Mardi Gras is a special time of the year down in Cajun Country. Even if you don't live around New Orleans you can still rejoice in some of the fun and revelry associated with Mardi Gras by throwing a grand old meal befitting King Rex himself.
The trick about bringing Mardi Gras to the Midwest or wherever you may be, is to always have the mindset that makes Mardi Gras such fun and an enjoyable event for people from all over the world. If that doesn't work a bowl or two of gumbo topped off with some Mardi Gras music should do the trick quite nicely.
Honestly though, part of the appeal and intrigue of Mardi Gras and the city of New Orleans is the food that has made this city almost as famous as its ability to party. If you are considering what to cook to bring the spirit of Mardi Gras into your home, try any of the traditional favorites. If ingredients prove hard to come by you might want to add a little rice, a little spice, and a lot of hot sauces to your favorite family meal.
Those who live in New Orleans often use rice to stretch the budget. Rice is filling and is cost effective. This makes rice a great foundation of a meal for many of the families of New Orleans many of whom have been pretty poor by tradition.
Rice is used in all manner of dishes from gumbo to red beans and jambalaya and many dishes in between. It is almost certainly the one staple of Cajun cooking that you will find everywhere you go.
Otherwise there are wide differences in cookery according to cost and culture (though the more costly foods are normally considered Creole rather than Cajun. Sort of a city cousin - country cousin type relationship between the cuisines).
Spices are dominant in these dishes for much the same reason that rice is. They have traditionally been an inexpensive method of seasoning dishes that would otherwise be quite insipid. Expect to find plenty of spices and some heat in most traditional Cajun dishes all over the city. Some restaurants that cater to tourists have somewhat watered down versions of local favorites.
If you want to try something with a little less fire, a po-boy or muffaletta might be what you are looking for. These sandwiches are more than a little deceptive in appearance because they are very filling. French fries are still a Cajun favorite, although we also have a popular dish called fried sweet potatoes.
You can find recipes for all of these online quite easily though you will probably have trouble finding the ideal bread for a po boy anywhere outside the Crescent City. There is a unique "chewiness" to the perfect po boy bread that may be copied in other places but not equaled anywhere in the country.
For the best finish to your Cajun cooking you should make a point of buying some chicory coffee. This is easily accomplished via the Cafe du Monde website if your local coffee shop doesn't have any. Historically, chicory was added to coffee and often used instead of coffee because it was much cheaper.
This meant it could make the more high-priced coffee beans go further and yet provide a similar taste and texture with that hint of chicory. It's a somewhat unique flavor and for many people is synonymous with the city itself.
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