Let’s face it. Right now, if circumstances were different, we would be boldly stepping into the peak of spring festival season.
Festival-goers would be mapping out which food booths to visit before listening to their favorite acts. We would be setting up our lawn chairs or blankets to take in the sights, sounds and smells of this special time of year in New Orleans.
Instead, life has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic forced city and state leaders to issue stay-at-home mandates and cancel several events. We’ve had to settle for small victories, like finding the latest great show to binge-watch on Netflix.
Many popular festivals are getting axed one by one, like the recent cancellation of Jazz Fest, with French Quarter Fest likely not far behind.
You’re probably currently closing your eyes wishing you were at a festival instead of being stuck at home. While your wish might not come true any time soon, maybe you can savor the flavors of your favorite festival foods until then.
We pulled together a list of popular festival dishes from events like French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest for you to try cooking at home.
Below you’ll find a list of dishes pulled from our archives of past interviews and features about festival vendors. We also scowered the web looking for recipes.
Some festival vendors offered us their actual recipes or posted them online. Other festival vendors closely guarded their recipes, but did offer us great cooking tips. We were also able to find some good recipes that duplicate dishes.
From Crawfish Monica to Prejean’s Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo, we have plenty of items for you to test out. Hopefully, this could add another great activity to your quarantine bucket list.
Crawfish Monica has grown into a festival favorite dish at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In fact, Jazz Fest is only place you can get the original dish.
Unfortunately, Kajun Kettle Foods, the creators of Crawfish Monica, won’t reveal their secret recipe for the creamy pasta dish. But we came pretty close to getting the scoop from the pasta experts with some tips to make a great pasta dish.
Some locally developed recipes also take a crack at the Jazz Fest staple, like this crawfish pasta recipe from Emeril Lagasse via GoNOLA. You can also purchase the Crawfish Monica kit or just the sauce straight from the Jazz Fest vendor.
For more than 30 years, crawfish bread has been a fixture at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
John Ed Laborde, the “Crawfish Bread Man,” is the man who created the popular dish festival-goers crave every year at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. The dish started from humble beginnings, in 1984, when Laborde developed the recipe in his hometown, Marksville, La.
Laborde reveals every part of the process is handmade and the final result is a delicious, crusty loaf that gets sliced and served to customers. Unfortunately, Laborde holds his recipe close to his heart, but he did give us the gist of how it’s done in this video.
Emeril Lagasse also has a version of a crawfish bread recipe you can try. If you have to get your hands on the real thing, Nola Crawfish Bread ships year-round to anywhere in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.
When it comes to Ya-Ka-Mein, “it’s all about that flavor,” according to Ms. Linda Green, known as “The Ya-Ka-Mein Lady.”
Green and her popular dish are fixtures on the festival circuit, and the aroma of Ya-Ka-Mein attracts festival-goers at several events including French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest.
“I have one of New Orleans’ well-best-kept secrets,” Green said.
Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo
Dark roux is one of the secrets of the famous Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo from Prejean’s Restaurant.
Bob Guilbeau, owner of the Cajun restaurant in Lafayette, says the dish was created more than 25 years ago specifically for Jazz Fest.
Guilbeau credits former chef, the late James Graham, for developing the recipe based the Prejean’s Restaurant original award-winning chicken and sausage gumbo recipe.
“The goal of this recipe was to provide an interesting and unique taste of Cajun Louisiana to the festival goers that they couldn’t find anywhere else,” Guilbeau said.
Guilbeau was kind to allow us to share the recipe for the popular Jazz Fest dish from his cookbook.
Right now, Prejean’s Restaurant is serving up to-go offerings of its beloved Jazz Fest items: Frozen pans of “Take & Bake” Crawfish Enchiladas and frozen two-gallon bags of its popular gumbo. The restaurant is also selling frozen gumbo and corn and crab bisque by the quart. Check the Prejean’s Facebook page for updates.
Shrimp & Alligator Sausage Cheesecake
Many locals can’t leave Jacques-Imo’s without biting into the Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake. Festival-goers can typically also find the savory dish at French Quarter Fest.
Since Chef Jacques Leonardi created the recipe about 20 years ago, the restaurant’s signature dish has grown into a local favorite.
“We developed this recipe through numerous trials and errors,” Leonardi said.
BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy
Dickie Brennan’s Barbecue Shrimp Po-Boy has become a French Quarter Fest staple over the years. This dish is a staple in Dickie Brennan’s kitchens, and you can find the barbecue shrimp served up several different ways at his namesake restaurants.
“It’s about making people happy and just having fun. That’s our job as chefs and restaurateurs,” Sam Martin with Dickie Brennan & Co. said.
Festival-goers usually brave long lines to get a bite of the dish from the popular Jackson Square vendor.
Dickie Brennan & Co. told us more about the dish and revealed the recipe.
BBQ Oyster Po-Boy
Red Fish Grill is typically one vendor booth on a lot of festival-goers lists for French Quarter Fest. There you can grab hold of their popular BBQ Oyster Po-Boy and chow down.
Golden-fried oysters get drenched in a tangy “barbecue” sauce and blue cheese-based sauce for extra flavor.
We were able to find Red Fish Grill’s official recipe for BBQ Oysters with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce. Just whip this up and toss it inside a roll of French bread, while wishing you were at French Quarter Fest.
(Photo courtesy: Red Fish Grill via Facebook)
Over the years, the sweet and icy-cold Mango Freeze has attracted what seems like a cult following at Jazz Fest.
We talked with food vendor Diane Kohel, who was a huge part behind the product’s creation, to find out why festival-goers can’t seem to leave the Fair Grounds without a Mango Freeze.
After your mouth starts watering for a taste, you can try this super easy Mango Freeze recipe courtesy of GoNOLA.
Natchitoches Meat Pie
Meat pies are more than a tradition in Louisiana. They’re an official state food!
The top purveyors of meat pies in New Orleans are the fine folks at Mrs. Wheat’s Foods, who provide the tasty treats to hungry customers at festivals like French Quarter Fest and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
We caught up with Bryant Wheat at Jazz Fest and asked him what makes their meat pies so great.
While we couldn’t score the recipe from Mrs. Wheat’s Foods, we were able to find the official Natchitoches meat pie recipe from the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Cochon de Lait Po-Boy
Veterans of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival know to make a stop every year. In fact, for some, it’s the first visit they make. The Cochon de Lait po-boy, created and sold by the Walker family at their Love at First Bite booth, brings huge flavor, long lines and big smiles year after year.
The main ingredient is a pulled pork that ends up being smoked for over 13 hours. Add in some fresh cabbage and a creole mustard mayo sauce, and the combination turns out to be pretty potent blend of sweet, salty, savory … and with a little hint of a kick.
Fans can also enjoy this irresistible sandwich year-round at the New Orleans East barbecue joint Walker’s Southern Style BBQ. We also found a version of the Jazz Fest favorite from Emeril Lagasse if you want to try it at home.
Crawfish & Goat Cheese Crepes
At French Quarter Fest, many festival-goers flock to Jackson Square to get a bite from long-time festival vendors. One of those vendors, Muriel’s Jackson Square, is responsible for a pretty popular festival dish — Crawfish & Goat Cheese Crepes.
Y’all, we found the recipe online straight from the source via Muriel’s Jackson Square’s website.
(Photo courtesy: Muriel’s Jackson Square)
Chicken and Andouille Smoked Sausage Gumbo
You can hit the jackpot on several recipes from Chef Paul Prudhomme thanks to his Magic Seasonings website — including this chicken and andouille gumbo recipe.
This dish from legendary French Quarter restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen has been a staple at French Quarter Fest for nearly a decade.
(Photo courtesy: Magic Seasoning Blends)
Are you a popular festival food vendor with a recipe to share? We would love to add it to our list. Contact us here.
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