Shrimp and Grits, a popular Mardi Gras dish.
Mardi Gras is a week away: Tuesday, February 17th.
Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” and called Shrove Tuesday in English, is part of the Catholic Carnival celebration beginning on Epiphany and ending the day before Ash Wednesday.
The “fat” refers to the last night that one can eat richer, fatty foods (meat, dairy, fats and sugar) before giving them up for the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts the following day. “Shrove” is the past participle of the verb “to shrive,” meaning “to obtain absolution for one’s sins through confession and doing penance.”
Mardi Gras parades, festivals and masquerades in colorful costumes mark the transition from traditional daily life to Lent. No parties or celebrations are held during Lent, the six week period prior to Easter that represents the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.
You don’t have to head to New Orleans to celebrate: Bring the party to your place. If you want to decorate, streamers or balloons in the traditional Mardi Gras colors (purple, green and gold) will do nicely. For music, check out these New Orleans playlists.
MARDI GRAS MENU
If you want to do some more elaborate cooking, here are some ideas from Chef Mike Valentine of Ford’s Oyster House, a New Orleans themed restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina.
NEW ORLEANS COCKTAILS
Here are three classic cocktail ideas:
RECIPE: SAZERAC COCKTAIL
The Sazerac is a New Orleans variation of a whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of Cognac that was later replaced by rye in most recipes. Some people date its origins to before the Civil War.
Ingredients Per Cocktail
†Absinthe has a strong licorice flavor. Absinthe is so strong that no one ever drinks it straight. In this recipe, it is used to “rinse the glass,” to add a hint of flavor. You can substitute the milder Patsis.
A bread bowl filled with spicy andouille sausage dip. Photo courtesy King’s Hawaiian.
1. CHILL an Old Fashioned glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit until ready to use.
2. MUDDLE the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters in a mixing glass. Add the rye and stir with ice.
3. DISCARD the ice in the Old Fashioned glass and rinse it with absinthe (pour a small amount into the glass, swirl it around and discarding the liquid). Strain the mixture from the mixing glass into the Old Fashioned glass.
4. SQUEEZE a lemon twist over the drink. Traditionalists then discard the twist, but you can add it to the drink for flavor.
This dip recipe comes from King’s Hawaiian, whose delicious sweet breads are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (here’s our review). If you don’t want to serve the dip in a bread bowl, you can serve it in a conventional bowl or keep it warm in a hot pot, on a brazier with a warming candle, etc.
If you don’t want to dip cubes of bread, you can slice the bread and provide knives for spreading the dip.
1. CREATE a bread bowl: Carve out the center core of the round bread within two inches of the bottom and sides, keeping the shell intact. Cut the bread you’ve removed, and other loaf, into 1-inch cubes for dipping.
2. PLACE the andouille sausage pieces into large frying pan and sauté until cooked thoroughly. Add the Velveeta and cream cheese and stir until melted. Add the Cajun seasoning; adjust to taste.
3. POUR the dip into the bread bowl. Serve with the raw vegetables, bread cubes and toothpicks for dipping; or bread slices and a knife for spreading.