As if there isn’t already enough reasons to celebrate in February, Mardi Gras steps in and wraps up the month with a festive twist on menu and decorations. Mardi Gras translated means Fat Tuesday, or the last opportunity to eat rich food before the fast of Lent begins.
In my part of the country, February can be a little dreary, so I welcome a party to keep my mind off the weather until glorious spring arrives, and let me tell you any reason will do. It occurred to me, February presents more reasons to host a party than any other month of the year, and while it’s not widely recognized unless you live near The Big Easy, Mardi Gras offers a triple crown when it comes to party themes: great food, festive decorations, and music that will keep the party going.
Here we go:
New Orleans hosts a plethora of ideas for great cuisine, along with some pretty fabulous chefs, so you won’t have a hard time coming up with a menu. If you’d like a little help I tried something new this year, Grillades and Grits. It’s comforting, rich food and best of all translates well the next day for brunch or lunch. Traditionally it’s served with grits for breakfast or brunch, then with rice for dinner. It was excellent as a one pot dinner, and perfect the next day with fried eggs for brunch.
The only tool I highly recommend is a enameled cast iron dutch oven. The meat sears beautifully and the oil splatter is minimal on your stove. If you don’t already own one grab one here and choose from ten colors.
Grillades and Grits
1.5 lbs top round steak cut into 1” slices
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use Emeril’s Rustic Rub. Recipe found here)
5 Tbs grape seed oil (divided)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
14.5 oz can low sodium beef broth
14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes (undrained)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
Parsley (fresh or dried)
Best Ever Grits
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 cup quick grits
2 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cut Cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
On a cutting board, slice steak into thin strips and place in a large plastic bag with flour and Cajun seasoning. Shake to coat evenly. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add steak browning on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile in the same pan add a little more oil to pan and cook vegetables stirring often to remove loose bits from bottom of the pan. Stir in broth and tomatoes, then add next four ingredients. Add the steak back in, turn to medium low and simmer covered for one hour.
Meanwhile make the grits. Bring water and milk to a boil. Add salt and grits stirring until combined. Turn to low and cook for five minutes. Turn off heat, add butter and cheese. Stir to combine. Cover until ready to serve.
To plate, add a scoop of grits to a bowl and add the meat mixture over top. Garnish with parsley.
You just can’t have Mardi Gras without a King Cake.
Well, it’s pastry-like, cinnamon sugar goodness mixed with the warm aroma of baking bread is the perfect dessert for a spicy dish. But also this beautiful cake added to your table serves as a festive centerpiece. Beads and coins give it some flare. I bet all the ingredients are easily found in your pantry too, but I had trouble running around finding the accoutrements:the colorful sugars and plastic baby, so save yourself some gas and grab it here. I chose this combination because it comes with a plastic baby in tow. Add a bit of tradition and let your guests know— the one who gets the piece with the baby is hosting next year, but warn them too. We don’t want to be responsible for a choking hazard.
So there you go, everything you need for a great celebration. Oh yeh, grab your phone, pull up some Jazz, Blues, and Zydeco on Spotify and you have a party!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Hugs out! Laura