Celebrate the flavors of Mardi Gras
When people think Mardi Gras, they usually think “party.” There is some history behind this tradition. Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday,” and is another term for Shrove Tuesday. In the Catholic calendar, Shrove Tuesday marks the end of the Carnival period, which stretches from Twelfth Night to Ash Wednesday and leads into the fasting time of Lent. It has long been a day set aside to indulge. So, whether you are a Catholic or not, it’s a great excuse to let loose and enjoy food and drink.
New Orleans is the place to be
When Mardi Gras happens on March 5 this year, people will party all over the world, often under different names: Italy’s celebration is Giovedí Grasso; in Sweden, it is called Fettisdaggen; Carnival in Brazil; the Fetter Donnerstag takes place in Germany; the Czech Republic has Masopust; and France has the original Mardi Gras. But for most people, the idea of Mardi Gras conjures up only one place: New Orleans.
Each year the Big Easy swells from a city of 400,000 to many times its size as 1.4 million revelers descend upon its crowded streets for parades, dancing, parties, beads, and trinkets. They eat and drink their way through a city famous for its culinary scene!
We can’t all make the trip to Bourbon Street or St. Charles Avenue, but we can bring the New Orleans vibe home with us through Mardi Gras-inspired food and drink. All with your Instant Pot, of course.
Here are the essential elements of any Mardi Gras celebration to help you enjoy some Creole flair and “laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll):
1. King Cake
The royal cake named after the three kings who visited baby Jesus after his birth is a tradition of Mardi Gras. Traditionally decorated with green, purple, and gold icing sugar, a small plastic toy in the shape of a baby — representing baby Jesus — is baked into the cake.
The lucky reveler who finds the toy baby in their slice is said to have good luck. They are also expected to throw the next Mardi Gras party – King Cake included!
Instant Tip: It is not recommended to cook a toy inside the King Cake in your Instant Pot. Instead, use it as a decoration or tuck it under the dessert.
Jambalaya is the Creole cousin to Spanish paella, which is cooked in cast-iron pots over a wood fire. To give Jambalaya its distinct color and flavor, Louisiana tomatoes replace saffron. Now an extremely popular dish in many NOLA restaurants, people also make it for weddings, church bazaars, and family reunions.
Typically, it takes hours in the slow cooker but the Instant Pot’s pressure cooking technique dramatically cuts down the cooking time.
If you want the full Mardi Gras experience, you’ve gotta have crawfish on the menu. When the first Acadians arrived in Louisiana from Canada, they looked for an alternative to the familiar seafood they left behind in the Maritimes. Crawfish were abundant in the still waters called the bayous, and they remain a staple in the area.
We know that real crawfish aren’t commonly available everywhere, but you can make do with lobster, crab, or shrimp.