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Mad for Mardi Gras

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You really haven't experienced Mardi Gras until you've been in the Big Easy during the festivities. In this city, where every day of the year is a culinary extravaganza, Carnival ups the ante with an extravagant parade, outrageous costumes, numerous balls, and partying in the streets that centers around so much drink and food, that the austerity of Lent arrives almost as a welcome relief. Creole and Cajun cuisine is on display at its finest during Mardi Gras, but you don't need to travel to the Crescent City to enjoy the food—here are some delicious ways to do so at home.

1. Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

There are about as many versions of a pot of gumbo as there are cooks who make it, and this is merely one take on the legendary dish. But one thing all good gumbos have in common is a roux - a blend of flour and oil cooked until an amber brown color. The unmistakably rich, nutty flavor that it adds to the soup/stew sets it apart from the ordinary.

Check out the step-by-step instructions and photos for this gumbo recipe.More »

2. Jambalaya with Brown Rice

This jambalaya recipe is an easy, delicious version of one of America's great dishes. Jambalaya is soul food at its finest - hearty, satisfying, and deeply comforting. There are many variations of this Creole classic, but this sausage and shrimp version is my favorite jambalaya recipe.

The brown rice adds a great texture and nutty flavor, as well as raising the nutritional level of the dish.More »

3. Shrimp Creole

Shrimp creole is a southern classic. Don't be daunted by the number of ingredients in this recipe. They're not exotic and they take little time to prepare. Serve this heart-healthy dish on its own or ladled over rice. For some extra heat, add more hot pepper sauce.More »

4. New Orleans Pain Perdue

This is not your typical French toast recipe. This is New Orleans-style French toast, made using thick slices of bread soaked in a custard batter, and after being browned lightly in a pan, they're baked golden brown.

"Pain Perdu" means "lost bread," and this recipe was a scrumptious solution for what to do with those stale loaves of bread that were about to be "lost." This recipe is just one of the countless French-influenced dishes of New Orleans, and one of the most deliciousMore »

5. Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

These red velvet cupcakes will make quite an impression with their great taste and unusual color. Red velvet cake is well known in the American South, and there are as many different recipes as there are stories about this unique cake's origins.More »

6. Banana Bread Pudding

A renown Crescent City dessert, nothing says comfort more than this banana bread pudding. Created as a way to use up stale bread, this decadent dessert has it all ― a creamy, warm, custardy texture filled with spiced banana. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream to make a good thing even better.More »

7. Café Brülot

Prepared tableside in local restaurants with equal parts grace and theater, the coffee features flambéed brandy, citrus peel and spices, mixed with hot coffee. For authenticity, serve it straight, without milk or a whipped cream garnish.More »
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