new orleans dinner party
Every year we travel down to New Orleans for Jazzfest. The festival is fantastic. The music ranges from zydeco to the latest hot musician (counting crows, john mayer, ben harper) to gospel. You wander around at a huge racetrack going from stage to stage listening to music all for the entry price of (I believe) $30 or so. You can’t beat it. Also, the added bonus is the food. In order to be a vendor, you have to pass the judges to get a booth. So, there is the best fried oyster sandwich, the best jambalaya, the best gumbo etc. Each booth sells 2 different size portions, about $4 for a small and $7 for a large. Not bad. You can eat your way through the day drinking fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade and plain lemonade…or a beer. There are also craft booths through out the fair grounds. Handmade dolls, photos, crafts, etc. Be advised that the humidity and heat there is fierce. People wear incredible hats to try and beat the heat. You can’t spend the day there without one. You’d drop.
We have gone each year with the same group of people. We start our party the minute we get off the plane and continue until we get back on the plane. I believe it usually takes me 2 days to recover. Although, my stamina is getting better.
I decided that since we have 6 months until jazzfest, we’d have a new orleans dinner party with our jazzfest crew.
Our meal started with hushpuppies and artichoke/spinach dip. Both New Orleans faves. Then we had my jazzfest favorite. Fried oysters over spinach salad with sliced red onions and a spicy blue cheese dressing. Yum!
Then, we went straight into the main course of Jambalaya. Jambalaya is easy to make.
Here is my recipe:
1 lb. of andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb. of boneless chicken breast, diced
1 lb. of peeled shrimp
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced celery
2 red peppers sliced into thin strips
1 green pepper sliced into thin strips
1 can of chopped tomatoes (canned is fine, just strain the juice) – 28 ounce can
pinch of kosher salt
1 T fresh thyme
1/4 – 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1T gumbo file
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
2 cups rice
cilantro chopped finely to put on top of serving
Heat oil (olive or vegetable) in a dutch oven pot (a big one), add sliced andouille sausage at a med high heat. Stir on occassion until the sausage is crisped. Take out. Put a little more oil in the pot if needed. Add onions, celery and peppers. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are turning golden and soft. Put the andouille sausage back into the pot. Add in the chicken breast. Saute until all the chicken appears to be cooked on the outside. Roughly 5 minutes. Add in the seasonings. Take it easy on the cayenne if you don’t like spicy. Now, add the tomato. Mix well. Add in the rice and stir through the mixture. Now, pour in 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then down to simmer. Cook until all the rice is cooked through. About 20-25 minutes or until the rice soft. Stir occassionally. Then, put in the shimp and stir through until shrimp is done. Serve it up, sprinkled with cilantro.
Note: I made mine in the morning and reheated it for dinner. Stew always tastes better the next day or reheated.
Last but certainly not least, bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Classic New Orleans dish. We also had incredible sweet potato and pecan pies shipped in from New Orleans.
Only a few pounds added that evening, but yummy, yummy, yummy!
I, too, am a frequent Nola-er. Have a buddy living in the Treme, and my wife is from Louisiana. In fact, it is from Louisiana that I write this (Cajun country, Lafayette). You are wise to visit during Jazzfest — a far better time than Mardi Gras. Of course, New Orleans is great year ’round: quite possible the most unique city in the United States and certainly a cultural treasure for the entire world.
Jazz Fest is nice, but the best times are the night shows. Also, I feel like the corporations are squeezing the soul out of the fest, but it’s still heads and shoulders above any other. I mean, what the F*CK is up with Sting being part of it? Featuring somebody who tours the world and is so ubiquitous sort of defeats the purpose. But I suppose the sponsorship is necessary, or they wouldn’t have it.
Back to the night shows. SInce so many amazing musicians abound on any given day in Nola, and Jazz Fest brings even more, the clubs are hopping all night with unique, never-before-and-never-again-seen combinations. One thing I always love is that clubs in New Orleans often have an opening act, a headliner, and then a closing act that plays as long as people will hang out.
Not sure if you know about some of these spots, so I thought I’d break you off a little tip:
Eat at Jaque Imo’s. This is a MUST. I know you love food. THis is, IMO, the pinacle. If you have 5 or more in your party, you can convince them to take a reservation. Just act like you know that they do that for certain people, and they’ll do it. All salads feature the yummiest fried oyster you’ve ever had. The seared Gulf tuna with a champagne oyster brie cream sauce is one of my all-time favorite meals. SOme people swear by the fried chicken, but living in Atlanta and having a Southern mother, I’ve had better. Get there early and hang out for a while. Do not be edgy or impatient. Just relax, get a drink from the bar, and they’ll call your name eventually. You can also wait next door at the Maple Leaf and watch bands. ANd, it being New Orleans and all, you can take your drink with you out into the night.
Go see Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers and Joe’s Cozy Corner or, preferably, at Vaughn’s on a Thursday night. He parks his BBQ truck outside and serves up delights during intermissions, gives his trombonist a solo so he can flip the meat. Part starts hoppin’ at about midnight.