Mini-muffaletta sandwiches, one of the suggestions for Super… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
Are you ready for some gumbo?
At 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 3, when the Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, much of Baltimore will be watching, either from their stadium seats in New Orleans or here at home.
Ravens fans not lucky enough to have tickets to the big game still have plenty of reason to celebrate at home in Baltimore, and they can do so in N'awlins style. According to local chefs with Louisiana roots, the Big Easy's cuisine is tailor-made for parties.
"New Orleans food is for gatherings," says Thomas Dunklin, the New Orleans-born and raised executive chef at B&O American Brasserie. "It's family driven."
So it's no surprise that many traditional New Orleans dishes — like crawfish boils, dirty rice, and yes, even gumbo — are easy to make for a crowd.
Chef Shawn Lagergren, who draws on his Louisiana childhood when creating the menu at Tooloulou in Hamilton, says, "Southern cooking is rooted in family and traditions. Cooking in Louisiana is a way of life — it's comforting and full of emotion."
Fitting for a football game that, no matter what the final score, will certainly evoke an emotional response from Baltimore fans.
In New Orleans, "emotion" goes hand in hand with spice. "When you're talking about New Orleans food, you're talking about northern Caribbean food. That's where you get your hot, your spice, your seasoning," says Chef Ed Bloom, a Baltimore native who studied in New Orleans for 10 years — including a stint under Chef Paul Prudhomme — before returning to open Ethel & Ramones in Mt. Washington.
Dunklin agrees. "New Orleans has really bold flavors, due to the cultures that inhabited the city over the years."
Dunklin recommends kicking off Super Bowl parties with a variety of bite-sized foods, including mini muffuletta sandwiches, grilled oysters with spicy jalapeno-lime butter, deviled eggs topped with ham hock, pimento cheese and chow chow, and smoky jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and bacon-wrapped garlic sausage.
Dunklin also suggests serving up a Super Bowl seafood boil — similar to a Maryland crab feast, but with different seasonings and a wider array of seafood. Bloom agrees that a seafood feast is a good choice, with the addition of his "three red" sauce. Lagergren notes that other great party foods are big batches of dirty rice and gumbo.
"Every Cajun family has a gumbo recipe," says Lagergren. "Each family takes pride in making their gumbo a little different, giving it something that sets it apart."
Marylanders have opportunities to combine traditional Baltimore foods with New Orleans-inspired flavors. "With all the seafood, New Orleans and Baltimore use similar ingredients," explains Dunklin.
At Ethel & Ramone's, Bloom makes a crab cake using remoulade — the mayonnaise-style condiment spiked with Cajun seasoning — in place of a mayonnaise or mustard binder. He admits that in New Orleans, chefs prefer Cajun and Creole seasonings to Baltimore favorite Old Bay (though as a Baltimore native, his own spice allegiance never wavered).
Most chefs say they make their own Louisiana-style seasoning, using spices like cayenne, onion powder and garlic powder. But Bloom also recommends Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blends and Maryland's own McCormick Cajun Seasoning. Dunklin likes Emeril's seasonings and Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning.
To wash down all those spices, try a Sazerac, the boozy rye, bitters and absinthe concoction that is the official cocktail of New Orleans.
"The key ingredient in a Sazerac, Peychaud's bitters, was created by a Haitian immigrant named Antoine Peychaud out of his apothecary on Royal Street in 1838," explains Doug Atwell, head mixologist at RYE in Fells Point.
For dessert, Dunklin recommends a king cake, the brioche-like wreath of a cake traditionally associated with Mardi Gras. "It's not hard to make," he promises. "In New Orleans, starting January 6th, every Friday we have a king cake."
A small plastic baby is baked into the cake. Finding the baby is associated with luck and, according to Dunklin, "Whoever gets the baby has to bake the cake the next Friday."
The top of the king cake is dusted in colored sugar — usually green, yellow and purple, the colors of Mardi Gras.
But in Baltimore, nobody will complain if you skip the green and yellow sugars.
On Sunday, it's purple all the way.
Recipe from B&O American Brasserie
These petite sandwiches are hearty and full of flavor.
1 pound ham, sliced
1 pound genoa salami, sliced
1pound mortadella, sliced
1 pound capicola, sliced
1 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
1 pound. provolone, sliced
2 cups olive salad (see recipe)
1 sheet pan loaf focaccia (or 30 or so slider buns)
Slice focaccia in half to open the bread up. Place slices of ham, salami, mortadella, capicola, Swiss cheese and provolone cheese on half of the bread loaf. Top with olive salad. Place top half of bread loaf on top.