Mardi Gras is here! Even though I’ve traded my Bourbon Street beads and late-night reveries for bath-time bubbles and diaper changes, that doesn’t mean I can’t explore this early spring tradition through the everlasting connection of good food. This week, I’ll be enjoying authentic, New Orleans-style treats both savory and sweet in our markets. Join me!
Culinary Goes for Authentic Experience
When someone says “Cajun cooking,” I immediately picture a Louisiana bayou, blackened shrimp sprinkled with red chili peppers, or watching chef and Louisiana-native Justin Wilson utter his famous “I gar-on-tee!” catchphrase on PBS when I was a kid. But I can’t say I’ve actually eaten a lot of Cajun-style cooking.
That’s why I’m so exciting about our Cajun Cuisine Menu that’s rolling into our Delis THIS WEEK – just in time for Mardi Gras. It’s a great opportunity to explore the Spanish- and French-inspired flavors of New Orleans in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday March 5.
Our Culinary team dug deep to bring you real Southern-style flavors and authentic recipes, including chicken gumbo, hushpuppies, fried catfish, catfish po’ boys, savory shrimp jambalaya, and the muffuletta sandwich — a 1906, New Orleans original! Plus, so much more.
“We’ve experimented with these types of recipes before,” said Kurt Strep, our Kitchen Specialist. “But we have a bigger team this time around, and we really did the research to create this menu. We asked ourselves, ‘What does it mean to be authentic? How should we cook the shrimp in our jambalaya? What’s the exact right rice to use in our dirty rice recipe?’ Questions like that. I think we did it right.”
Obviously, he’s a big fan of everything on the menu — he helped create it. But he believes, with all the smoked sausage, and savory, tender rice and veggies, the jambalaya is the rock star and uniquely Cajun. “With those flavors and all the shrimp and ham, it’s really the heart of the menu. Of course, the catfish po’ boys are really fantastic, too. It’s hard to choose.”
They say the devil’s in the details, and these recipes are about more than just the right spices. “I think the key is really the reductions,” Kurt explained while describing how the team fine-tuned the recipes. “We cook everything just right so that you keep the bold flavors but don’t make everything mushy and wet.”
The menu is so overflowing with food that some of our markets couldn’t carry it all! So be sure to check in to your local Town & Country or Central Market Deli and explore their unique Cajun cuisine lineup. Whether you crave something a little different for lunch on the-go this week, or you’re strapped for time but still want to treat the family to something fun for Mardi Gras, give our Cajun Menu a try. You’ll find something delicious – I gar-on-tee it!
If you want to try your hand at some Cajun-style meals for the fam, may I suggest our recipe for New Orleans Jambalaya(we also have a “Classic Jambalaya”recipe but fair warning – it is a much more ambitious undertaking than the first recipe I mentioned).
In fact, I just did a quick search in the recipe section of our website and turns out, we have quite a few recipes that are Cajun-inspired:
- Cajun Frittata
- Cajun Shrimp with Andouille Sausage over Rice
- Cajun Rice
- Cajun Chicken Sauté
- Cajun Lentil Soup
- Cajun Corn Sauté
- Red Beans and Rice
A Sweet Slice of 1,000-Year-Old Tradition
I’ve got one more Mardi Gras-inspired treat for you — the illustrious, colorful King Cake! Our Central Market Poulsbo Bakery began crafting this old-school New Orleans dessert about two years ago. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from southern transplants who say it’s pretty close to what they had back home. So we’re bringing it back to all of our markets.
King Cake is a European tradition dating back to the 12th century. It’s intended to celebrate the three wise men in the 12 days after Christmas, in what’s called the “Feats of the Epiphany” or “King’s Day,” which occurs in January and is the actual beginning of the Mardi Gras season (though technically the term Mardi Gras refers only to Fat Tuesday, which is March 5 this year).” But back to the cake – in the early days, a bean, pea or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who got the piece with the hidden trinket was declared King for the day or was said to have good luck for the coming year.
In 2019, we just call it delicious, and we love taking part in this good luck tradition. These delicious, hand-made cakes (thanks Holly!) will only be available until March 5, so get a taste of Mardi Gras tradition while you can.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
BIG JOHN’S CAJUN:From Beehive Creamery, a family-owned operation in Utah. They partnered with Salt Lake chef John Dearmin to create a rub for this cheese that packs a punch. They ditched the fillers, like paprika. It’s all peppers and sweet heat.
It’s so much fun to add Big John’s to a cheese board, especially as thoughts turn to spicy Cajun foods to celebrate Mardi Gras. Try this paired with a fruity chutney to cut the heat and drink with a fruity wheat beer. Slice onto a burger for that extra layer of flavor or simply snack on cubes to curb midday tummy growls.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.