It’s Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, LA which means visitors will be swarming to this amazing city for the parades, music and food. This has prompted me to share my list of Top Ten Things that you absolutely must try when visiting the Big Easy. I originally put this list together for the website top10thingsto.com.
Gumbo is best described as a stew that is served over rice. It’s base is usually made from a powder called filé (fee-lay) and typically includes okra, bell pepper, celery, and onion.
A variety of meats are added including chicken, sausage, shrimp and/or oyster. No two gumbo’s are the same and each have their own unique flavor.
Similar to gumbo in that it is a type of stew that is served over rice.
Étouffée (pronounced eh-too-fey) is thicker and has a much different flavor. There are two kinds, Crawfish Étouffée and Shrimp Étouffée. Unlike gumbo, this dish can be eaten with a fork.
You can’t come to New Orleans without trying a Po-Boy. Any restaurant worth its salt will have this on their menu so there’s simply no excuse. Served on traditional French bread, these one-of-a-kind sandwiches can be stuffed with many types of food.
Some common Po-Boys include fried seafood (shrimp, oyster, crawfish), hot sausage, and roast beef with brown gravy. If you order it “dressed” expect mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickle.
New Orleanians love their rice and that becomes apparent when you order jambalaya, a traditional seasoned rice dish that is served with chicken, sausage, shrimp or a variety of the three.
There are two types of jambalaya; cajun and creole. Cajun jambalaya is typically more spicy while creole jambalaya is made with a tomato base and is more mild.
Some like their oysters fried, some like them raw. Either way, New Orleans is the place to get your fix. There are no shortage of oyster bars in the big easy and you can expect them fresh and plentiful wherever you choose to enjoy them. Rest assured, there will be plenty of hot sauce and saltine crackers nearby.
People in New Orleans look forward to crawfish season (between February and May) like others look forward to Christmas. This is when family and friends gather under carports and in backyards to boil these tiny crustaceans with plenty of cajun seasoning.
Everyone puts different things in their boiling pot but some typical items are sausage, potato, corn, garlic, onion and mushroom. Be warned these these little critters can pack a big punch so make sure you have some water nearby.
Red Beans and Rice
Everyone in New Orleans knows that Monday is Red Beans and Rice day. Many moons ago, Monday was “wash day” and because washing clothes was a timely event this was an easy dish that would simmer for hours without needing much attention.
Even today, red kidney beans are immersed in water with sausage or ham and seasoned; then left to slowly cook. When done, it is served over rice and served with corn bread if you’re lucky. If you’re not in town on a Monday, don’t fret because you can find this delicious dish any day of the week in many restaurants in around town.
This dish is made of white rice and traditionally cooked with chicken liver or giblets which darkens the rice. Many believed the meat made the rice look dirty and the name “dirty rice” was born. A variety of other seasonings including bell pepper, celery and onion are also used to add flavor to this rice dish.
A mirliton (pronounced mill-a-ton) is a green squash-like vegetable and can be stuffed many different ways. First, you boil the vegetable and remove the seeds and pulp. Then you use the pulp to make a stuffing.
The stuffing can be made many different ways but ground beef, onion, celery and bell pepper are common. Once the mirliton’s are stuffed you sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and bake. You may have a hard time finding this dish in many restaurants. Growing up, I only ever had stuffed mirliton’s at Thanksgiving and still look forward to them every year.
This massive sandwich is a gem of Cajun-Italian fusion. The best place to buy a Muffaletta is at the very establishment that created it back in 1906, Central Grocery on Decatur Street. This is a food best split between two people considering an entire round loaf of Italian bread is piled high with Genoa salami, Cappicola ham and Provolone cheese.
Olive salad (a blend of green olives, pimientos, celery, garlic, cocktail onions, capers, oregano, parsley, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt and pepper) tops off this mouth-watering monster.
Want to see my Top 10 Sweet Treats to try in the Big Easy? Click here.