Crawfish Creations

Trying to divine what kind of crawfish season we’ll have brings to mind Yogi Berra’s observation that it’s difficult to make predictions – especially about the future. And that goes double for the wily crawfish, who is more unpredictable than the weather. We do know that demand for crawfish is highest during Lent, so it would seem to follow that since Easter isn’t until April 20 this year, well into the traditional crawfish season, the supply might be higher and the price lower.

At least that’s what I theorized when I looked at the calendar last fall. Then came our unusually cold winter, and I had to revise my prognosis. Cold weather causes crawfish to burrow into the mud, and they won’t emerge until the water warms. As I write this, I’m inclined to think that we may be in for a late crawfish season, as well as a late Easter. So I’m not counting on lower prices, and I’m putting aside some extra money, just in case. In fact, if I were a banker, I’d offer Crawfish Club accounts so people could sock away some savings each month the same way they do with Christmas Club accounts. Nobody should come up short during crawfish season.

And what better way to celebrate the end of winter than to eat boiled crawfish? As a harbinger of spring, the appearance of live crawfish in the market and on the menu is right up there with the blooming of azaleas and the arrival of ruby-throated hummingbirds from their winter retreat on the other side of the Gulf. Sure, we can buy frozen crawfish tails year round now, and as much as we might enjoy a winter etouffee, it’s just not the same.

After everyone has eaten their fill of boiled crawfish, there are often leftovers that can be enjoyed the following day. Crawfish are infinitely adaptable, so they can be incorporated into a wide variety of different dishes. Following are four possibilities. Each of them is quick and easy to prepare.

Crawfish, Avocado And Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has acquired a trendy reputation in recent years, but don’t let that put you off. In addition to being nutritious, this nutty-tasting grain (actually a seed) native to South America is also quite delicious and adaptable.

• 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
• 1 cup quinoa
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 pound cooked crawfish tails
• ½ cup chopped green onion tops
• ½ cup chopped parsley
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Hot sauce
• 2 avocados
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil, add quinoa, stir, cover pot and simmer until all the stock is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes.
Pour cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl and slowly add olive oil while fluffing with a fork.
Add crawfish and toss.
Add onion tops and parsley, toss and season to taste with salt, black pepper and hot sauce.

Peel, seed and slice avocados and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to mixing bowl, drizzle with lemon juice and toss gently. Makes about 4 servings.

Spicy Tofu with Crawfish

This is an adaptation of a favorite Chinese dish, spicy bean curd with pork – bean curd being another name for tofu. Tom yum paste is an all-purpose hot and sour chili paste from Thailand that is flavored with lemon grass, shallot, dried shrimp, lime, garlic and other seasonings. It is available in Asian grocery stores and can be used in a variety of preparations. This dish can be prepared in less time than it takes to cook the rice.

• 1 pound firm tofu (bean curd)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 1 tablespoon tom yum paste
• 1 teaspoon soy sauce
• 1 pound cooked crawfish tails
• 2 teaspoons corn starch
• 1 tablespoon water
• ¼ cup chopped green onions
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cut tofu into ½-inch cubes and set aside.
In a wok or large skillet, combine chicken broth, tom yum paste and soy sauce and bring to a boil.
Add crawfish tails and simmer for 1 minute.
Add tofu and simmer for another minute until heated through.
In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into water until dissolved.
Add cornstarch mixture to wok or skillet and stir carefully to avoid breaking up tofu.
Add chopped green onions.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
Simmer until slightly thickened, then turn out into a serving bowl.
Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Serve with steamed rice.

Makes about 4 servings

Crawfish Rice Dressing

This is a very versatile dish that can be used in a variety of ways. It is good served on its own or used as a stuffing for peppers or poultry.

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 small bell pepper, diced
• 1 stalk celery, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ pound cooked crawfish tails, roughly chopped
• Cajun/Creole seasoning
• 2 cups cooked brown or white rice
• ¼ cup chopped green onion tops
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a large skillet, simmer oil, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add crawfish, season to taste with Cajun/Creole seasoning and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add cooked rice and stir to combine.
Adjust seasoning, and add onion tops and parsley.

Makes about 4 servings

Crawfish Frittata

This is a pretty dish because of the golden eggs studded with red and green. Accompanied by grits and biscuits, it is a fine brunch dish or, when served with salad and crusty bread, it can double as a light lunch or supper.

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 small bell pepper, diced
• 6 large eggs
• ½ teaspoon coarse salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• ½ teaspoon hot sauce
• 3 tablespoons chopped green onion tops
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• ½ pound cooked crawfish tails

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick, melt butter and simmer onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat eggs with salt, black pepper and hot sauce. Add onion tops, parsley, Parmesan and crawfish tails.
Turn egg mixture into skillet, smooth top with a rubber spatula and bake in preheated oven until puffy and set around the edge of the skillet, about 10 minutes.
Place skillet under broiler for a few minutes to set the middle and brown the top.
Cut into wedges for serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

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