New Year’s Eve celebrations were sooooo three weeks ago. And it can be a bit awkward to host a Valentine’s Day party past the age of twelve (single friends, married friends, friends with kids, friends without kids – it’s just too complicated).
So what’s a girl, who loves any excuse to throw a (themed) dinner party, to do during those boring winter weeks before St. Patrick’s day rolls around?
Host a Mardi Gras dinner, of course!
Now, don’t be intimidated – with a little prep work, this is a super simple, family style dinner party you’ll enjoy! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Decor and favors are one in the same! Beads are synonymous with Mardi Gras, and make great party favors as well as decor (and they’re inexpensive – check these out on Amazon). Drape strands of beads over centerpieces, picture frames, and between serving dishes for a festive look. When the night is over, send your guests away with full bellies and festive favors!
Keep it simple and serve family style. Most great cajun and creole dishes are meant to serve large groups, so do just that – serve in colorful, mismatched bowls in the middle of your table for easy access (bonus – no need for a centerpiece!). The less matchy-matchy here the better – Mardi Gras is full of color and personality. Your local Goodwill store has some great serving dishes that are sure to have your guests asking where you found that awesome piece!
- Many dishes, similar ingredients. As you plan your dinner menu you’ll quickly discover that many cajun and creole dishes have very similar ingredients, which makes grocery shopping and prep much easier. The holy trinity of cajun cooking is onions, celery, and bell peppers, and most dishes (étouffée, gumbo, red beans and rice, and jambalaya) all use these same ingredients. Buy, and prep, in bulk to save time and money.
- Don’t over cook, or over complicate. Cajun and creole dishes are, as my momma would say, “stick to your ribs” dishes – often filling and rich in flavor. By serving family style, and hosting a dinner party (as opposed to a party with finger foods), one or two main dishes goes a long way. Plus, you’ll want to leave room for dessert.
Don’t forget the music! One of the best parts of New Orleans is the music – the raw, untouched sounds of brass, blues and spontaneity. Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon have great New Orleans stations. If you’re looking for some festive artists, you can never go wrong with Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty, or the Rebirth Brass Band.
Now on to my favorite part – the food. Below are some of my favorite dishes, and if you ask me (via the comments section below!), I might even share my secret family versions for some of these!
Serve these yummy small plates while your dinner guests wait for the main course.
Pick a couple of these, and serve with some crusty french bread and perfectly steamed long grain rice.
- Red Beans and Rice
- Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee
- Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
- Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- Crabmeat Cheesecake
- Crabmeat Au Gratin
If there’s any room left…
- Classic King Cake
- Bananas Foster
- Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
- Pralines (also make great take-home favors!)
- Creme Brûlée
Hungry yet? I am!
Laissez les bon temps rouler!