You are in for a movable feast during this Cajun holiday called Mardi Gras. The real partying starts this weekend and culminates on Fat Tuesday, February 25th, where everyone lines streets for the parades and floats with masked bead throwers. This is the time of year when New Orleans lets its freak flag fly -- all week long!
Yep, you heard right, that's the way we roll in Cajun country. Now don't worry, you don't drink and drive, just take it home and chill. If you think I'm pulling your leg, then check us out in the video below doing a Daiquiri drive-thru!
If buzzy spirits are too much for you, then settle down within view of the Mississippi River in New Orleans for a chickory-flavored cup of Joe and sugar-powdered beignets at world-famous Cafe du Monde. After the caffeine and sugar rush you will be ready to take in New Orleans and the outrageous French Quarter, just a few steps away.
I lived in Gonzales, Louisiana during my high school daze. I didn't know what to expect when our family moved there from Texas. I did some wild stuff over the next four years and ate a lot of down-home Cajun cooking. The video below takes place in a local flea market, so check it out to get the flavor of the place.
I hitchhiked with my high school buddy Marvin to New Orleans for Mardi Gras during the school break. Back then it was all about grabbing a Po-boy Sandwich, listening to music, catching some beads thrown down by inebriated revelers perched behind French Quarter iron-wrought balconies and Mardi Gras parade floats and getting a good buzz (we were underage, so no booze, but we found other natural ways.)
I've kept in touch with my high school buddy Marvin and like to look him up when I land in New Orleans. Check out the video below to see how I (dinner) roll these days, when I tour the Crescent City in search of a delicious Po' Boy Sandwich with my high school bud - all the tasty details are in my original blog post here.
This year I met up with my long lost brother from another.....daddy, and he's known as the Swamp Chef! He showed up on Mom's doorstep one day and she welcomed him back into the family, and I must say he's a chip off the cypress tree block. He'd fit into a-rockin' Cajun ZZ Top lineup, but with a wooden stirring spoon instead of a guitar.
When the Swamp Chef shows up there is always a delicious celebration -- and this time it's a BBQ Sausage Po'Boy Party!! Here in Gonzales, Louisiana, it's all about the bread when making a Po'Boy, or as it's also known, a Poor Boy. Just watch the video below to see how the Swamp Chef grills locally made sausages by Ivderstine Farms Butchers and stuff them into a loaf of Reisling's French bread.
The Swamp Chef knows the lay of the land around here and he recommends all you Mardi Gras tourists who need a pitstop, to park here in Gonzales, Lousiana for a big lunch plate of Jambalaya. Just check out the Swamp Chef giving you the lowdown in the video below. And it's dirt cheap of course!
I know you are here for the recipes, too, and boy do I have a pirogue boatful. Between Mom and my Cajun line-cooking nephews, Matt and Zakk, I got that covered.
If you hang out in Louisiana for any amount of time you will inevitably eat spicy steamed mudbugs, crayfish, or as the locals call them, Crawfish. They are milder in seafood flavor than shrimp and are about the size of a small bay shrimp. If you've never had them then watch my video below to learn how to eat one.
It quickly becomes a party when I visit Gonzales, Louisiana to see my Cajun family. And this first recipe is made with a beer-flavored sauce. Warning, in the video we had to go through a Party Pack of Abita Beer to find just the right flavor!
My nephew Matt has been cooking for years now and has some major culinary skillz. I'll let him give you the low down on a Southern classic Shrimp and Grits video recipe (click here for recipe photos and text.)
The cheapest Cajun entree is Red Beans and Rice -- made by my Southern friend Miss Patti. She is a vegetarian with a menagerie of critters she keeps on her property just outside the city of New Orleans.
For real New Orleans-style Red Beans, you should use the brand of beans called Camellia. But if you can't find them, it's okay to use any cheap red kidney beans.
We always have a good time together and you will too watching us cook together. Recipe details are a click away, here.
It's best to start at the beginning and here's the first recipe we did together, Mom's Jambalaya.
I make this recipe the most. Nothing to it: just brown chicken pieces and sausage with a whole chopped onion. Finally, add rice and water to make the best comfort food ever. Well this is my Mom's version of Jambalaya (click here to read all about it.)
Mom also makes a killer Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. The trick is all in the deep chocolate-colored roux - actually just flour that's slowly browned in oil.
Lately, when Mom makes hot and spicy Gumbo she adds a scoop of cool Cajun Potato Salad. Last time she was here in Los Angeles I got her to make some, and my cute niece Maranda dropped by to help. This recipe is a family affair you can check out below.
Next to Gumbo, a rich and creamy Étouffée made with local crawfish is another decadent stew. Check out local Chef Tony's take on Crawfish Étouffée.
My other line cooking nephew, Zakk, knows how to blacken fish the Cajun way. And boy does he do a skillful job at it, as my video below will attest. He also throws in a mind-blowing side of Sweet Potato Hash, and yes, it's loaded with bacon.
Zakk's recipe gets everyone in on the action including his Mom and my Mom, who make noshing appearances. So do check out his delicious Cajun recipes below and click here for all the written details.
The South's favorite nut, next to peanut, is the pecan. And my chef nephew Matt has the best Pecan Crusted Fish recipe this side of the Mississippi River. And he throws in a vegan Spinach Salad with a creamy Strawberry Vinaigrette. Now that's a mouthful.
My most outrageous Cajun recipe is an Alligator Po' Boy sandwich made by my nephew Chef Matt. They say alligator tastes like chicken -- to me, it is close to the texture of a pork chop and tastes somewhere between chicken and shrimp. Just check out the recipe video and make sure to watch all the way to the end, where the relatives go hog wild over the Alligator Po' Boy.
How low can one recipe go? Well, check out the Swamp Chef and nephew Chef Matt's Deep Fried Frog Legs...not for the faint of palate! This recipe goes from a swamp frog hunt to the deep fryer.
If you are not in New Orleans attending the glittery and debauched Mardi Gras festivities, you can still have a tasty good time - if you remember to bookmark this page and come back to make any of my Cajun Mardi Gras meals. So Laissez les bons temps rouler!
New Orleans Po' Boy Dining:
Short Stop Po-Boys - 119 Transcontinental Drive (near New Orleans Airport)
Metairie, Louisiana 70001
Phone: (504) 885-4572
Mother's Restaurant - 401 Poydras
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Parasol's Bar and Restaurant - 2533 Constance Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
For a tasty local Los Angeles Po' Boy try The Gumbo Pot in the Mid-City located Farmer's Market. $11.55 for Shrimp or Oyster, and $11.75 for Mixed. For menu click here. Warning, the seafood Po' Boys have a sour bite because of inserted sliced lemon -- I usually take the slices out.
Another local food find for Cajun Cuisine is a restaurant and deli store called Little Jewel, in downtown LA's Chinatown. It's the real deal too. Listen in as you get all the tasty details in my special Restaurant Nocturne arty video below. (BTW, the chef/owner drops an F-bomb at 1:53 minutes.)