For two weekends (last in April, first in May), the New Orleans parade grounds come to life all day, with multiple stages of music and presentations, all sorts of local food, drink and art vendors. Attendees bounce around multiple stages according to the “cubes” (staggered set times around the grounds) of their choice.
And as usual, the party continues each night in all the usual spots around the city. So go ahead and start this for brunch, and keep it going on into the night.
I’ve only been twice, but for a few years now, we’ve grown fond of replicating it here at home.
If you haven’t gone it’s so worth the trip! But if you can’t, the below recreation is the next best thing.
New Orleans Favorites
Just as New Orleans funerals start with a dirge and then turn into a celebration of life (second lines!), we turned our sadness into a party to celebrate the New Orleans Jazz Fest awesomeness we could still enjoy from afar.
The playlist follows this cue, starting with a dirge, moving onto a classic second line song, and then just all-out New Orleans fun. We tried to include at least one song from all of our New Orleans favs that we would have seen at the fest, and/or around the city (even if just in spirit, like Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet).
And finally, we end with what else but “When the Saints go Marching in” and “Lagniappe – Part 1” by Trombone Shorty. Can’t exactly say why except that Lagniappe felt like the perfect ending, almost like a bonus track. Now that I’ve looked up the word “Lagniappe” I know why: it means “bonus or gift.” So there ya go!
If you’re reading this during a future fest, listen or watch live! The vehicle seem to keep changing but check out WWOZ or the Jazz Fest site and you should find your way to some live streams.
Sazerac & A Plan
Once the playlist is going, step two of getting into that New Orleans state of mind is to make yourself a Sazerac from this classic recipe. That link provides not only the but the history of the recipe, including some evolution of the official version. For example, the New Orleans version uses Herbsaint rather than Absinthe.
As for food, get the red beans and rice going first because they only get better as they sit. Next up is pralines so they have time to cool and harden. Last, but not least the Crawfish Meghna/Monica which is very quick, and you want to eat it immediately..
Red Beans and Rice
Red Beans & Rice
One ingredient not mentioned below is The Meters version of "They All Ask'd For You," in which they name this dish twice. If you want authentic flavor, you'd best get that on your speakers now!
CuisineCajun, Creole, New Orleans
KeywordHoly Trinity, Mirepoix
1cupcelery, finely chopped
1cupbell pepper, finely chopped or carrots if that's what you have
1cupyellow onion, finely chopped
2-3cupskidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 -1.5cupschicken stock we like better than bullion
fried eggs see note below
Set the rice to cook, and a kettle or pot of water to boil (for stock)
Chop the vegetables and keep aside. Smoked chicken sausage, 2 links, skin removed and chopped into 1/3 inch-thick half moons*
In a large pot, over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter and brown the sausage.
Remove the sausage and keep aside, covered. Do not clean the pan or discard the remaining fat.
In the same pan, adding the rest of the butter, cook the celery, onions and peppers. Depending on how much oil rendered from the sausages used, you may want to use less butter but less butter is not something I believe in, personally.
Cook the veggies until they are soft and begin to brown, stirring often. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add beans, Creole seasoning, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil;reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes (and let it sit longer if possible).
I prefer to use Penzey’s Creole seasoning, but if I don’t have it, then I just approximate with paprika or chipotle + herbs de Provence and it works really well.
In a pinch I’ve also used smoked chicken sausage and added extra black pepper, which turned out great.
I doubt there will be leftovers, but if you do, then do yourself a favor and transform it into a brunch dish by topping it it with a fried egg. When your creamy yolk melds with the beans and rice is absolutely sublime. We did it on a whim for brunch guests around the time of our virtual jazz fest 2017 and now it’s a tradition. YUMBOS.
Still using this quick microwave version it’s too darn easy and too darn good! And this time I managed to save myself from burnt fingertips by using 2 spoons to portion out the piping hot pralines. I just never bothered getting that second spoon in the past, but nowadays I needed to save my fingertips for my budding guitar skills.
This is the Brooklyn, quick version of Crawfish Monica, which is required eating at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest each year.
CuisineCajun, Creole, New Orleans
KeywordCajun, Crawfish Monica, Creole, Jazzfest
1good-sized bunch green onions, chopped, plus more chopped for garnish, if desired(tops, too)
1 1/2cupsgrated Gouda(Gouda is our new fav here though we have used Parmesan in the past. Aged orange cheddar might also work.)
1/2lbcooked fresh pasta(Rotelli is preferred, and whole wheat isn’t good with this)
1-2tspPenzey’s Cajun Seasoning(or jerk spice I think I used this time?)
2tspPenzey’s smoked paprika
1lbcooked crawfish tails(or 1 bag frozen langoustine from Trader Joe’s works in a pinch)
1can evaporated milk(12oz)
Chop green onions, dice garlic and grate the gouda.
Cook pasta in PRESSURE cooker to retain the starch as a thickener. Use 2 cups water for every 1/2 lb of pasta. Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes and use the quick release.
Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté onions for a few minutes until they soften. Then add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.
Add spices and stir.
Add the seafood and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the evaporated milk, and additional spice as desired
When it starts to boil, lower heat and cook for a few minutes more, which allows crawfish to take on some of the flavor.
Add seafood mixture into pasta and stir well. Heat over low heat to thicken a bit.
Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped green onions, if desired.
Not enough NOLA for ya? Make yourself some second line umbrellas to really help you get in the spirit and take your dancing up a notch.
Second Line Umbrellas
We first made these in order to have our own second line tribute to Dr. John at his passing June 2019, but it's also a fun activity for jazz fest, or a tribute to anyone where a second line is in order.
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