How to bring a taste of New Orleans to your guests
By Francine Cohen

Every restaurant, bar, tavern and their brother is showing the big game this Sunday, so what’s going to set you apart and get those covers in the door? It’s your menu. Go Creole style to make a statement and pay homage to The New Orleans Saints, a team that’s waited 43 years to play in the Super Bowl. This New Orleans style Creole cuisine touch on your menu will ensure that your guests cheer you on for your efforts to give them something unique. An exciting menu also means your check averages can be high and compensate for the valuable real estate those guests are taking up for hours.

New Orleans is known for being a party town and the convergence of the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras means things are really cooking down there. “There is no other city that is having such a combination of exciting events, with Mardi Gras in full swing and the Saints playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in the franchise’s 43 year history,” says Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “With our incomparable cuisine and the great colors of Mardi Gras, there are so many ways to add authentic New Orleans flavor to any party on what is one of the biggest days for celebrating on the annual calendar.”

How best to add that flavor without adding headaches? Pick a menu that’s simple to prepare in large quantities that allows the guest to keep their eye on the game while easily and neatly conveying your food into their mouths. Chef John Besh, chef and owner of the Besh Restaurant Group, including Restaurant August, Besh Steak, Lüke, La Provence, Domenica and the American Sector, suggests serving a menu that does not require too much attention and that can be served buffet style. His ideal menu would include Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya and Seafood Filé Gumbo, accompanied by classic New Orleans cocktails including Sazeracs. At The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans’ Executive Chef Matt Murphy is planning on serving on game day a Black and Gold tailgate buffet, including BLACK AND GOLD Gumbo, BIG EASY Baby Back Ribs, WHO DAT Sticky Toffee Pudding, and SAINTSATIONAL Apple Pie a la mode, accompanied by the BIG BREESY, a libation named after the New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.

Obviously, you’re stuck in your kitchen or behind the bar on the big day and won’t be making it to Besh or Murphy’s dining rooms so here’s some inspiration on what you can be serving in your own.

Dr. Who Dat – from The Hotel Monteleone

1 ¼ oz. Bulleit Bourbon
½ oz. simple syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
1 egg white

Place lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white in a Boston Shaker and shake until well frothy. Add ice and shake until well chilled.
Strain into a Martini style glass, garnish with a lemon slice and a blackberry. Relax and watch the “Who Dats” do their thing.

BLACK AND GOLD Gumbo – from the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans

¼ cup green pepper small dice
¼ cup red pepper small dice
¼ cup celery stalk small dice
½ cup onion small dice
1 # duck meat (boneless skinless leg meat)
½ # wild mushrooms
1 Tbsp crystal
1 Tbsp Lea and Perrins
2 Qt Duck stock
4 oz dark roux
1 Qt steamed popcorn rice
1 cup shaved green onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Yield 10 portions
In large 5 gal stock pot, brown duck meat. Add to the pot and sweat onion, peppers, celery and mushrooms. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients and adjust consistency with water if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with rice and green onion.

Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya – from Chef John BeshServes 12 – 15
2 pounds bacon
3 pounds andouille sausage, diced
½ cup lard
2 pounds fresh pork sausage, removed from casings
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, roughly cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
6 large onions, diced
4 bell peppers, seeded and diced
10 stalks celery, diced
12 cloves garlic, minced
9 cups converted Louisiana white rice
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves3 tablespoons pimenton de la Vera or smoked
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon celery salt
6 cups canned crushed tomatoes
6 cups basic chicken stock
5 pounds Louisiana white shrimp, or other wild American shrimp,
peeled and deveined
3 bunches green onions, chopped
1. First, you’ll need to heat a very large pot (3-5 gallons) over high heat until it is hot, then reduce the heat to moderate. This will allow the heat to be uniform all over, preventing those little hot spots that are likely to burn.
2. Render the bacon with the sausages and the lard in the hot pot, stirring slowly with a long wooden spoon or a spade. While the pork is rendering, go ahead and season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper. Add the chicken in the pot, stirring, and cook until the chicken becomes golden brown, about 5 minutes.
3. After the chicken has browned, add the onions to the pot and allow them to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Continue stirring from time to time so that everything in the pot cooks evenly.
4. Next, add the rice, thyme, bay leaves, pimenton, cayenne, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper and the celery salt to the pot and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
5. Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. While the rice is cooking in the covered pot, season the shrimp with salt and pepper and save them, along with the green onions, to be added at the last minute.
7. After the rice has simmered for 15 minutes, go ahead and remove the lid from the pot and fold in the shrimp and green onions. Turn off the heat and let everything continue to cook in the hot covered pot for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the jambalaya and serve!

Recipe by Emeril Lagasse, courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, 2010

2 envelopes active dry yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk (about 110ºF)
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
5 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles
Combine the yeast, granulated sugar and warm milk in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat at low speed with the whisk attachment for 30 seconds, then turn mixer off and allow the mixture to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the melted butter and the egg yolks to the milk and whip quickly to incorporate. Replace the whisk attachment with the dough hook. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest to the mixer and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a medium bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a large (12- by 17-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling evenly along one of the long sides of the dough. Fold the other long edge over so that the long edges meet. Seal the dough on all edges by pinching the dough together. Finally, bring the two ends (of what should now be a long, filled cylinder of dough) together, and pinch the ends together to form a ring. Place the filled dough onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Brush the top of the risen dough with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioners’ sugar in medium mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake (or drizzle, as desired.) Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices and served to all guests in attendance. The person whose piece contains the hidden plastic baby is crowned “king for a day” and is considered responsible for holding the next King Cake party.

Makes 20 to 22 servings

Visit the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau website,
for recipes and more information on the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.