Bourbon Street, Belly Laughs & the Best Snacks—Welcome to Nini Nguyen's Mardi Gras

Bourbon Street, Belly Laughs & the Best Snacks—Welcome to Nini Nguyen's Mardi Gras

We’ve teamed up with Zatarain’s® Smoked Sausage to help bring the flavors of a New Orleans Mardi Gras straight to your kitchen. We’re talkin’ recipe ideas starring their Andouille Sausage and Cajun-Style flavors to celebrate the Carnival season.

When it comes to the seasons, Chef Nini Nguyen says New Orleans has six: “Carnival season is the fifth and crawfish season is the sixth.”

Growing up in NOLA, Mardi Gras has always been a part of Nguyen’s life. As a kid, the celebration coincided with parades, a week off of school, and catching countless stuffed animals and beads as they were thrown from the floats. When she was a teen, time off from school became the ideal opportunity for a family vacation. Now, as an adult, you’ll find her celebrating. “If I am going to do Mardi Gras, I’m going to do Mardi Gras right,” Nguyen says. “I get dressed up and parade. Usually, that means going to the [parades] uptown [throughout the week], but on Mardi Gras day I will walk all the way down to the Marigny.”

Faubourg Marigny, the neighborhood she mentions, is on the downriver border of the French Quarter and is known for its Cajun bistros, the well-loved bars along St. Claude Avenue, and for being home to the Frenchman Street live jazz and arts district. An original Creole neighborhood, it was named after the 19th-century aristocrat Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville who was famous for a few things: being the richest 15-year-old in the U.S. after he inherited his parent’s fortune and plantation (it was once the defining property in the area), inventing the gambling dice game of “craps” and losing the inherited property to gambling, which allowed the city to make Marigny the neighborhood it is today.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

Like any major holiday, a significant part of Nguyen’s celebration is the food. With the week of festivities typically starting in late February or early March, many of the traditional foods double as cold-weather comfort foods, like gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, and red beans and rice. “I like to make a chicken and sausage gumbo or something handheld like a Po’ Boy,” Nguyen says. Her go-to po’ boy swaps in flavorful Zatarain’s Andouille Smoked Sausage for the classic shrimp, plus a spicy remoulade on top and a side of fried onion rings.

While Mardi Gras is celebrated in many cities worldwide, New Orleans holds the crown for having the largest celebration in the country. The key to what makes their celebrations so special? The people, the city, and the history that comes with it. “There are so many groups who hold this tradition very dear to them because it is something they cherish and celebrate,” Nguyen says. “Other cities have the same things, but Mardi Gras [in New Orleans] is a cultural event deeper than catching some beads.” Her biggest piece of advice for first-timers: “Only go to Bourbon Street if you want to do the tourist things, have a sense of humor, and go to the smaller parades because people’s costumes are the most clever at those.”

Whether you’re planning your own Mardi Gras-inspired feast or just looking for cooking inspiration (who says you can’t enjoy Nguyen’s Sausage Po’ Boy or a Crawfish Pie after Mardi Gras season is over?), here are a few more recipes to try. From traditional dishes like Flamin’ Cajun Shrimp, King Cake, or a Muffaletta sandwich, to more unsuspecting classics like Braised Chicken with Salami and Olives or a New Orleans-Style Barrumundi Fish Cake, there are countless delicious ways to celebrate Mardi Gras, regardless of where you are.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Mardi Gras? Tell us in the comments below!

Whether you’re snacking on Sausage Po’ Boys or whipping up a batch of New Orleans Red Beans and Rice, our friends at Zatarain’s Smoked Sausage have the flavorful plus ones you need to make those recipes pop this Mardi Gras. Their Andouille and Cajun-Style Smoked Sausages are made with 100 percent pork and fully cooked for easy meal prep—plus, they make for tasty main dishes, too.

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