Mardi Gras (that's French for "Fat Tuesday") is a religious holiday that is believed to have its roots in medieval Europe. Traditionally, it's the last night to indulge in rich, fatty foods before Ash Wednesday, when the ritual fasting of the Lent begins.
While the actual day -- this year it's Tuesday, March 4 -- may be a few weeks away, the festive Carnival season is already ramping up here in Houston. That means now is the perfect time to get your fix of these Mardi Gras classics:
These French pastries made from deep-fried choux paste have been an integral part of Louisiana cuisine since they were brought over by French colonists in the 18th century. They were even declared Louisiana's official state doughnut in 1986. Luckily, you don't have to go all the way to Café du Monde to get a taste of these sweet treats.
Where to get your fix: We love the classic fried puffs at Chez Beignets and Crescent City Beignets, where you can also find the strips pictured above. Hot, crisp and fluffy, the fritters are covered in mountains of powdered sugar.
For something a bit different, try the savory Gulf Coast Beignets at Backstreet Cafe. Filled with hunks of crab, shrimp, andouille sausage and corn, the crisp fritters get a creamy finish from a slather of roasted red pepper rémoulade and bright pop from jicama-studded slaw.
4. Crawfish Étouffée
Étouffée, literally "smothered" or "suffocated," from the French verb étouffer, is a classic Cajun or Creole dish in which a thick, buttery blond roux smothers shellfish. It's thicker than a stew and served over a bed of rice, and crawfish is the most popular version.
Where to get your fix: Get the classic at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, try a succulent shrimp and crawfish version made with Cajun spices at Esther's Cajun Cafe and Soul Food, or go for the gold with a crawfish combo -- complete with fried tails and a nutty, buttery étouffée -- at Joyce's Seafood & Steaks.
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