Mudbugs in March

Just as we were enjoying oyster season in November, boiled crawfish showed up on the menu everywhere we went. Talk about an abundance of riches. There was only one way to deal with such a windfall: A dozen oysters on the half-shell followed by an order of boiled crawfish. That combination is unbeatable.

We’re fortunate that we can get frozen crawfish tails year round, but the arrival of live crawfish is always a cause for celebration. After we’ve eaten our fill of boiled crawfish, there are usually leftovers, and that’s when we start looking forward to the next meal.

We all have our favorite crawfish dishes. Etouffée and bisque are often at the top of the list, but sometimes it’s fun to try something new. Since crawfish can be prepared in an almost infinite variety of ways, we have plenty of options.

I’m a big fan of tacos, as is everyone I know. They can form the main part of a meal or eaten as a snack, and  they can be filled with almost anything you can think of. The taco recipe this month uses corn tortillas (I’m partial to the white corn variety) filled with crawfish, sliced avocado and green salsa. Flour tortillas can be substituted, if that’s your preference.

When we make any kind of one-pot crawfish dish, we usually eat it with rice, but there are other options. The recipe for crawfish piquante, a spicy tomato stew, calls for serving it over rice waffles for a change of pace. The rice flour in the recipe is available in Asian food stores, as well as some supermarkets. The recipe doesn’t specify it, but you can separate the eggs, beat the whites until stiff, and fold them in at the end. It adds another step, but it does make for a remarkably light waffle.

The recipe for crawfish stew calls for serving it over cheese grits in place of rice. Grits, often reserved for the breakfast table, are quite at home on the dinner table, as well. There’s something very soothing and comforting about grits, and that is often welcome at the end of the day. Stone-ground grits are the best choice, if you can find them. If not, use old-fashioned grits. By all means, avoid quick or instant grits.

For another change of pace, the recipe for crawfish shells uses pasta shells combined with crawfish, peas and seasonings. It’s very easy to make, perfect for a dinner you can put together quickly after work. This recipe, as well as the one for grits, calls for freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
Please use the real thing. Grated “parmesan” in a can just won’t give you the same result.

Seasoning controversy

Every experienced crawfish boiler has his or her own seasoning preferences, but the biggest difference is whether to add additional seasoning after the crawfish have been boiled. Some swear by it; others think the legislature should outlaw the practice.

Crawfish Piquante with Rice Waffles

crawfish piqante
¼    cup olive oil
1    medium onion, chopped
1    stalk celery, chopped
1    bell pepper, chopped
4    cloves garlic, diced
2    tablespoons tomato paste
2    tablespoons prepared roux
2    cups chicken broth
1    cup crushed tomatoes in puree
1    bay leaf
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste
1    pound crawfish tails

Rice waffles (recipe follows)
2    tablespoons chopped green onion tops
2    tablespoons chopped parsley
Rice Waffles
2    cups rice flour
2    teaspoons baking powder
¼    teaspoon salt
1    cup milk
2    eggs, lightly beaten
2    tablespoons melted butter

1. CRAWFISH PIQUANTE: Cook onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Add tomato paste and roux, stir to combine, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, season with salt, peppers and hot sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

4. Add crawfish and simmer for another 30 minutes.

5. RICE WAFFLES: Preheat waffle iron. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Position a rack on a baking sheet and place in oven.

6. Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add milk, eggs, and melted butter; stir to combine.

7. Spoon batter on hot waffle iron and cook until crisp and browned. Transfer cooked waffles to baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

8. Serve crawfish piquante over rice waffles, garnished with onion tops and parsley.

Makes 4 or more servings.

Crawfish Shells

¼    cup olive oil
4    cloves garlic, diced
½    cup dry white wine
1    pound crawfish tails
1    tablespoon lemon juice
2    cups green peas
Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste
½     pound medium pasta shells
1 ½    cups freshly-grated Parmesan

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet, add garlic and cook briefly until fragrant. Add white wine, crawfish and lemon juice, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a medium-size pot of salted water. When it comes to a boil, cook shells until al dente, according to package instructions.

3. Add peas to the crawfish mixture and season with Cajun/Creole seasoning. When pasta is ready, strain in a colander and add to the crawfish mixture. Stir to combine, adjust seasoning, and simmer for a few minutes. Turn into a serving bowl, add Parmesan, and toss.

Makes 4 servings.

Crawfish Tacos

4     tomatillos
2    serrano peppers, or to taste
¼    cup loosely packed
cilantro leaves
Coarse salt to taste

2    tablespoons olive oil
1    medium onion, chopped
4    cloves garlic, chopped
1    pound crawfish tails
Coarse salt to taste
Fresh lime juice to taste
1-2    sliced avocados
Lime wedges

1. SALSA: To make salsa, remove husks from tomatillos. Wash tomatillos, place in a pan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

2. Combine tomatillos, serrano peppers and cilantro in blender or food processor and puree, adding water as necessary. Season with salt and process with additional peppers, if desired. Transfer salsa to a bowl.

3. TACOS: Heat olive oil in large skillet, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add garlic and cook briefly. Add crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and lime juice.

5. TORTILLAS: Heat tortillas, allowing 1 or 2 for each taco. Fill tortillas with crawfish mixture, a slice of avocado, and salsa. Serve with lime wedges for each diner to use, as desired.

Makes 4 or more servings.

Crawfish Stew with Cheese Grits

Crawfish Stew
4     tablespoons butter
1     large onion, chopped
1     stalk celery, chopped
1     bell pepper, chopped
4     cloves garlic, diced
2     cups chicken broth
3     tablespoons prepared dark roux
1     pound crawfish tails
2     tablespoons lemon juice
Coarse salt, black pepper, and
cayenne to taste
Cheese grits (recipe follows)
2     tablespoons chopped green
onion tops
2     tablespoons chopped parsley

Cheese Grits
1     cup grits, stone-ground or old-fashioned
Coarse salt
4     tablespoons butter, softened
2     cups freshly-grated Parmesan

1. crawfish stew: In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium-high heat, add chicken broth and roux and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, then add to cooked vegetables.

3. Add crawfish and lemon juice. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne, and simmer until thickened and crawfish are tender, about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Add chopped green onion tops and parsley and serve over cheese grits.

4. cheese grits: Cook grits according to package instructions. Then stir in butter and Parmesan. Adjust salt, if needed.
Makes about 4 servings.



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