Blog, Food, Inspiration, Recipes

Instant Mardi Gras

We will not pretend to be experts on the ways and traditions of our fellow Southerners and Cajun friends down in Louisiana, especially during this Mardi Gras season.  Oh yes, and let’s not forget that Alabama has a dog in the fight, but there’s no need to wade into controversy when there’s a party to be had.  Over the years, we have spent time in the hub of Mardi Gras — New Orleans — and the food and festivities always keep us coming back for more.

We hope to take our girls to collectively experience some of our favorite charms of the Big Easy: Sunday brunch at Brennan’s, street jazz musicians serenading passersby, those clouds of heaven beignets at Cafe Du Monde and so much more.  Alas, this year, we brought the flavor and fun (with a little pastry help from the legendary Ambrosia Bakery) to Virginia and put own on spin on some of our favorite traditional NOLA dishes.  This menu was quick, easy and full of Mardi Gras flavor and flair.  So, ask Siri, Google or Alexa to crank up some New Orleans jazz like we did and let’s get this party started!

We have gotten a few requests to take the plunge into the under-explored world of the Instant Pot.  Ellen’s mom (and legendary cook), KK, gifted her one last Christmas and it has been sitting in the box for weeks.  We, too, were unsure of what to do with this souped up pressure cooker that our grandmother’s swore by (and used with great caution).  They would probably laugh at the advances in the culinary staple that was as efficient as it was dangerous 60 years ago.  But, y’all.  It has made a comeback and we are here to attest that this trendy contraption will make your life easier.  

In the spirit of mixing old with new, we selected a classic New Orleans dish, red beans and rice, to prepare in the Instant Pot.  While the modern age pressure cooker did the work, we sipped and dipped:  on French 75’s (the mamas) and gumbo dip, while our girls decorated the freshly delivered Ambrosia Bakery Cream Cheese King Cake.  

Funny aside, when you fire up the Instant Pot, you better have your prep work locked and loaded.  They don’t call it instant for nothing!  Unless you want to chop and mince with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew, knock out all that before you hit that sauté button.

On that note, Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.  Laissez les bons temps roulerLaissez les bons temps rouler!

French 75 (alcoholic)

Way more classy than the hurricanes!

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 ounces gin depending on your taste
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces Champagne

Simple Syrup:

  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part water

Instructions

Bring the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, stirring constantly.

  1. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (the more sugar, the less simmering time).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Allow to cool and thicken. Then bottle.

Pour the liquor, juice, and syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.

  1. Shake well.
  2. Strain into a chilled Champagne flute that is at least half full of ice.
  3. Fill the rest of the flute with champagne.

Mardi Gras Party Havarti Gumbo Dip

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large bell pepper seeded and diced
  • ¾ cup sliced okra pods
  • 2 ribs celery diced
  • 6 green onions chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • lbs. large shrimp peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ cup Havarti cheese
  • Toasted baguette slices for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, okra, and celery to the pan and sauté until softened (approx 5 minutes). Stir in the green onions, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Cook for another minute. Stir in the shrimp, cream cheese, and Havarti. Stir over low heat until the cream cheese is melted and everything is evenly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a baking dish.
  2. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve warm with toasted baguette slices.

Instant Pot Red Beans & Rice

Author Southern Dinner Belles

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb Bacon or 2 Tbsp bacon fat
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion 2 cups diced
  • 3-4 stalks Celery (2 cups diced)
  • 7 cloves Garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Sage dried
  • 1/2 tsp Basil dried
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun / Creole Seasoning such as Tony Chachere's or Slap Yo Mama
  • 5 cups Chicken Broth low sodium
  • 1 lb Small Red Beans such as Camellia sorted & rinsed
  • 1 1/2 lbs Andouille Sausage or Kielbasa sliced in 3/4" rounds
  • 1/4 cup Parsley chopped
  • 2 cups Cooked White Rice We love Basmati
  • Green Onions for garnish (optional)
  • Hot Sauce

Instructions

  1. Turn the pressure cooker on to the Sauté setting. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it renders the fat. Remove the bacon and set aside (You won't be adding it in, you just want the fat). If using bacon fat, let it heat up and then proceed.
  2. If you are using Andouille sausage, add it and brown on both sides. Then remove. If using kielbasa, don't brown it, add it with the beans.
  3. Add the onions and celery. Cook for a couple of minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to get the brown bits up (deglaze). You may need to add just a splash of the broth to help loosen it.
  4. Add the garlic, bay leaves, green and red bell peppers, sage, and basil. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent.
  5. Add the Cajun/Creole seasoning, and stir.
  6. Add the broth, beans, and sausage. Stir and put the lid on the pot and lock it in place. Set the steam release knob to the Sealing position.
  7. Cancel the Sauté function and press the Beans button, or Pressure Cook/Manual, then press the + or - to choose 40 minutes (High Pressure).
  8. When the cooking cycle has finished, let the pot sit undisturbed for 20 minutes (20 minute natural release). Then manually release the remaining pressure by turning the steam release knob to Venting.
  9. When the pin in the lid drops down, you can open the lid. Carefully stir the beans with a long handled spoon (be aware of any possible steam pockets as they "burp" and can cause burns).
  10. Taste a few of the beans to make sure they are tender. If not, close the lid and cook for 5 more minutes.
  11. Mash some of the beans and stir to make a more creamy consistency. Taste and add more seasoning if desired. Stir in the chopped parsley.
  12. Serve over cooked white rice and garnish with green onions and hot sauce.

Everyone has their favorite King Cake supplier. Ours is a family favorite, Ambrosia Bakery, in Baton Rouge!

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Made With Love ( and sprinkled with purple, gold and green sugar crystals),

The SDBs