From New Orleans: Recipes for Mardi Gras
Fat Tuesday, the traditional celebration on the day before Ash Wednesday, is marked in New Orleans with parades and marches through many neighborhoods in the city. (Photo by Rusty Costanza/Getty Images)
Head to New Orleans — or throw your own Fat Tuesday party at home with these entertaining ideas and recipes.
The Big Easy is more than just an easy getaway, any time of year. The people are friendly, the food is fantastic and the places to see and be seen, especially in the famed French Quarter, are better than ever.
Stay: Bourbon Orleans. This hotel, once a hotbed of Creole culture, is still a hotbed of the city’s unique mélange of Creole, Cajun and good ol’ southern charm. And, like the city, the hotel has a sordid and also saved past. Once the site of a theatre, then a grand ballroom and then a home for a holy order of Catholic nuns, the Bourbon Orleans hotel opened its doors in the mid 1960s. It’s still all about location, location, location. The Bourbon backs on to Bourbon Street, naturally, and on warmer nights (pretty much every night), the convivial Bourbon O bar’s French doors are flung open to balmy breezes and the strains of nightlife at street level. This is a place where champagne mingles with popcorn and locals mix with those from afar. It is the Big Easy, after all.
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel, 717 Orleans Avenue, (504) 523-2222; www.bourbonorleans.com.
Drink: The Bourbon Orleans Hotel’s Bourbon O Bar Manager, Cheryl Charming (yes, that really is her name), has passed along one of her secret recipes, The King Cake, perfect for Mardi Gras tippling. Fun fact: Bourbon Orleans’ Marc Becker shares a bit of historical wisdom – “The Mardi Gras season starts on the 12th night after Christmas (Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany), and continues to Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday.” www.neworleanshotelcollection.com
Mardi Gras entertaining at home
How to throw your Mardi Gras, courtesy of Craig Nielsen, CEO, of the Illinois-based Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, which make flavourings, such as the vanilla extract in the recipe, below. Even if you have never been to New Orleans, you can introduce the spirit of Mardi Gras into your home this year with these fun and festive party ideas:
Recipe: Mardi Gras Cocktail
Tall, smooth layered drink of purple, gold and green. It goes down easy, like in “Big Easy.” Take these ingredients and mix together to suit your own taste.
Purple Old New Orleans Crystal Rum (red and blue food colouring mixed together to make it purple)
Recipe: Vanilla Beignet Bites with Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam
(Yield 6 dozen)
¼ cup warm water
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract, such as Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon
3 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
In a small bowl, combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar; set aside to activate yeast. In a medium bowl, add butter, half-and-half and vanilla extract; stir and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs; set aside.
In a bowl of a free-standing electric mixer, add flour, sugar, salt and cardamom. Place bowl on mixer stand, which has been fitted with a dough hook. Turn mixer on low speed and combine dry ingredients. Turn mixer to medium speed then add activated yeast mixture. Add half-and-half mixture, then add the whisked eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary.
Dough will be slightly sticky. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead, about 2-3 minutes; adding additional flour only when needed. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
After dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead. Roll dough into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut dough into small rectangles, about 1 x ½-inch pieces. Heat oil to 375°F; carefully place dough in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds. Turn beignets so both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels; dust with Vanilla Powdered Sugar while bites are still warm. Dip Vanilla Beignet Bites in Nielsen-Massey’s signature Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam.