One of the biggest misconceptions about Mardi Gras is that it’s only one day. It’s not. It’s a season that begins on January 6th, Twelfth Night – also known as the Christian holiday called Epiphany which commemorates the wise men visiting the newly born Jesus. The official end of Mardi Gras is at midnight Ash Wednesday. The entire season is filled with parties, masquerades, king cakes, parades, and all kinds of festive get-togethers.
Another misconception, one that I hear the most, is that Mardi Gras is a Bourbon Street event filled with beads, beer, and boobs. It’s not. In fact, most of the parading takes place in the other parts of the city and it’s largely a family event. Here’s the schedule of the main Mardi Gras parades and their routes that are taking place around New Orleans. The Bourbon Street happenings are the tourists trying to live it up and calling this a Nawlins’ experience, then telling everyone that this is what NOLA is all about. You won’t find locals there. They’ll be celebrating the day collecting ‘throws‘ along the other parade routes without having to show any skin.
Though most tourists go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I’ve never been there for that season. I prefer to take the entire family in spring or early summer and enjoy all of the food, music, culture, and historic sites without dealing with the large, rowdy crowds. If I were ever to get the opportunity to go one day, I’d want to be there for Lundi Gras – Fat Monday – for the Red Beans Parade. Shocking, huh? Everyone that walks in that parade design costumes covered in a variety of Camellia beans and are led by the Grand Marshall, Al ‘Carnival Time’ Johnson.
If you’re not familiar with Lundi Gras, it’s the party before the big party. The day offers a unique tradition where Rex, the king of Carnival arrives on the river by boat and meets with the King of Zulu. They are both then greeted by the Mayor where it now becomes official that Rex rules over New Orleans for the following day.
One free event that takes place on Monday – besides the Red Beans Parade – is the Zulu Lundi Gras Festival that’s held at Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi. It’s a day-long event that features food, music, arts, and crafts. It’s a great way to check out the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. For more information on the festival for which popular musical acts are performing or what food is being offered, along with the history of the event, please visit their website at http://www.lundigrasfestival.com.
There is also a misconception with one of my recipes: that the Mardi Gras Chicken Strips are only for Mardi Gras season. I just wanted to clear this up and state that these chicken strips are good any time of the year. That’s right. Anytime. April? Good. July? Good. October? Even better. December? You betchya. In fact, at one point, I simply called these… Goldfish breaded chicken strips. Then, I started to use the color Goldfish and added Ritz crackers to the recipe and I thought that the crumbled crackers resembled the colors of Mardi Gras – purple, green, and gold. The kids already liked the chicken but making those small alterations to the recipe really enhanced the overall flavor.
Now, when it comes time to make these chicken strips, and the kids see the ingredients spread out across the counter, they get excited and can’t wait to help. My oldest one hurries to grab the Saints chef hat to become ‘a real chef‘ and starts going ‘Gordon Ramsey‘ on the everyone – especially me.
Another misconception about this recipe: it’s only for kids. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Fact is, this is probably one of my wife’s favorite meals. When I pair this recipe with my Creole Mac ‘n’ Cheese: she’s in heaven. I usually have to double everything up because everyone wants seconds along with leftovers for lunch the next day.
But I can understand why there are misconceptions about this recipe… the chicken strips and there are breasts involved. How many beads is that worth?
That’s the tourist in me coming through.
Try this meal – the Mardi Gras Chicken Strips, Creole Mac and Cheese, and Creole Style Green Beans – and let us know what you think about it in the comment section below. My family loves it and I think that yours will too.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Mardi Gras Chicken Strips
- 1 lbs boneless chicken breast cut into strips
- 2 cups Colorful Goldfish crackers crushed
- 1 cup Ritz crackers crushed
- 1 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1 cup Ranch Dressing
Preheat oven to 425F.
Place Colorful Goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, and Creole seasoning in a resealable bag and crush to tiny pieces. Pour the crushed contents into a wide bowl. Pour Ranch dressing into another wide bowl.
Dredge the chicken strips in the Ranch, then coat with the colorful cracker mixture. Repeat for each of the pieces.
Line a 9x13 pan lined with tin foil and lightly coat with a non-stick spray. Place the chicken pieces in the pan. Cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
Creole Mustard Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup mayo
- 5 tbsp Creole Mustard
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- dashes of hot sauce
In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.
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Keep the red beans cookin’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.