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Mardi Gras Cocktail Party
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 14053 times

Honoring the Holy Trinity - Mardi Gras Cocktail Party

Story and Photography by Lori Ross

Mardi Gras is the French term for "Fat Tuesday" -- the last day of the Mardi Gras carnival season and the final opportunity for celebration before Ash Wednesday and the austere season of Lent, a 40-day period historically marked by abstinence from meat and other indulgences by Catholics. Celebrated since the Middle Age, Mardi Gras is synonymous with indulgence in food, drink and fun. The French brought Mardi Gras with them to New Orleans, the capital of Mardi Gras in the U.S.   Cajun and Creole food abounds along with masked parties, parades, floats and the colors purple, gold and green. While February 20, 2007 is officially Mardi Gras Day, the carnival season – famous for parties and masked balls -- runs from January 6, 2007 (Twelfth Night) to February 20, 2007 (Mardi Gras).   Whether you get together during carnival season or not, you can celebrate the spirit of Fat Tuesday any time of year with a Mardi Gras Cocktail Party!

The Party Plan
Mardi Gras costume parties and masked balls are the highlight of the carnival season. While you may want to host a more casual party aboard your boat, consider inviting guests to wear costumes or masks to add to the fun. Encourage them to dress as pirates, jesters, harlequin clowns, Venetian lords and ladies, genies, gypsies and medieval characters.   At the party, choose a King and a Queen based on best costumes or best masks or just pick a King and Queen out of a hat and honor them by providing a prize! Unmask everyone later in the evening and see who all the mystery people are!! If costumes are a bit much, encourage guests to wear official Mardi Gras colors - purple, green, and gold to enhance the festive mood. 
 
Setting the Mood
Decorate in traditional Mardi Gras colors -- green, representing faith; gold symbolizing power; and purple denoting justice. If the weather cooperates, have cocktails under the stars. Trim the boat in fairy lights or Christmas tree lights in a mix of colors – red, blue, yellow and green are perfect for Mardi Gras and if they flash on and off, even better! Or light a few votives in colorful holders (purple, gold, green!) and have a few lanterns on buffet tables to make it easy for guests to see what they are eating. If you have the party indoors, dim your lights and decorate in colorful string lights shaped like chile peppers, flowers, Japanese lanterns or cylindrical accordion shades in Mardi Gras colors! Go to your local party store or http://www.partylights.com/ to find a wide range of lights.
 
Sprinkle tables with Mardi Gras beads and doubloons like the ones that are tossed to the crowds from the parade floats in New Orleans or place a gold, green or purple runner on your table. Hang decorated Mardi Gras masks, beads, streamers, or pirate-themed-booty in Mardi Gras colors. Wear beads, colorful feather boas and glittery hats! Hang a Mardi Gras flag– your guests will know they're at the right place when they see the crisp purple, green, and gold hanging at from your boat! Go to: http://mardigrasday.makesparties.com to order Mardi Gras themed masks, hats, boas, paper goods, beads and doubloons. 
 
Select and have ready at least 2 hours worth of Cajun or New Orleans jazz music such as:
  • Bayou Deluxe: The Best Of Michael Doucet & Beausoleil;
  • Best of Cajun: Traditional Songs
  • Best of Zachary Richard, or
  • Traditional New Orleans jazz music – such as clarinetists, Pete Fountain.
Go to www.amazon.com to find and listen to sample cuts from some of these CDs. 
 
Welcoming Your Guests
When guests arrive, welcome them by placing a strand or two of beads around their necks and get them into the Mardi Gras spirit by offering a traditional Mardi Gras drink. Offer guests a traditional Mardi Gras drink such as Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz or Mardi Gras Punch (with or without alcohol).  

 
Food
If your cocktail party will be followed by dinner (out or aboard), plan on 4-5 appetizers per person and 1-2 drinks per person. But, if your cocktail party doubles as dinner for most guests, plan on 10-15 servings of assorted appetizers per person and 2-4 drinks. Plan sufficient food or the cocktails might get a little out of hand (we all remember those parties!). 
 
Louisiana Creole Cuisine is a melting pot of flavors that developed in the area surrounding New Orleans. Creole was the name given to the first settlers, usually the second-born sons of aristocrats, who left France to seek adventure in the colonies and brought their traditional French cooking techniques and Mardi Gras with them. The word Creole also means "mixture," and reflects the influence of Native Americans, French, Spanish, Scots/Irish/English, Caribbean and African people who came to New Orleans in the late 1600s. Creole cooking is refined and complex, represented by such dishes as Oysters Rockefeller, Shrimp Remoulade and Bananas Foster relying more on butter, cream and expensive ingredients than Cajun cooking.
 
Cajun cuisine is the “country cooking” of Louisiana that established itself in the bayous and swamplands outside New Orleans in the late 1700s when French-speaking people from Acadia (Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritime provinces) were driven out by the British troops. Cajun, in fact, is the short version of the word “Acadian” – the term used to identify these immigrants. In general, Cajun food is characterized by simple preparation of inexpensive local ingredients such as rice (dirty rice), stews (gumbo, jambalaya), pork (sausage, pork fat) and local fish (catfish, redfish).
 
Both Cajun and Creole use the “Holy Trinity” of New Orleans cooking: green peppers, onions and celery and they both rely on roux -- simply flour cooked in fat, until it browns – to make flavorful sauces and add flavor and thickness to a dish. While cayenne pepper and hot chile peppers are used in both Cajun and Creole cuisine, the dishes are not usually very spicy. The advent of “blackened” dishes in the late 1970s and early 1980s gave both Creole and Cajun food the reputation of being hot and spicy, but traditional Cajun and Creole is piquant rather than scorching!  
 
Some of the popular Mardi Gras/Cajun dishes that lend themselves to cocktail fare include:
  • Cajun Spiced Pecans
  • Oysters en Brochette ( Angels on Horseback)
  • Creole Deviled Eggs
  • Creole Gravlax
  • Creole Shrimp Bread
  • Cajun Smoked Fish Terrine
  • South Louisiana Shrimp Rémoulade
  • Louisiana Crab Cakes
  • Hot Deviled Crab Dip
  • Spicy Cajun Meatballs
  • Chicken and Andouille Sausage Skewers with Creole sauce or Ravigote dipping sauces
While you may not want to make all these recipes for your party, make a few and supplement them with easy to prepare platters of cheeses, pates, raw vegetable or relish trays and dips or spreads that everyone enjoys. 
 
The King Cake
If you want to be really authentic, order a King Cake. On the Christian calendar, the twelfth day after Christmas (Twelfth Night) is known as the Epiphany or Kings Day because it is the day the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. The New Orleans tradition of starting carnival season on Kings Day, begun in the 1870s, borrows heavily from European customs. As part of the celebration of Mardi Gras, it is traditional to bake an oval wreath cake in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. The shape of a King Cake symbolizes the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors and small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is baked into each cake. King Cakes are sliced and served and each person searches for the baby (representing Jesus). Custom holds that the person who finds the baby in their slice becomes King /Queen for a day and will be rewarded with good luck for that year. The traditional King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, topped with icing, and sprinkled with purple, green, and gold colored sugar. Many additional varieties of King Cake are also available, with fillings such as cream cheese, strawberry, apple, and lemon.   To order an authentic King Cake, go to http://kingcakes.com.  Featured on Food Network's popular program "Unwrapped", Randazzo's Camellia City Bakery continues a long family tradition of hand made and braided king cakes. Alternatively, use the recipe below to make a very easy version – don’t forget to hide the baby in the cake!
 
End your party with café au lait and warm farewells of “Laissez les bon temps roulez!” (Let the good times roll!).
 
Recipes...
 
Sazerac Cocktail
In the late 18th century, a pharmacist, Antoine Amedee Peychaud invented this cocktail in New Orleans' famous French Quarter where he owned his shop. The original cocktail was a concoction of brandy, absinthe (now illegal because it was so addictive!) and bitters. Some historians say the term 'cocktail' came from a tiny French egg-cup called "coquetier" that was used to serve Sazerac cocktail.
 
2 oz Bourbon
Dash of bitters
1/4 oz Pernod
1 sugar cube
Garnish: Lemon peel 
Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
 
Ramos Gin Fizz 
Created in the late 1800's by Henry CUP Ramos in New Orleans, this drink became so popular that by the 1915 Mardi Gras celebration Ramos' thirty-five "shaker boys" could not keep up with demand.
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz powdered sugar
1/4 oz cream
3-4 dashes orange flower water or dash of orange juice
1/4 oz club soda
Place all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled wine glass. 
 
Mardi Gras Punch
This festive punch combines the traditional Mardi-Gras colors. It's equally delicious with or without the alcohol, just add more grape. Makes 8-9 quarts
5 cups grape juice
6 cups pineapple juice
2 liter bottle of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda
2 oranges
2 limes
1 fifth Vodka (optional) 
Slice oranges and limes in thin round slices. Set aside. In a punch bowl, add juices, then soda and (if desired) vodka. Float orange and limes slices on top and serve.
 
Each of the following makes 36 hors d’oeuvres unless otherwise indicated.
 
Angels on Horseback (Broiled Oysters Wrapped in Bacon)
This classic New Orleans Creole replaces scallops with oysters wrapped in bacon. 
36 raw oysters (shelled)
2 lb. sliced bacon (not thick sliced)
Wooden toothpicks
Wrap raw oyster with a piece of raw bacon and skewer with toothpick. Grilll or broil at high heat for 4-5 minutes til the bacon is crispy. Serve plain or with the cold ravigote vinaigrette.
 
Cajun spiced pecans 
2 tbsp butter
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp chile powder
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar (or other vinegar)
Makes 3 cups
Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the pecans and saute until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.   Add the brown sugar and cook until caramelized. Stir in the paprika, chile powder and cumin. Add the vinegar and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt. Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven until crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes.
 
Shrimp Bread
1 loaf French bread
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 cups(70–90 count) shrimp, peeled (small frozen peel shrimp work well)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1⁄3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1⁄3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Makes 5 large or 8-10 small servings
 
Slice French bread in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside of the loaf; set aside. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Blend in dry mustard and mayonnaise. Add cheeses and blend until melted. Spread shrimp mixture inside the bread then put halves back together. Butter the top of the loaf, wrap in foil and bake on a barbecue pit or in a 350F (175C) oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Cut bread into slices and serve hot. Yields 4 to 5 servings.
 
Recipe Variation: This recipe may be prepared substituting the shrimp with an equal amount of chicken, crab, crawfish, lobster, scallops, canned tuna or canned salmon.
 
Cajun smoked fish terrine 
1 pound smoked fish fillets
1 tbsp creole seasoning (Zatarains)
2 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill 
¼ cup mayonnaise
Thinly sliced lemons, garnish
Cocktail Rye or Pumpernickle bread
Makes 2 cups
 
In a large bowl, crumble the smoked fish. Add the horseradish, lemon juice, salt, and hot sauce, and stir to combine. Stir in the cream cheese, green onions, parsley, dill, and mayo. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. To serve, unwrap the terrine, place on a plate surrounded by rye or pumpernickel bread. Garnish with lemon wedges, capers and dill. 
 
Cajun Gravlax
1 tbsp each of orange juice, lemon juice and lime juice
2 tbsp kosher salt
Sprinkle of Creole Seasoning
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
1 -pound salmon, tuna, halibut, or other fish filet rinsed, and patted dry
1 tbsp each of chopped fresh basil, chives and dill (or other herb)
 Makes 10-12 servings
 
Combine the juice, salt, sugar, Creole seasoning and pepper in a bowl. In a plastic container large enough to hold the fish flat, about 9 by 13 inches, place the fish skin-side down in the and spread the salt and juice mixture and herbs over the flesh. Top one fillet with the other (flesh on flesh side) and wrap tightly in saran wrap then in plastic zip lock bag (empty air from bag, then close). Place weights or large heavy cans on the bag of fish to weight and press the fish. Let it cure in the refrigerator for 48 hours, turning once. Remove the weights, unwrap and rinse the remaining salt and herb mixtures from the fish for 1 minute then gently wipe dry with paper towels. Slice the salmon as thinly as possible across the grain a slight angle (to make the pieces look bigger). Arrange the slices decoratively on the platter. Serve with horseradish, capers and onions. Garnish with fresh dill or chives if you wish before serving.
 
 
Creole Deviled Eggs 
 
6 eggs, hard boiled, cooled, and peeled
 
1/4 cup mayonnaise
 
1 tsp Dijon mustard
 
1 tsp white vinegar
 
1 tsp chopped chives
 
Hot pepper sauce
 
Paprika
 
Salt and pepper
 
Serves 12
 
 
Place the cooked egg yolks in a bowl. Using a fork, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper into the yolks to form a smooth paste. Taste. Fill 12 egg halves with the filling. Top with paprika. Place attractively on a platter on lettuce leaves and garnish with herbs. Variation: Spicier Eggs: add 1 tsp chopped canned jalapeno peppers to yolk mixture.
 
Louisiana Deviled Crab Cakes
1 large egg
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Creole seasoning (Zatarains)
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ tsp salt (or more if you prefer)
1 lb. backfin crabmeat, picked over to remove shells
1 tbsp oil
 
Whisk together egg, mayonnaise, Creole spice and salt in a large bowl; pick crab for shells and add to bowl. Add 1/4 cup crumbs. Gently mix crab mixture with your hands (so you don’t break up lump backfin pieces) then form into 6-8 cakes Dredge cakes in remaining breadcrumbs. Heat oil in 12” skillet over moderate heat, then cook crab cakes, on medium high. Turn after 3-4 minutes and turn heat to low. Cook another 5-8 minutes until golden brown. Serve with: Sauce Remoulade, cocktail or tartar sauce and lemon wedges.
 
 
Louisiana Crab Dip
 
8-ounce package cream cheese
½cup sour cream
3 tbsps horseradish
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsps Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
1 lb backfin or claw crabmeat
Makes about 2 cups of dip.
 
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, horseradish, parsley, mustard, and TABASCO® Sauce in an oven proof bowl and mix well. Gently stir in crabmeat. Heat in oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbling or heat in microwave for 3-4 minutes on high or until hot.    Serve with warm crab dip with raw vegetables and crackers or sliced french bread.
 
 
Shrimp Remoulade
2 lbs. large shrimp (fresh or frozen, uncooked or cooked) or 36 shrimp
Boil 2 lbs. fresh or frozen large shrimp in ¼ cup of water and a pinch of salt for 3-5 minutes until shrimp just turn pink (do not overcook). Take off heat, drain and plunge shrimp in cold water. Peel shrimp.   If you have frozen cooked shrimp, defrost for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator, rinse and drain well. Chill shrimp until ready to serve. Make Sauce Remoulade Serve shrimp in a shallow bowl with a small bowl of dipping sauce. Guests can use toothpicks to pick and dip shrimp in sauce.
 
Sauce Rémoulade
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp lime juice
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 to 3 tbsp onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 clove garlic, minced
 
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour to blend flavors. Serve chilled.
 
 
Spicy Cajun Meatballs
2 lb. small meatballs, frozen cooked or homemade*
 
Spicy Sauce:
¼ cup butter
½ cup ketchup
½ cup barbecue sauce
1 tbsp minced jalapeño or other hot peppers
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp Creole mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp salt (or more to taste)
dash of Louisiana hot sauce (or more if you like it hot!)
¼ cup chopped parsley
 
In a 14-inch sauté pan, whisk together ketchup, barbecue sauce, jalapeños, brown sugar, cane syrup and vinegar. Add mustard, Worcestershire, salt and hot sauce. Continue to whisk until ingredients begin to simmer. Place cooked meatballs into sauce, reduce heat to simmer and cook 15–20 minutes. Sprinkle in fresh parsley. Transfer meatballs and sauce to a chafing dish and serve hot. 
Note: This also makes a wonderful barbeque sauce (with or without hot sauce)!
 
Cajun Meatballs:
½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground pork
¼ cup minced onions
¼ cup minced celery
¼ cup minced red bell peppers
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 eggs
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
pinch of thyme
pinch of basil
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
 
Method:
In a large mixing bowl, combine meats, onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and eggs. Using your hands, blend all ingredients well. Season to taste using salt, pepper, thyme, basil and hot sauce. Continue to mix until seasonings are well blended. Mix in bread crumbs. Shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs and sauté in 2-3 Tbsps olive oil until nicely browned.
 
Chicken or Shrimp and Andouille Sausage on Skewers
4 boneless chicken breast halves cut into 36 1” cubes or 36 medium or large shrimp
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Creole seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb. andouille or other spiced sausage (kielbasa)
36 (10-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water
 
Preheat grill to medium. In a plastic food storage bag, combine crushed garlic, lemon juice, Cajun seasoning and olive oil. Add chicken and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Slice the andouille into 36 (1/2-inch) diagonally cut slices. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Thread 1 piece of sausage and 1 pieces of chicken on each skewer.. Grill or broil on medium turning once until chicken is cooked (4-5 minutes). Serve skewers with Creole Mayonnaise or Ravigote Sauce (a spicy vinaigrette).
 
Variation: This recipe may be prepared by substituting the andouille with Kielbasa or other sausage. 
 
 
Creole Mayonnaise
 
1 cup mayonnaise (homemade is terrific!)
 
½ tsp Creole seasoning (e.g. Zatarains or Emeril’s)
 
1/3 cup Creole mustard or (1/3 cup mustard blended with 2 Tbsps horseradish)
Combine mustard, and mayonnaise with Creole seasoning. Refrigerate 1-2 hours to develop flavors.
 
Sauce Ravigote
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp dried mustard
1 small glove garlic, pressed
1 tsp each chopped onion, capers and dill pickle (cornichons are great!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (ideally a mixture of parsley, tarragon, chives)
Add everything to a screw top jar and shake vigorously for about a minute. May be stored for 1-2 weeks, tightly covered in refrigerator.   Serve as dipping sauce for skewers or as a dip for vegetables.
 
Quick King Cake Recipe from http://www.holidays.net/mardigras/cake.htm
 
1 can of cinnamon rolls, with icing
3/4 cup of sugar, separated into 3 parts of 1/4 each
red, purple and green food coloring or sugar sprinkles
 
Separate the cinnamon rolls and roll them out by hand so that they look like a hot dog. Shape the roll into an oval, pinch the ends together, and place on a cookie sheet. Cook as directed. While they are cooking, use food coloring to dye sugar. Make one part purple using blue and red, one part green, and one part gold using yellow. When they are finished cooking, ice the tops with the white icing. Sprinkle the different colors of sugars alternating as you go around the oval. 





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