The Mardi Gras parade, dating all the way back to the late 1830s, included street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders — some carrying fascinating gaslight torches. Fast-forward to present day, the parade now consists of over-the-top floats, exotic costumes, lots of beads, balls and never-ending feasts of King Cakes.
Louisiana native David Guas knows a thing or two about Mardi Gras, especially when it comes to food. His restaurant, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, is the first Washington, D.C. establishment to offer authentic delectable Southern sweets and savory casual eats. While King Cake gets all the glory during this time (as it deserves), we went to David and asked him, “If there were such a thing as parade route food, what would that be?” His answer: the classic hot dog. Well, sort of classic: “the Gras Dog,” he dubs it.
Why hot dogs? “There’s something to be said about the all-beef hot dog,” David says. “It’s about as American as they come and I think they’re the best. This is how you make a Gras Dog — Louisiana-style — and when it’s Mardi Gras time, your most important concern is how you juggle catching beads and keeping a cocktail or beer in the other hand. So when you take a break to eat and free up one hand to get some food fuel in your system, it has to be easy and take only a few bites to finish. After that, back out to catching beads.”
“Once you’re out on the parade route, there’s no going back,” he continues.” You plant yourself on the streetcar side, neutral-ground side or the sidewalk side. That’s how a local distinguishes where to find someone. ‘What side of the street are you on?’ You want food that can last for hours and pick up and go. Nothing fancy about it. But it’s got to have flavor, and these dogs are what we’ve had since I was in diapers. You don’t need any anything else. Put the dog in the bun and chow down.”
Most of us won’t make it to the Mardi Gras parade this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Gras Dog at home — David was kind enough to share his recipe.
Gras Dogs by David Guas
8 quarts water
1-pound package Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil (seasoning mix)
1 (or more) package hot dogs
1. In a large stockpot, mix 8 quarts water and seasoning mix. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add hot dogs to the pot. Cook according to package directions.
2. For a party, remove hot dogs from the pot and return the liquid at a boil. Cook additional hot dogs, as desired.
3. Serve on a potato hot dog bun with your favorite turkey chili (try this recipe), sharp cheddar cheese and chopped green onions.
After you’re done with your hot dogs, try one of these Mardi Gras Hi-Hat Cupcakes (another one-hand snack great for the parade route).