The absolute best Tuesday of the year is coming in just a few days on February 12th. It’s “Fat Tuesday” which is also known as “Mardi Gras,” and is one of the oldest and wildest celebrations on the planet. If there was ever a reason to throw a party, this is it! So, what are the best ways to let the good time roll? Gordo’s Cheese Dip is a part of every successful Mardi Gras party and we have everything you need to know right here.
First of all, if you’re planning to celebrate Mardi Gras, you should know a little bit about the holiday. For a celebration that includes massive amounts of food, drink, crazy masks, outlandish clothing, millions of strings of beads and general debauchery, Mardi Gras based on a religious event. Mardi Gras and Carnival season begin on or after Epiphany and culminate on the day before Ash Wednesday in the Catholic religion. The French words Mardi gras literally translate to “Fat Tuesday” and this refers to the practice of on the last night eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins the next day on Ash Wednesday.
If you’re Catholic, Mardi Gras is a part of getting ready for the sacrifices of Lent. However, if you’re NOT Catholic, you can celebrate Fat Tuesday, not to mention the two weeks of parties before, and not have to deal with that pesky challenge of giving up stuff for Lent. Win/Win!
Throw Me Some Beads!
The most important thing to remember about putting together a Mardi Gras celebration is to focus on the outlandish. While this is not a problem for some of you – and you know who you are – some people are actually shy and can’t walk down Bourbon Street wearing nothing but a giant feather mask. The essentials of a successful Mardi Gras party include:
- Rich, delicious food (remember, it called “Fat Tuesday”)
- Copious amounts of exotic beverages
- Scary, funny or silly masks and costumes
- As many strings of Mardi Gras beads as you can afford to buy for your guests
Weird Human Nature Sidebar: It boggles the mind how important cheap, multi-colored beads become on Mardi Gras day. Otherwise sane men and women will do almost anything – and you know who you are and what you’ll do – to get a string of beads. Once they get a string tossed their way, they then put these beads around their neck with the other hundred strings that they already have there and begin the begging process for more beads. In the cold, hard light of day on Ash Wednesday, they look over in the corner at the hundreds of strings of beads that they collected and think, “Where did all of those silly beads come from?”
If you looking for a great source for Mardi Gras beads, Doubloons (to toss at your unworthy subjects as you glide by them) and amazing masks for your guests, the best online store for these essentials is www.acccentannex.com. You can also find these knick knacks at party stores.
You Gotta Have a Theme
If you’re planning a Mardi Gras party, it’s not enough to put up a couple of purple and gold streamers and mumble something in French. No my friend. You need a theme for this austere event and the more outlandish the better. Here are a few ideas for Mardi Gras themes:
- A New Orleans Jazz Club
- A costume party from a specific era (the 1920’s, 1950’s, etc)
- A Carnival or New Orleans parade scene
- Laissez les bon temps rouler (anything goes)
Each of these themes can involve appropriate music and decorations (particularly the Jazz Club theme), food, invitations, party favors and exotic drinks. By the way, here’s an easy recipe for the classic New Orleans drink, the Hurricane:
These are ingredients for one cocktail. If you’re making a batch by the pitcher, multiply the ingredients by the number of people who will be drinking this batch:
- 2 oz light rum
- 2 oz dark rum
- 2 oz passion fruit juice
- 1 oz orange juice
- Juice of a half a lime
- 1 Tbsp simple syrup
- 1 Tbsp grenadine
- Orange slice and cherry for garnish
- Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.
- Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
- Shake well.
- Strain into a hurricane glass.
- Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Easy Mardi Gras Food
The most important part of any Mardi Gras party is the food. The hostess must make sure that there’s LOTS of it in order to absorb the copious amount of beverages (see above). Unless you happen to be fabulously wealthy, it’s also important that this food is simple enough to prepare, serve and keep warm that you don’t need a world class chef in the kitchen taking care of it. Here are a few easy recipes for your Mardi Gras party:
Gumbo is the classic New Orleans dish and it works well for parties because you can make a large pot of this wonderful stew and dish it out throughout the evening. Here’s a simple recipe for shrimp gumbo that anyone can make and everyone will like:
- 12 slices bacon (about 1/2 pound)
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
- About 2 pounds of peeled shrimp
- About 2 pounds of cooked andouille sausage
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon file powder,
- 1 1/4 cups rice
- In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Drain off all but 1/4 cup bacon fat and return the skillet to the heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, shrimp, sausage, tomato paste, jalapeno and 1 cup water and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Whisk in the file powder; remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/4 cups salted water to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serve the gumbo over the rice and crumble the bacon on top.
Be sure and have lots of French bread to dip in the Gordo’s Hot Cheese Dip.
Fat Tunes for Fat Tuesday
Music is an important part of your Mardi Gras party. Some people like Dixieland music and some hate it. If you like it, any of the “Preservation Hall” CD’s found on Amazon will be great. If you hate Dixieland but love New Orleans funk, the Big Dipper suggests CD’s from any of these artists for your party:
- The Neville Brothers
- Professor Longhair
- Marcia Ball
- Irma Thomas
- Trombone Shorty
- The Subdudes
- The Radiators
Let the Good Times Roll
One of the great things about a Mardi Gras party is that it can go on for days…so long as it ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday. We suggest getting started about Friday afternoon, party on through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, get your second wind and party on through Tuesday. You’re gonna need a lot of liquid refreshment and cases of Gordo’s Cheese Dip. But hey, Mardi Gras only happens once a year so laissez les bon temps rouler! Et toi!
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Tulane Public Relations