Most of us won't make it to the Big Easy for the big game this Sunday, but that doesn't mean we can't get a taste of Cajun country in our own living rooms.
With New Orleans serving as host to the Super Bowl this year -- its 10th time -- it's the perfect opportunity to go Louisiana-style for football watch-party menus. So we asked our favorite local Cajun restaurants and experts for easy dishes and drinks that best represent the inexplicable vibe and culture of NOLA. Think spicy seafood gumbo, creamy crawfish queso, buttery bread pudding and, of course, double rum hurricanes.
Find recipes for all four here and get ready to laissez les bons temps rouler.
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Boo-Ray's of New Orleans seafood gumbo
"There's nothing more exciting to me than Super Bowl week in New Orleans," says Scott Marks, chef and owner of Boo-Ray's of New Orleans.
The New Orleans native was part of the opening chef team at Copeland's, a New Orleans original, and co-founded Razzoo's Cajun Cafe. Marks says Gulf seafood and regional spices are what make a dish authentically Cajun.
But not all Cajun dishes have to be tongue-burning, he added. This year, replace your go-to Super Bowl chili with Marks' seafood gumbo, shown here, and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Makes 16 8-ounce portions
2 tablespoons bacon fat
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
2 cups green bell peppers, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
2 10-ounce cans Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 tablespoons gumbo spice, or Cajun/Creole spice
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons gumbo file
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers
3/4 cup seafood base (found near stocks and broths)
3 3/4 quarts hot water
1/2 cup Kitchen Bouquet browning and seasoning sauce
4 cups okra, chopped
1/4 pound margarine
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup roux (store bought or recipe follows)
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 pound shrimp
1 pound tilapia
1 pound crabmeat
4 cups prepared white rice
1. In a large pot, heat bacon fat and cook the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic until caramelized. They should be well-browned, but not burned.
2. Add the canned tomatoes, with juices, and the gumbo spice, gumbo file, cayenne, oregano, thyme, paprika and chipotle peppers to the pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Cook for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to mash the tomatoes.
3. Dissolve the seafood base in the hot water and add the Kitchen Bouquet. Add the water mixture to the veggies in the pot. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the okra and continue to simmer, covered, for 15 more minutes.
5. Melt margarine in a saucepan, add the flour and stir to make a light roux. Then add the pre-made roux and mix well.
6. Make sure roux is very hot and add to the pot, stirring to completely blend. Cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
7. Meanwhile, saute the shrimp and tilapia, separately, until just done and stir into the gumbo along with the crabmeat.
8. Ladle gumbo into soup cups or bowls and top with 1/4 cup prepared white rice.
Nutritional analysis per 8-ounce portion: 313 calories, 13 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 682 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 37 percent of calories from fat.
— Boo-Ray’s of New Orleans, 7255 Boat Club Road, Fort Worth, 817-236-6149, www.booraysofneworleans.com
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1. In a saucepan or skillet, heat oil until it begins to smoke. Slowly mix in the flour. Remove from heat and continue mixing until flour is fully incorporated. 2. Return to heat and cook, stirring continuously, until a brown roux is achieved.
Bayou Jack's Cajun Grill crawfish queso
Crawfish tails swimming in melted Velveeta cheese might not sound authentically Cajun, but the Bayou Jack's Cajun Grill concept is too good to pass up for a Super Bowl shindig.
Louisiana native Jack Layman opened the laid-back restaurant in Roanoke last year after managing Rockfish restaurants for more than a decade. A location in Fort Worth's So7 followed last fall. Whip up this easy appetizer for a Gulf Coast twist on chips and dip.
1 pound yellow Velveeta cheese, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces frozen crawfish tails, thawed
1 tomato, diced
1 small bunch green onions, finely chopped
1. Melt Velveeta cubes over medium heat in a large pot.
2. Add can of Rotel with its juices.
3. In separate pan, melt butter and saute crawfish for approximately 2 minutes.
4. Pour queso mixture into large bowl and top with sauteed crawfish, tomato and green onions.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 452 calories, 33 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 145 milligrams cholesterol, 1,763 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 61 percent of calories from fat.
— Bayou Jack’s, 2401 W. Seventh St., 817-744-8631, www.bayoujackscajungrill.com
John Gravois' family bread pudding
John Gravois, Star-Telegram deputy managing editor for government and politics, grew up deep in the bayou country south of New Orleans on comfort foods created by his mother, Joy, who was known for her jambalayas, red beans and hospitality.
When Gravois left for college, his mother wrote down her closely guarded recipes so he could have a taste of home wherever his journalism career took him. Gravois compiled those recipes, along with others from his Louisiana family members, into A Cajun Family Cookbook (Savory House Press, $5.95), released last year. Gravois shares his Aunt Debbie's bread pudding here and promises there's no better way to use stale bread.
Makes 8 servings
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups water
About 10 slices of bread (slightly stale is best and French is traditional, but any bread will work)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and coat a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a medium saucepan, mix evaporated milk and water. Place on a burner over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep the milk from burning or boiling. Just before it comes to a boil, remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.
3. Tear bread into chunks and add to evaporated milk mixture. Set aside and let soak.
4. In a separate bowl, break eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. Stir in sugar. Add vanilla, melted butter and raisins. Stir, then pour over the soaked bread, stirring gently to mix.
5. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 300 degrees 45-50 minutes.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 367 calories, 11 grams fat, 61 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 104 milligrams cholesterol, 284 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 26 percent of calories from fat.
— “A Cajun Family Cookbook”
Copeland's of New Orleans hurricane
New Orleans natives and visitors alike know Copeland's as a must-stop for its festive atmosphere and Creole favorites. First opened in the early 1980s, the restaurant and bar now has locations spanning several Southern states.
Texas' only location is inside the Hilton Southlake Town Square, where the "ice bar" serves eight liquors on tap at subfreezing temperatures. Copeland's shares its straightforward hurricane recipe here, made with light and dark rums, refreshing passion fruit juice and simple syrup -- no sticky-sweet pre-made mixers here.
8 ounces Bacardi light rum
8 ounces Myers’s dark rum
8 ounces passion fruit juice
4 ounces orange juice
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/4 cup simple syrup (mixture of equal parts water and superfine sugar)
1/4 cup grenadine
Orange slices and cherries for garnish
1. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain across four hurricane glasses filled with ice. Garnish each with cherries and an orange slice.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 370 calories, trace fat, 28 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 15 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 1 percent of calories from fat.
— Copeland’s of New Orleans, 1400 Plaza Place (inside Hilton Southlake Town Square), Southlake, 817-305-2199, www.southlakecopelands.com