Address: 227 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
Super Bowl XLIV
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
On: WGCL-TV, 550-AM
Not just folks from New Orleans will be celebrating the fun loving, free spirit of Louisiana this weekend — people across the country will be reveling as the New Orleans Saints take the field against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
The Saints will be playing in the big game for the first time, and folks everywhere are taking this opportunity to connect with the Cajun culture that Louisiana natives live with every day.
So when planning that Super Bowl party, why not use the food to kick it up a notch?
“I love the culture that is very free and creative, and the food, music — and it is just a way to celebrate life,” said Scott Fugate, Gainesville native and Saints fan.
At least, he said, he’s a fan right now.
“I am right now because the Saints are so tied into the culture of New Orleans,” he said. “For New Orleans it’s not just a game. The Saints represent the rebirth of New Orleans. The fact that the Saints are going to be in the Super Bowl means that New Orleans is back, in their mind and heart. It takes on a real significance.”
Fugate will host a Super Bowl party and plans to create homemade jambalaya, which he adds can be personalized to everyone’s taste.
“Some people think that all New Orleans food is spicy, and really it’s a matter of what you want,” Fugate said. “I can make a jambalaya and a gumbo and an etoufee without any red pepper at all. The cayenne pepper really is the primary ingredient that makes it spicy. Everything else can be mild.
“Everyone has their own style of jambalaya, which is the cooking of jazz because you improvise every time you make it.”
Fugate added that every New Orleans-style dish begins with the Cajun trinity.
“The Cajun trinity is merely onions, green peppers and celery,” he said. “That is a base for everything and you chop that up and anything you put on top of that is (going to) be kind of that basic New Orleans feel.”
But according to Patti Mund, who lives in Gainesville but lived in New Orleans 30 years, it all begins with garlic, onion and bell pepper.
“It’s derived from a lot of different cultures with a French influence, Spanish influence. There’s Creole, Cajun — there’s a lot of different cultures that live in that area,” she said. “I think I make a pretty good gumbo — chicken and andouille gumbo.”
She plans on making gumbo for her Super Bowl party this weekend and shared that another idea to create at home for that New Orleans feel — crawfish pies.
To begin, sauté the onions, green pepper and garlic and add cream cheese, Cajun seasoning and crawfish tails.
“Then you put them in a little pie crust,” Mund said. “I have a different version where I put them in a little filo cup and I bake them so they aren’t as fattening.”
At the Atlanta Highway Seafood Market in Gainesville, some orders are already starting to come in for gumbo and fried shrimp. The gumbo at the market has large portions of shrimp, chicken and sausage and can be preordered for the big game.
“It is my mom’s recipe and she’s been making gumbo for — well, she’s been over here for almost 30 years,” said Phuong Le, the owner of Atlanta Highway Seafood Market.
Le, originally from Biloxi, Miss., said the New Orleans flavor is popular because it is distinctive.
“You’ve got the Cajun, Creole and ... the seasoning and the spice that we use, that is only found in New Orleans, the ingredients and local Gulf seafood,” he said. “I guess it’s just a melting pot.”
Kelly Russo, another New Orleans transplant, said her Super Bowl party menu will include chicken and andouille gumbo, shrimp or a crab dip, jambalaya and making a king cake.
“But I found a way to make a cheating king cake that is so good,” Russo said. She takes two cans of Pillsbury croissant dough and kneads them together. Then, using a rolling pin she flattens the dough until it is about 4 inches wide and about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long.
“Then you take honey nut cream cheese and you put the cream cheese on the inside in the center of the dough and you fold it over — don’t roll it, fold it in half — and pinch the ends so it seals it.”
Place a ring inside it and baste the top with nutmeg, cinnamon and butter and bake for about 12 minutes. For icing, mix 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar with 2 teaspoons of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. For a Mardi Gras look, divide the bath of icing into thirds and color them purple, green and gold.
Whatever you make at home for your Super Bowl celebration, keep in mind the spirit of New Orleans and the Saints.
“The significance of this game because it’s a marriage between a team and the city,” Russo said. “It’s about being connected ... and we all share a fanatical enthusiasm.”
And if the Saints win, well, even better, she said.
“In every neighborhood, every socioeconomic group will be dancing all together. And fireworks will be shooting off. There will be huge celebrations everywhere.”