In an email from Neil Travis Honaker from Georgetown, KY http://nthonaker.wordpress.com, he asks about New Orleans themed tailgating ideas for a culinary event in Lexington, KY he is participating in scheduled for May 2009. His information request and my answers are copied below.
First and foremost, I love your blog and I’m gradually making my way though all of your past posts. I had a question? in May of next year I’ll be hosting a New Orleans themed tailgate party for the High Hope Steeplechase here in Lexington, KY. It’s a charity event entering it’s 43rd year, and since 2003 I’ve been privileged to win the Best Food award on three occasions and Best Theme once. The judge is the Executive Chef at Portofino’s, a graduate of the CIA and Executive Chef at three local restaurants in and around Lexington. I’ve wanted to do a New Orleans themed menu for some time, and announced this year that it would be the theme in 2009. For whatever reason, I seem to be struggling with menu ideas that are compatible with a tailgate party which feeds on average 40 adults and a dozen children. My question is this – if you could offer a couple of ideas that best represented the spirit of New Orleans, what would they be?
In case you’re interested, our past menus can be found on my blog at http://nthonaker.wordpress.com/tailgating-steeplechase-style and information on the race itself is at http://www.highhopesteeplechase.com. The way I see it is the more people I lure to the tailgate party to enjoy the food, the more money is raised for some very worthy causes.
Thanks, in advance, for your time and any ideas you might throw my way.
Neil Travis Honaker
Check out my blog from Bourbon country at:
A Kentucky-centric but world inspired view of
Life, Laughs and Lobster
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review my Cajun Chef Ryan blog as I continue to add recipes, foodie events, general culinary knowledge, and digest my 21 + years in the restaurant service industry.
I have one question for you out of curiosity; how did you find my Cajun Chef Ryan blog?
Now to help you with your inquiry. Since you are doing a tailgate there are many options for outdoor type cooking on grills, meat smokers, seafood boils, and deep frying too. With charcoal you can also use Dutch ovens as well, and with outdoor propane burners any sauted items or even a gumbo or jambalaya is do-able.
A New Orleans themed tailgate can consist of many sub-themes and varied menu items depending on your approach. Themes could be centered around such categories as:
Fruits de la mer de la Nouvelle-Orléans (Fruits of the sea from New Orleans)
With New Orleans being so close to the Gulf of Mexico the abundance of fresh seafood cannot be ignored, so here are a few tailgating seafood themed menu items:
Char grilled Oysters on the Half Shell~ this dish was made famous by Drago’s Restaurant and now a rave across New Orleans seafood restaurants and consists of raw oysters on the half shell covered with a garlic Parmesan herbal butter and grilled over coals until just done. Served with warm crusty French Bread to dip on the extra garlic butter sauce. And don’t forget the napkins.
Shrimp Imperial ~ a classic preparation with a New Orleans flair by taking large jumbo shrimp seasoned with Cajun spices with the tail on and butterflied then filled with crab meat stuffing and folding the tail over the top these bite sized seafood morsels can be baked in the Dutch oven and served with a beurre blanc sauce.
Seafood Gumbo~ an old New Orleans traditional fare with oysters, shrimp, blue crabs and lump crab meat this can also be prepared a day or two in advance and heated up on the stove top burner. Serve in bowls with fresh steamed rice and some hot sauce on this side.
Crawfish Pasta~ One of the annual favorites at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this cream based sauce and Cajun spicy dish with fresh crawfish tails tossed in with the spiral (rotini or rotelle) pasta has been a hit for years.
Alligator Chili ~ Not found in many places but this dish was made popular at the Columns Hotel in the mid 1980’s and featured at the Zoo-To-Do for a few years. Fresh alligator tail meat is cubed and cooked in a red bean chili with Cajun spices to accompany the chili spices. Serve with sour cream and shredded cheddar too.
From Po-Boys to Muffelettas to open faced sandwiches New Orleans has plenty to enjoy!
Black and Blue Chicken ~ this dish was a sandwich featured at the old City Energy Club (formerly known as The Petroleum Club) in the Energy Center building in New Orleans. My version is an open faced bite sized sandwich perfect for an outdoor griddle or cast iron flat top. Marinated in Cajun spices and olive oil boneless chicken breast is blackened on the cast iron skillet or flat top, then sliced thinly and served on long slender slices of whole wheat French bread that has been coated with a basil pesto and toasted on the flat top to brown on both sides. Then a fresh made blue cheese dressing is dolloped on top of that and garnished with fresh basil.
Mini Muffalettas~ Made popular by the Central Grocery over 100 years ago this Italian loaf and olive salad based sandwich can also be made with mini muffaletta buns and warmed up before serving. Layers of ham, salami, provolone and Swissare draped over the olive oil soaked Italian loaf then topped with an olive salad and warmed in the oven until crispy outside and cheese melted on the inside. Goes great with an iced cold beer.
Roast Beef Po-Boy ~ Another favorite among many corner grocery store deli’s this is one sandwich that is better when messy. Thinly sliced Cajun garlic roast beef is heated in a rich brown gravy and piled high on fresh French bread coated with lots of mayonnaise and then dressed the shredded lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. Get your napkins out for this one is messy. You can cut them into 3 inch portions.
ONE POT COOKING
From Jambalaya, Etouffee, Creole Sauce or Gumbo one pot does it all! Oh, and a pot of fresh steamed white rice too for some of these dishes!
Jambalaya ~ Chicken and sausage combine to make this rice based dish that is a stick it to your ribs favorite.
Etouffee ~ Either shrimp or crawfish make this one pot dish an excellentchoice, just serve over fresh white rice and some hot sauce on the side.
Shrimp Creole ~ Another one pot dish with fresh shrimp simmered down in the tomato based Creole sauce and served over fresh white rice.
Duck and Andouille Gumbo~ Duck and andouille sausage combine in this dark roux based gumbo and served with fresh white rice, and some hot sauce too.
A few New Orleans favorites you can do outdoors.
Bananas Foster ~ Bananas sliced and softened in the brown sugar, butter and rum sauce then served over fresh vanilla ice cream.
Peach Cobbler ~ Using the Dutch oven again this campfire style cooking warm dessert is perfect on a cold day of tailgating.
Hope this helps you in your culinary adventure!
Cajun Chef Ryan =:~)
My first reply and after I saw photos from the past tailgating events I forgot to include that you may consider using a Mardi Gras theme for decorations of your tables or booth. There is a company in New Orleans called Accent Annex that sells Mardi Gras decorations and stuff year round.
Also, there are so many more food ideas that I did not include in my first reply you can use such as deep fried turkey, crawfish or shrimp boil, red beans and rice just to name a few. And also the Mardi Gras favorite dessert treat “King Cake”.