Mardi Gras Made Easy with Zatarain’s

This year Zatarain’s is throwing a nationwide Mardi Gras party on Fat Tuesday, February 16, with participants from all across the country, in hopes of setting the world record for largest Mardi Gras house party. Thousands of participants will be hosting Mardi Gras celebrations at home with their closest families and friends and I’m happy to be one of them. When Zatarain’s approached me about joining their party, I thought long and hard about if I wanted to participate and if my participation would be useful to my readers. After much consideration I decided to join in because:

  • I like Zatarain’s products and have cooked with them for years. As much as I’m a fan of from-scratch cooking, sometimes not everything can be from scratch and I feel good when I put their food on my table.
  • They are affiliated with John Besh, a chef that I respect and admire.
  • I wanted to take advantage of the group activity to learn more about how other celebrate Mardi Gras.

And just to keep the blogger police at bay, I want to disclose that Zatarain’s has sent me a party pack with some sample products, decorations, and other goodies, but I’m still supplying the majority of the food for this shindig. I’m not being compensated in any other way.

I’m in the midst of planning my party and realized that sharing my menu and ideas now might be helpful to anyone also planning a celebration for this weekend or next week. Because I’m throwing a weeknight party, I’ve tried to select recipes that are practical for having guests over on a school night. However, because I want to really offer a sampling of New Orleans-style flavors, my party menu is pretty extensive, featuring 10 items plus drinks. I’m not suggesting you do the same. Instead, I’ll point you at all of the recipes I’m making with relevant links and then include a couple of possible menus that show how to mix and match them.

My Mardi Gras Recipe Collection

As I selected these recipes I wanted to capture the essence of New Orleans cuisine, put a few new twists on some old favorites, and stay family-friendly. I’m also serving my menu buffet style so I chose dishes that would be easy to serve and eat. I toyed with the idea of making both gumbo and jambalaya, but time simply won’t allow for it. If gumbo is more your style, it’s a great substitute for the jambalaya on any menu.

  • Artichoke Dip with Crab and Creole Seasoning – I’m going to modify my guest-favorite artichoke dip by adding some jumbo lump crab and a little Creole seasoning to the blend. Look for a recipe for this one about a week after Fat Tuesday in my party recap. This dish holds beautifully over night and bakes about an hour before the party. I’m serving it with slices of bread and pita chips.
  • Creole Mustard Dip – This dip is a Creole-take on a traditional onion dip. I can also make it ahead and it will be a nice alternative for those who don’t like artichokes or who can’t eat shellfish.
  • Crudités – I always put fresh vegetables out on a buffet because they are familiar to folks and very kid-friendly. They also help to balance out the heavier dishes. I’ll probably put out some Ranch Dressing for the kids as well.
  • Roasted asparagus – Asparagus is always nice addition to a buffet table because it’s good warm or cold, and its richness stands up to heartier foods. I really like the simple preparation that Elise from Simply Recipes uses and I can pre-prep the asparagus several hours before the party and put it into roast just before guests arrive.
  • Sweet and Tangy Creole-Style Wings – This is a John Besh recipe that I can’t wait to serve. People love wings and this will be a new variation for them to try.
  • Spicy Mardi Gras Shrimp – It’s just not Mardi Gras without shrimp but some of my guests don’t eat them. For the rest that do, I’m offering an easy and flavorful make-ahead dish.
  • Jambalaya with Duck and Sausage – I’ll be modifying a Zatarain’s recipe to dress it up a little with duck and artisan Andouille sausage. This is a good example of how a couple of next-level ingredients can be combined with high-quality convenience foods like the Zatarain’s jambalaya mix to put a great dish on the table.
  • Root Beer Cupcakes – I didn’t realize that Zatarain’s started with a patent for root beer extract, so when I found out I thought it only appropriate to incorporate it into my menu somehow. I think these cupcakes will be fun and unexpected. I’m modifying a cake recipe to work as cupcakes to make serving dessert easier.
  • King Cake – It’s not Mardi Gras without King Cake. If I were having this party on a weekend I would make the cake myself, but because this is a weeknight party, I’m ordering a cake from a local bakery. If you want to make your own, Epicurious features John Besh’s King Cake recipe from his recently released My New Orleans cookbook.
  • Hurricanes – I’m not usually big on mixed drinks at parties because they are difficult to manage, but it’s just not Mardi Gras without a sweet and powerful hurricane. I’m using a recipe from Emeril that will be great for a crowd. I particularly like that it uses two different types of rum for depth of flavor.

Suggested Menu: Elegant New Orleans Supper

If you’d like to host an easy-yet-elegant dinner party on or around Fat Tuesday using recipes from this menu I’d recommend:

Appetizer

Artichoke Dip with Crab and Creole Seasoning

French Bread and Pita Triangles

Main Course

Jambalaya with Duck and Sausage or Gumbo

Roast Asparagus

Dessert

King Cake

Suggested Menu: Mardi Gras Cocktail Party

As the start to an evening or on Tuesday after work, consider celebrating the spirit of the holiday and New Orleans with sparkling wine, Hurricanes, and these nibbles:

Artichoke Dip with Crab and Creole Seasoning

Creole Mustard Dip

French Bread and Pita Triangles

Sweet and Tangy Creole-Style Wings

Spicy Mardi Gras Shrimp

Root Beer Cupcakes

What are you serving for Mardi Gras? Do you have any favorite recipes? Please share in the comments.

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