If there are two things that go together better than football and food, it's New Orleans and food.
Throw all three of them together, and it's a recipe for all kinds of awesome.
The NFL's championship game, Super Bowl XLVII, this year heads to New Orleans on Feb. 3. And even though fans of 30 teams are disappointed – or at least wishing they were fans of Baltimore or San Francisco – the Super Bowl always takes on the spirit of New Orleans whether it's being played there or not: It's always an excuse for a good party.
Bringing some Big Easy flavor to your Super Bowl bash can be just that – easy. And you can go big, too. Sure, not all of the cuisine N'awlins is known for translates perfectly for a Super Bowl party. Setting up a Bananas Foster station, doing a crawfish boil or having a bunch of fresh-shucked raw oysters on ice might be a little over the top and complex – though doing those things certainly would be welcomed by your guests. But there are boundless options to make your party, big or small, feel like it's the closest thing to a French Quarter garden courtyard as you'll find in Northwest Indiana.
It all starts with gumbo or jambalaya. Or give your guests a little lagniappe and give them both. They're staples of New Orleans dining. Consider two separate gumbo batches – one with chicken and andouille sausage, the other with shrimp added in. Same goes for the jambalaya, if you go that direction. A big batch can be made in the afternoon, and the accompanying rice can be set up in a steamer ready to add at the end.
Another pair of New Orleans staples are of the sandwich variety. Any trip to the Crescent City would be purely wasted without a muffaletta or po'boy – and preferably one of each.
Central Grocery on Decatur Street makes the original muffaletta, a typically round sandwich with ham, salami and provolone. Pepperoni, mortadella and capicola can be included to take it to the next level. But it's not a muffaletta without the olive salad that tops it – think Chicago-style giardiniera with the carrots, celery and cauliflower, but with diced olives, all in a garlicky oil base. If you can't find a good muffaletta bread, try substituting with focaccia.
Your po'boys can be a little simpler, served on long French bread. Here, your meats are whatever you want – fried fish, shrimp, chicken, sausage. But if you want to do it up right, borrow from Mother's Restaurant and it's Ferdi's Special – a roast beef po'boy with baked ham, "dressed" with shredded cabbage, mayonnaise and Creole mustard.
For party purposes, it's simple to prepare several bigger sandwiches, then cut them into smaller finger-food sized portions.
There are a thousand appetizer and snack options involving shrimp or crawfish, bite-sized andouille sausage and Cajun-style spicy dips.
But be honest – what's for dessert, is what you're wondering. If you're going all out, short of Bananas Foster, beignets are always a hit if you're up for frying your own French-style doughnuts. Some of the world's best pecan pie is in New Orleans. If you want your party guests on an all-night sugar high, hook them up with some pralines.
But given that it's Mardi Gras season, your party will not be complete without two things. First, a king cake, a big loaf of frosted amazingness that is somewhere between a cinnamon roll and a coffee cake. And whoever finds the baby inside has to host next year's Super Bowl party.
And, of course, Hurricanes. New Orleans' unofficial libation is a rum and fruit punch drink made famous by Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter. A trip to New Orleans isn't complete without one – and two might make your Bourbon Street experience a whole lot different! – and your Super Bowl party won't be, either.
The following is a recipe for gumbo from neworleansonline.com, which is the official tourism site for the city of New Orleans.
Mr. B's Gumbo Ya-Ya Recipe
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 red bell peppers, in medium dice
2 green bell peppers, in medium dice
2 celery stalks, in medium dice
1 1/4 gallon (20 cups) chicken stock
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices
3 1/2 pounds chicken, roasted and boned
Hot sauce to taste
Boiled rice as accompaniment
DIRECTIONS: In a 12-quart stockpot melt butter over moderately low heat. Gradually add a third of the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add a third more flour and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add remaining third of flour and stir constantly 30 seconds. Continue to cook roux, stirring constantly, until it is the color of dark mahogany, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Add bell peppers and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add onions and celery and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add the stock to roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add all remaining ingredients except chicken, rice, and hot sauce and bring to boil. Simmer gumbo, uncovered, 45 minutes, skimming off any fat and stirring occasionally. Add chicken and simmer 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning with hot sauce. Serve over rice.
This recipe yields about 6 quarts, but gumbo freezes well and can be thawed out later.