Whether you're parading through New Orleans for Mardi Gras or celebrating at home, one of the best ways to indulge in the Big Easy's enigmatic culture is to devour it.
Nestled throughout its many spirited neighborhoods, the restaurants of New Orleans are always serving up diverse and flavorful dishes. Chefs draw from the area's French, Caribbean, Cajun and Southern influences to master new and traditional recipes. While many of these savory stews, sides and entrées look extravagant, many are simple to make and only require one pot.
So grab some beads, play a little jazz music and get a taste of what Hoda Kotb calls "the warmest, best place on earth" from some of New Orleans' most celebrated chefs.
"My sister, who used to hate grits, once said, 'I don’t know what the difference is, but these grits have made me a believer.' I have yet to tell her why they’re so good," chef Justin Devillier of New Orleans’ La Petite Grocery and Justine told TODAY Food. In addition to being a breakfast staple, grits are a great base for a host of hearty soups and stews.
Chef Dane Harris is the executive chef at The Franklin, a small but vibrant restaurant in an old New Orleans corner store. For his creamy, Peruvian-inspired mussels, Harris uses local New Orleans beer and spicy Peruvian peppers from a nearby farm. It creates a bright mix of flavor that comes together in just 15 minutes.
Chef Alfredo Nogueira, known as "Fredo" by his friends and colleagues, is at the helm of two New Orleans haunts: a cocktail bar called Cure and the French Quarter's Cane & Table. Many of Nogueira's recipes reflect the Cajun flavors from his native hometown and his Cuban heritage, with even more influences coming from his career along the way. This lively garlic soup is comforting, simple and fairly inexpensive to make.
When it comes to one-pot dishes, this Creole seafood dish from the executive chef at The Royal Sonesta New Orleans is a real crowd pleaser. It has bright colors, robust but simple flavors, and can be made in just 30 minutes. The fish is great served alone, over pasta or — in the Big Easy — spooned over Louisiana rice.
Chef Nina Compton has earned many accolades for her Caribbean-inspired cuisine, which shines on the menu of her latest venture with husband Larry Miller, Bywater American Bistro, in the hip Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans. This one-pot dish reflects Compton's Caribbean roots.
"Growing up in St. Lucia, I ate a lot of seafood like salt fish and flying fish and parsley sauce. This dish really takes me back home," Compton told TODAY. "The fish, coconut milk, okra and yucca all come together to create a really flavorful dish that, to me, represents the Caribbean and everything I love about Caribbean cuisine.”