A Mardi Gras Party!

If you can't get to New Orleans to celebrate, bring the Crescent City home with this festive meal!

By FamilyTime


Mardi Gras! The words alone make us think of wild celebrations. Most of us can't get to New Orleans, but we can celebrate the food of that graceful old city by planning our own Mardi Gras dinner.

Creole and Cajun Food Reign!
In simplest terms, the Creole food of New Orleans is city food. It's the outgrowth of the myriad cultures that have left their mark on the city and has evolved into a distinct cuisine.

Cajun food is country food. While it shares many characteristics of Creole, it is usually a little more robust.

Both foods rely on roux to thicken dishes, and flavorings that traditionally include bell peppers, onions, celery, and garlic. In New Orleans cuisine, roux is a mixture of oil or butter and flour, cooked very slowly to form a thick, dark paste.

Both Creole and Cajun dishes are forgiving. If you don't have enough chicken, toss in some shrimp! Don't like sausage? Use ham or pork instead.

They both rely on fresh-caught fish and shellfish from the nearby Gulf of Mexico. And because the climate is warm, they rely, too, on numerous fresh fruits and vegetables.

Pecan orchards dot the region and the tasty nut is used in all manner of dishes -- most notably in the sweet, rich pralines sold in numerous shops along Bourbon Street.

Party On!
Our menu takes advantage of the foods the folks in New Orleans love: shrimp, bold-flavored sausage, steamed rice, citrus fruit, and pecans. We also suggest serving cornbread dressed up with jalapeno peppers and other seasonings, and a fruity cocktail punch spiked, if you like, with rum or vodka.

The party begins with shrimp cooked in their shells -- this is a great way to start the laughs coming! No one can be too dignified while peeling spicy shrimp.

Our citrusy spinach salad is just sweet enough to offset the full flavors of the gumbo. Add a pan of cornbread to sop up the stew and everyone will be happy.

Traditional New Orleans desserts include pralines, bananas foster, and ice cream-topped crepes. We decided to end our meal with crunchy Pecan Bars. Give yourself a break and bake them ahead of time, and serve them with scoops of rich vanilla or butter-pecan ice cream.