Photo: Brown Eyed Baker, Flickr
"Fat Tuesday" may be tomorrow, but Mardi Gras celebrations are already in full swing, from Rio to New Orleans to New York. On this Fat Monday the Hurricanes are flowing, the King Cakes are being baked and frosted, and gumbo is simmering in more than a few pots. (For more on the history of the day, see "Mardi Gras 2011: Fat Tuesday and Carnival Explained," at AOL News.) Take some ideas from these cooks, and get your own Cajun-Creole party started.
Louisiana native (and KitchenDaily contributor) Alexis Touchet lays out all the essentials for Mardi Gras, including quintessentially southern recipes for Creole Chicken Fricassee, Crawfish Pie, Chicken-and-Shrimp File Gumbo, Shrimp Remoulade Garlic Toasts, and Coconut Rum Cream Tarts. No New Orleans Mardi Gras feast would be complete without a big old dish of red beans and rice. Alexis adds spicy andouille sausage to her recipe to amp up the flavor.
In New Orleans, so popular are red beans and rice that now there's a Redbeans Parade (held today), with 60 members of a krewe that has honored the dish by spending months creating their costumes using the legumes (uncooked, natch).
Chef John Besh, of restaurants August, Lüke, and several other New Orleans hot spots, is cooking up his own pot of red beans and rice, and he shared the recipe with the Huffington Post. Try it with his jalapeño cheese grits, which turns up the heat on this classic dish.
New York chefs are no slackers when it comes to throwing a pre-Lenten bash. Andrew Carmellini is putting on a pop-up feast tonight with chef Laurent Gras (recently returned to New York from Chicago's L2O), at Carmellini's Locanda Verde. On the menu: Oysters Rockefeller, crawfish court bouillon, gumbo, blackened trout with Cajun spices & slaw, pecan duck with dirty rice, and beignets. A zydeco DJ will be spinning tunes for this sold-out event.
And in St. Louis, chef Christopher Lee, of Café Ventana, created a "Creole Trinity," for a Cajun Cook-off event to launch Mardi Gras. "It's a play on words for the peppers, onions and celery used in Creole cooking," Lee told the Riverfront Times. "The dish was comprised of chicken and waffles – a cornmeal waffle topped with rye-whiskey butter and bacon-infused maple syrup, with a side of spicy fried chicken. The crayfish pie was a flaky turnover with a crayfish filling and a Creole mustard remoulade. And we did barbecue shrimp and grits."
We hear that miniature versions of king cakes are all the rage this year down in the Big Easy. The yeasty frosted cakes with treasures hidden within them (signifying good luck for the year to come) debut on January 6 each year and are eaten through Carnival time. Get a recipe for King Cake.
No, we haven't forgotten the 24-ounce booze bomb known as the Hurricane. This rum-and-fruit juice concoction was invented at a New Orleans restaurant called Pat O'Brien's in the 1940s, and is about as classic a punch as you'll find to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Find out more about the history of the Hurricane and get a recipe here.
Meanwhile, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen danced the night away in Rio atop a float for the School of Samba (not eating, we're just guessing), and in New Orleans a new sci-fi-lovers' krewe is debuting. They call themselves the Krewe of Chewbacchus. Pour those Wookiees a Hurricane.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Read an explanation of Fat Tuesday and Carnival at AOL News.