We’re thrilled that our 2022 Project House is in Minden, Louisiana. So thrilled, that we feel like throwing a party. A Louisiana-style Mardi Gras party!
I’ve had a lot of fun in my life. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had has been in Louisiana. When I can’t make it to Cajun Country or NOLA during Mardi Gras season, my husband and I serve up a lil’ bit of Louisiana right here at home for our family and friends.
Mardi Gras season always starts on the twelfth day of Christmas: Epiphany. And it ends on the last day before Lent begins. Like Easter, “Fat Tuesday” moves around on the calendar every Spring. This year, Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, March 1st. So, we’ve all got plenty of time to ‘let the good times roll’ with family and friends. Or as the Cajuns say, “Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!” To which we all answer, “Oui, cher!” Which means, “Yeah, you right!”
3 Simple Mardi Gras Recipes
At first glance and in all its variety, Louisiana cuisine might see intimidating. “Make a roux?” What?
If you wish, you can master high-level, low-and-slow skills by watching videos by folks like Ralph the Baker and Isaac Toups.
But a delicious Mardi Gras meal doesn’t have to be complicated. One of the best cooks I ever learned from was my late mother-in-law, Jane Bonin. Sure, she could cook complicated. But her best dishes were amazingly simple.
Her red beans and rice recipe is cheap, delicious, and simple enough for even a 24-year-old Texas gal to make. Thirty years later, I still make it. On Mardi Gras and throughout the year. I remember her and hope her vivacious spirit is partying right along with the revelers below.
You can double this recipe easily if you’re expecting a crowd.
Jane Bonin’s Red Beans & Rice Recipe
For each pound of dried red beans that you use (such as these or these), you’ll need about one pound of seasoning meat. You can use sausage, ham hocks, or “anything porky or smoky,” as she wrote in her notes.
For one pound of dried beans and seasoning meat …
Red Beans & Rice Ingredients
1 large, chopped onion
1 toe of chopped garlic
8-10 cups of water
1 large bay leaf, or 2 small bay leaves.
Red Beans & Rice, Step by Step
Rinse and sort beans in a colander or strainer. Remove bad beans. (Bad beans will look shriveled. Or just a little “off.”
Cook seasoning meat in a stovetop-safe dutch oven or stewpot until the far is liquid enough to fry onions in.
TIP: If you’re using lean meat like turkey sausage, you may have to add a little olive oil to help to liquify the fat. If you wish to have vegetarian beans, you can skip the seasoning meat and simply heat the olive oil. For vegetarian red beans and rice, Emile recommends you use vegetable broth instead of water and consider adding liquid smoke.
Remove cooked sausage and set aside.
Into the fat still in the dutch oven, dump in the onions and garlic mixture. Cook over medium heat until limp. (About 10 minutes.)
Add 8-10 cups of water, the rinsed beans, the cooked sausage and the bay leaf.
Bring to a gentle boil.
As soon as the bean mixture begins to boil, reduce heat on your stovetop to simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 2-3 hours.
TIP: If you prefer not to watch a stovetop carefully, put the bean mixture into a slow cooker once you’ve brought it to a boil and cook for 2-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
When beans are tender, reduce stovetop heat to lowest setting.
Remove 1-2 tablespoons of beans from pot. Mash them well and return to main pot to make your bean mixture creamier.
Add salt to taste. If you used salty meat like ham to start the beans, taste them first and add the salt slowly at the end to avoid adding in too much.
Add 2-3 “good shakes” of Tabasco sauce. Add a few more if you like them spicy.
The Easiest Way to Make King Cake
For a classic Louisiana dessert, serve King Cake. Ralph the Baker’s video shows you how to make King Cake from scratch, so if you’re an experienced baker, I recommend checking that out.
If you want a foolproof path to your first King Cake, check out this simple mix with easy-to-follow instructions. Once, I got busy and assigned the task of mixing up the King Cakes to my 17-year-old. He didn’t follow instructions very well, and the cake came out fabulous anyway. You can make the dough in a stand mixer or hand mix and knead it in a big plastic bag that comes with the kit.