It's that time of year again, when New Orleans transforms from its usual hard-partying city into the hardest of partying cities for Mardi Gras, and food blogs recommend you get into the spirit by cooking up some Louisiana specialties like gumbo, jambalaya and king cake. Except … what exactly are these regional dishes, and why should you care enough to make them yourself? Click through for a breakdown (and recipes), dish by dish, of why you want to join in on this food fun.
Here's what you really need to know: These guys are basically doughnuts.
If you want to get a little more involved, they're made with deep-fried choux paste, which differs from a traditional yeast-based doughnut dough because it relies on moisture in the dough to create steam as the leavening agent, rather than yeast.
Again, what you need to know: They're delicious, and traditionally served alongside…
Originally used as a cheap way to boost coffee during the Civil War when the bean was scarce, chicory is still blended into coffee because it tastes good, and, well, it's tradition. But what exactly is it? The root of endive lettuce, believe it or not, which is then roasted and ground to soften the bitter edge of dark coffee.
Basically small lobsters, crawfish are commonly boiled and served with corn and potatoes as a community feast.
Gumbo can be as varied as chili, but in New Orleans, it's typically a Creole-spiced stew, full of bold Cajun flavors and shellfish and thickened with a dark brown roux, a blend of butter and flour. It's commonly served over rice.
Like the Creole version of paella, jambalaya is a rice dish that can have many variations. The most common in New Orleans is with chicken and Andouille, a smoked pork sausage.
Specific to the Mardi Gras celebration, king cake takes its name from the biblical three kings. It's a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough topped with purple, green and gold icing. Hidden somewhere inside is a plastic baby, and whoever lands that slice is supposed to host the king cake party next year.
Muffuletta is the Italian sub sandwich of the South made with round Sicilian sandwich bread and stuffed with marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham and provolone. The sandwich is then weighted down for a few hours to let the flavors mingle.
Shortened from "poor boy," a po' boy is also a sub-style sandwich, instead stuffed with roast beef or fried seafood, like oysters or shrimp, and garnished with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayonnaise.