Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler with King Cake at Little Dom’s

Written by

It is Mardi Gras season. And that means parties and parades are taking over the streets of The Big Easy. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Brandon Boudet - headshotThe Mardi Gras revelry starts in New Orleans on January 6 with the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, and runs until Fat Tuesday on February 9 with the parades and grand balls of the Zulu and Rex Krewes. When the clock strikes midnight on Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is over and for practicing Catholics Lent, 40 days of fasting begins.

Mardi Gras might conjure up images of drunken debauchery. But ever since the Crescent City’s first Mardi Gras street parade took place in 1837, the festivities have also revolved around tradition, community, culture and, of course, food.

Brandon Boudet, the chef and owner of Little Dom’s, Dominick’s, 101 Coffee Shop and MiniBar has fond childhood memories of Mardi Gras. Born of Sicilian, French and German ancestry, Boudet can trace his family lineage in the U.S. back to the end of the Civil War, when his ancestors immigrated as farmers. They later became grocers. Boudet remembers watching parades in New Orleans as a child away from the raucous French Quarter from ladder boxes that his father set up along parade routes. After the parades, families and friends gathered to feast on gumbo, jambalaya red beans and rice and crock pots full of roast beef for po’ boys. No Mardi Gras feast was complete without a king cake.

Chef Brandon Boudet’s cousin, Terry Gagliano, was crowned “King of the Hercules Krewe” in 1977. Also pictured atop the Mardi Gras float are Terry’s wife, Cindy, and son, Troy. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Boudet) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

These days, there are plenty of bakeries putting modern spins on the traditional king cake —from the cinnamon roll version to the buttery, flakey kouign amann-cake to the over-the-top Quebedeaux’s Boudin & Cracklins variety. But the classic king cake from Boudet’s childhood was made from a simple yeast dough and topped with that familiar festive tri-colored royal icing — green, purple and gold — that to some symbolizes the three magi who visited the Virgin Mary bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Most New Orleanians got their king cakes from McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes until rival Tastee Donuts, which now sells “McKenzie-style” branded king cakes, stole the show.

At Little Dom’s, Brandon celebrates the Mardi Gras season with the flavors of home, including Big Easy favorites like jambalaya, roast beef po’ boys served on NoLa’s Leidenheimer French bread, boudin balls, and king cakes that are made on site.

Head pastry chef Ann Kirk shared her recipe for the Little Dom’s king cake, complete with a baby tucked in. (In accordance with Mardi Gras tradition, whoever gets the baby in his or her slice of king cake has to host the next Mardi Gras party!)