour and Tony’s Creole Seasoning; dredge pork in flour mixture.

Cook half of pork in 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Repeat procedure with 1 Tbsp. oil and remaining pork. Remove pork from skillet.

Sauté celery and bell peppers in remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and next 5 ingredients; cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Add pork; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over cooked grits.

Kathy’s King Cake

Kathy Hughes

2 tubes crescent rolls

1 ½ blocks (8 oz. size) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. vanilla

Purple, green and gold sprinkles

Tiny plastic baby (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I use a greased round baking stone.

Carefully unfold crescent rolls and place in a circle, points toward the middle.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until very smooth.

Spoon mixture onto the crescent rolls, trying to get it mostly in the middle.  Take tops and bottoms of crescent rolls and fold over mixture.  Please note that the entire mixture may not be covered.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. milk

Combine sugar and milk. Carefully add more milk to get the desired consistency of the icing.  You do not want it too thin.

Insert plastic baby after baking.

After the cake cools completely, insert the baby, and make sure it is hidden well.  Then drizzle icing over cake.  Finish by putting sprinkles on top.

Commander’s Palace’s Bread Pudding

Clay Humphries

Instead of being cake-like, this recipe is more like a soufflé.  I make sure it is the consistency of thick oatmeal, not cake. It seems like it is not done but it is.

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

5 eggs, beaten

1 pint heavy cream

Dash cinnamon

1 Tbsp. vanilla

¼ cup white raisons

12 slices white bread, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients except bread; mix well. Add broken bread and mix. Pour into 2-quart casserole. Cover with foil.

Place casserole in pan of hot water.  (Be sure to have the pan of hot water in the oven before placing in casserole dish.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, remove cover last 10 minutes. We prefer the bread pudding to have the texture of thick oatmeal, not cake.

Whiskey Sauce

1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Dash of cinnamon

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

½ tsp. cornstarch

¼ cup water

1 Tbsp. bourbon

In saucepan, combine sugar, cream, cinnamon and butter; bring to boil. Mix cornstarch and water; add to mix and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and add bourbon.  

Note: If you wish to omit bourbon, add 2 or more teaspoons vanilla.

Barbecue Shrimp and Cream Cheese Grits

Ralph’s on the Park, New Orleans

Serves 2. Easy to double. 

We enjoyed a superb meal here on a trip to New Orleans. Located across from the entrance to City Park, Ralph Brennan’s Ralph’s on the Park serves fresh ingredients from local fishermen, farmers and artisan food producers.

12 raw colossal shrimp, unpeeled, with heads and tails left on (If colossal shrimp are not available, use the largest you can find.)

2  Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1½ Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper (or to taste)

2 tsp. Creole seasoning

1 tsp. minced fresh garlic

Half lemon, seeded

1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Warm, crusty French bread, for serving

Place shrimp, Worcestershire, pepper, Creole seasoning, garlic and 1 Tbsp. water in a heavy 10-inch, stainless-steel sauté pan. Squeeze juice from the lemon half over shrimp and add the rind and pulp to the pan.

Over high heat, cook shrimp while gently stirring and occasionally turning the shrimp.

After about two minutes of cooking, the shrimp should start turning pink on both sides, indicating they are nearly half cooked.

If the shrimp are the colossal size, add 2 Tbsp. water to the pan. Otherwise, don’t add water.

Reduce heat to medium-high and continue cooking as you gradually add cold pieces of butter to the pan. While turning the shrimp occasionally, swirl the butter pieces until they are incorporated into the pan juices.

The sauce turns light brown and creamy as it simmers, and the shrimp are just cooked through. This will take about two minutes total if the shrimp are extra-large, and about three minutes total if they’re colossal. Do not overcook the shrimp.

Cream Cheese Grits

¾ cup grits, stone ground

2 cups chicken stock

¾ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

6 ½ Tbsp. cream cheese

3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

Combine the grits, chicken stock, heavy cream, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a slow simmer.

Stir the grits frequently to prevent sticking and burning.

Continue to cook on a slow simmer making sure to constantly stir the grits if they get to thick before they are tender. Add cream cheese and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Bananas Foster Sauce for Waffles or Ice Cream

Ashton’s Bed and Breakfast

New Orleans, La.

The bed and breakfast serves this sauce over waffles at breakfast. 

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup banana liqueur

2 bananas, quartered

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup rum

Belgian waffles

Heat and stir butter, sugar and liqueur in a pan until melted. Add banana quarters and sprinkle cinnamon over top; cook until bananas are softened.

Turn off heat: carefully add rum. Ignite rum to flame (optional).

Serve over hot Belgian waffles or ice cream. 

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