Go big and go easy this Fat Tuesday with a Mardi Gras bash that will have friends and family saying, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” From traditional Carnival garb to a Cajun-inspired menu, we’ve got the bases covered when it comes to foregoing the parade and throwing a party in your own backyard.
It’s not Fat Tuesday if your menu doesn’t include the fixings of the French Quarter. A meal that precedes the upcoming symbolic fast should be one that’s both hearty and easy to prepare.
Jambalaya typically comes in two varieties, Cajun and creole. The main difference? Tomatoes. Creole recipes call for the fruit, while Cajun recipes do not. If you want a ‘red jambalaya’ add the tomatoes. For this recipe, you’ll need:
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
- 10 ounces of sliced andouille sausage
- 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 green onion, diced
- 2 bell peppers (red and green), seeded and diced
- 2 stalks of chopped celery
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon of hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup sliced okra
- 1 and ½ cups of uncooked long grain white rice
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 1 pound of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Jambalaya is a dish that can be prepared in a single dutch oven, and acts as the main course. Best of all? It takes almost no prior preparation to pull off.
- Start by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the sausage and chicken along with half of your Cajun seasoning, sauteing the meats together until brown.
- Remove them from the bot and add in the rest of your oil, adding the onion, bell pepper and celery into the pot and sauteing until the onion is soft and translucent. Add your garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Season your pot with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and what’s left of the Cajun seasoning.
- Stir in your okra, chicken, and sausage. Incorporating them for 5 minutes, while stirring.
- Add in your rice and chicken broth, bringing to a boil, before reducing to low-medium heat. Simmer with a lid for 25 minutes before adding your shrimp.
- Cook until the shrimp are slightly pink, removing from heat when they are finished.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and parsley before serving.
Feed the Soul, Feed the Friends
Serve the Jambalaya with the soul food sides of your choice. This dish tends to pair well with any combination of corn, collard greens, blackeyed peas, fried okra, candied yams, and plantains. Did you say cornbread? That’s a whole section of its own, but there are general facts to keep in mind:
- The secret to standout cornbread lies in your commitment to the process. Getting your hands dirty never hurts when working with white cornmeal.
- Sweet cornbread is made from yellow cornmeal, providing an almost honey-like taste sensation.
- Hush puppies are something of a second cousin to the aforementioned breads, deep-fried for a crispy outside and soft inside.
- Like hush puppies, southern cornbread dressing brings the familiarity of cornbread to a casserole that’s flavored to perfection.
You’ll Float Too
You might not be heading to the parade this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few floats. Mardi Gras-inspired cocktails are exactly what your party needs to pop.
Cajun Mules are a low country take on the Kremlin classic, with bourbon replacing the typical vodka.
- Pour four to five fingers of good bourbon over cubed ice in a frosted glass.
- Let sit for 2 minutes before topping with the fizz of ginger beer, being sure not to overflow your glass.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of lime before serving.
Mardiritas on the rocks give the classic stylings of Margaritas a pink twist.
- Start by rimming one glass with sugar or salt. In your cocktail shaker, mix 1 ½ ounce of tequila, 1 ounce of cointreau, 1 ounce of lime juice, and a splash of grenadine into a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice into the cocktail shaker before shaking for 2 mins or until thoroughly chilled.
- Pour the pink cocktail into your rimmed glass and serve.
Be a fat cat on Fat Tuesday with a Black Cat cocktail. This easy to prepare cocktail is refreshing and perfect for adding a little jazz to your Mardi Gras party.
- Into a chilled highball glass pour 1 ounce of good vodka (Stolichnaya, Grey Goose) and 1 ounce of good brandy (such as Hennesy VS or Armagnac).
- Add equal amounts of cranberry juice and dark cola. Typically, this mixer will be about 3 ounces but you can add or subtract as needed.
- Garnish your dark cocktail with a maraschino cherry before serving.
Hurricane season comes early with this French Quarter signature. This drink packs a punch with two servings of rum and a sweet blend of fruit juices.
- Add 2 ounces of dark rum and 2 ounces of light rum into a chilled cocktail glass.
- In a separate glass, add 1 ounce of lime juice and 1 ounce of orange juice, mixing together.
- Next, add ½ an ounce of passion fruit juice with a bar spoon of simple syrup. Add this mixture to the rum, stirring them for 30 seconds.
- Garnish your hurricane with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
Bring the festivity of the French Quarter to your backyard with the help of relevant decor and activities is a surefire way to take things up a notch. Start at square one by implementing the classic Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold.
Purple symbolizes justice, and is a great choice for table runs or even outdoor chair covers for unused furniture protection. Purple can also be used for dining ware as a bold color in contrast to the lighter tones of green and gold.
Green is the color of faith and can be incorporated by way of confetti or on outdoor patio furniture covers that will dissuade guests from sitting in any undesignated areas. Gold, representing power, is ideal for napkins, cups, and plates.
Other decor to consider includes curtains with clear vinyl panel detailing for portioning off an outdoor warming station, grill covers, and outdoor patio furniture covers – all custom printed with year-round Mardi Gras graphics such as the fleur de lis. You might also consider protective outdoor chair covers for an extra level of patio protection if that one friend is coming over.
What’s a Mardi Gras party without a piñata? Finding a Carnival-themed piñata is as simple as making a trip to your local party store. Fill your piñata with colorful beads and chocolate doubloons for a smashing good time.
And for a final touch of ambiance, set up wireless speakers in your backyard with a New Orleans-style jazz playlist playing. You can even project stock footage of NOLA and Bourbon Street right onto an oversized outdoor tarp to really set the scene.
Bag of Beignets
At the end of the evening, it’s always a good idea to send your guests home with something sweet. What better way to close out your Mardi Gras party than with the traditional treat of the big easy?
Simple beignets can be tastefully wrapped in cellophane as the favor to your guests as they go on their merry way. If you can, try to find wrapping that is in color coordination with the rest of your theme, making for the perfect end to a Carnival they’ll never forget.