I can count on one hand the very few times I have completely missed Jazz Fest in the last 40 years. This was usually due to extenuating circumstances such as living out of the country over 5,000 miles away, or working in other areas of the U.S. that did not comprehend nor were they sympathetic to my request to close down the office the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May each year for a music festival. What didn’t these people get? The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrated 46 years of our rich musical and cultural heritage this year. Food is a large part of our multi-cultural heritage.
For those of you who are religious fest goers, I bet you can name your favorite must eat foods and the exact food tent location to find those foods at the fest each year.
It is comforting that some things about the festival are so predictable. Eating these foods annually at the festival is a ritual for many of us.
Many of my favorite foods have not changed location or quality over the years.
Soft shell crab po-boys, Prejean’s pheasant, quail and sausage gumbo, Mona’s vegetarian plate, jama jama, strawberry lemonade, mango freeze, crawfish pies and iced coffee snowballs from Williams on Plum Street.
When my son Walker went to college at Florida State University, FSU, to study classical music, he would return each year in the spring with fellow music lovers from across the country that were thrilled with the opportunity to come to the mecca for jazz and blues, gospel and Cajun music. We would stage our own Northshore jazz fest at our home with the 25 plus music students that would descend upon us for 2-3 days each year.
While they played music, Gayden and I did what we do best and what any good, hospitable south Louisiana family would do, cook and cook and cook some more. We made certain that everyone was well fed and experienced the joy of sampling our fine local unique cuisine.
Boiled crawfish, our family version of crawfish bread (a favorite of our kids at the fest), crawfish pies, chicken and sausage gumbo and jambalaya. We provided food and they provided incredible music into the wee hours of the morning. Fair trade.
Here are a couple of our interpretations of favorite Jazz Fest recipes from the northshore ; Crawfish Zombie bread and Crawfish pies
Crawfish Zombie Bread
Personally, I think that this version is a little better that the fest version. Need a food processor to really make this work. Love and peace and happy springtime …it’s crawfish season in Louisiana!
2 cloves minced garlic
1 stick butter
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon mayo
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco and dash of Worcestershire
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon thyme
½ pound crawfish tails, finely chopped
1 loaf French bread cut in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine garlic, butter, cheese, mayo, lemon juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, until smooth. Add onions, parsley, thyme. Pulse until blended. Transfer to bowl. Fold in chopped crawfish tails. Chill 30 minutes. Spread on French bread and bake for 15 minutes.
It’s the season. Crawfish tails are about as inexpensive as you will ever see them throughout the year. Be true to Louisiana and buy local crawfish tails. You will be happy with our fat, succulent and authentic crawfish. This recipe is originally from Frank Davis with a few adaptations by the chef, moi!
1 pound crawfish tails, peeled (buy bag which has not been frozen)
1 dozen frozen mini pie shells, baked until lightly browned
¼ cup oil
¼ cup flour
1 medium onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
6-8 green onions, chopped, green part only
1 carrot shredded
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne and white pepper
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Season with thyme, basil and salt to taste
Make a light roux in a cast iron pot with the flour and oil. Stir until nutty brown color. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and carrots and cook until tender. When veggies are wilted, add remaining ingredients; parsley, paprika, cayenne, white pepper, salt, chopped egg, thyme and basil. Add cream. Separate crawfish tails into 2 portions and chop ½ of tails in food processor or blender until lightly chopped. DO NOT OVER PROCESS. The remainder of the tails will remain whole. Fold the chopped tails and whole tails into this mixture. If the mixture appears to be too dry add a little water or more cream. Mix gently and then spoon mixture into cooled mini pie shells. Pack filling tightly and make it rounded at the top. Place filled crawfish pies on a sheet pan and place in 350 oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until thoroughly heated.