It’s been a minute since I shared a date night in. We’re coming to the end of February which means that Mardi Gras will be here before we know it. Andrew and I haven’t been to New Orleans for the actual celebration (Tuesdays are school nights, you know) so I thought it would be fun to have a theme night this year. So put on some tunes, decorate with green, gold and purple, grab some beads and enjoy a date night in, Mardi Gras style.
What to Eat:
From Jambalaya to Crawfish to King Cakes, there are so many foods that come to mind when I think of New Orleans. If you are looking for a casual but delicious dinner whip up some Muffulettas. These tasty sandwiches are made with a tangy olive salad, cold cuts and cheese. You can make your own muffuletta bread or look for a similar loaf at your local bakery. I’m nowhere near NOLA and I’ve found the bread up here around Mardi Gras. Some other great options for dinner are Shrimp Gumbo or Grillades and Grits. Now I have to confess…I LOVE Jambalaya but I detest okra. It drives Andrew nuts but I can’t deal with the slime factor *shudder*. So I either make Jambalaya without it ( I know, I know) or suffer through the slime because the flavor is so good, and just pick the little suckers out.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 pound andouille sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
- 3 small bell peppers, cored and diced (I used a yellow, red and green bell pepper)
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 white onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 3–4 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
- 2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup thinly sliced okra** see note
- salt and black pepper
- optional garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, thinly sliced green onions, hot sauce
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken and sausage, sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sausage is lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pot. Add bell peppers, celery, jalapeño, onion and garlic. Sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, rice, Cajun seasoning, thyme, cayenne, bay leaf, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through, stirring every 5 minutes or so along the way so that the rice does not burn.
- Add the shrimp, okra, and stir to combine. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through and pink. Stir in the chicken and sausage, and remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Taste, then season the jambalaya with salt, pepper, and additional Cajun seasoning if needed. Remove from heat.
- Serve warms with garnish of choice.
** If you are like me and do not like okra, or you can’t find it at your local store you can use a roux to thicken your stew. Combine 1-2 tablespoons of softened butter and 1-2 tablespoons of flour in a small bowl. Stir to make a paste, once it looks “paste like” add a 1/2 cup of the warm broth and stir to combine. Then add this mixture back into your pot. For an additional veggie you can replace the okra with zucchini or green beans.
This recipe was adapted from Gimme some Oven.
For dessert you can’t go wrong with a King Cake. You will find them in your local grocery store or bakery. I found a dupe recipe by a creative mom that uses a tube of cinnamon rolls! How creative. If you’re into something that looks a little fancier, try your hand at Bananas Foster or some classic Beignets.
What to Drink:
A Hurricane Cocktail is a New Orleans tradition. The drink was invented in the French Quarter in the 1940s and is considered the quintessential Mardi Gras drink. If fruity drinks aren’t your thing mix up a Sazerac. This is an interesting combination of sweet, sour, and bitter. The cocktail was invented in New Orleans in the 1830s and is currently considered the “official” cocktail of New Orleans.
What to Listen to:
This carnival celebration is full of jazz, zydeco, and R&B music. I found this playlist and this one on Spotify that had a great mix of old and new. Pandora also has a fun Mardi Gras station.
What to Do:
Whether they cover the wearer’s eyes or whole face, masquerade masks add an element of mystery and intrigue when worn. Pick up a couple of white masquerade masks at your local craft store to decorate together. Don’t forget some feathers and plenty of glitter!
Watching a movie is always a great idea on a date night. I couldn’t find any specific Mardi Gras movies BUT I do have a suggestion for movie set in New Orleans. I LOVE The Princess and the Frog. This is such a great Disney movie and severely underrated in my opinion. The story and the soundtrack are both wonderful. The super cute main character is a waitress, turned frog, turned princess who makes delicious gumbo and beignets! How perfect is that?!?!?
I hope you have been inspired to have a little Mardi Gras fun at home. Laissez les bons temps rouler…let the good times roll 🙂