Posts Tagged ‘Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival’

Making crawfish étouffée

Spoonful of etouffeeThere are as many recipes for crawfish étouffée as there are cooks in Louisiana, but that’s probably because the basic recipe is so simple that everyone wants to add something to give it a personal touch.

As part of my instruction at Crawfish College in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, I had the good fortune of meeting chef Dustie Latiolais of the hugely popular restaurant Crawfish Town USA (2815 Grand Point Highway, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, 337-667-6148, www.crawfishtownusa.com). Crawfish dustie He showed my class how to prepare a classic crawfish étouffée at home. The key elements are the so-called “Cajun Trinity” of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper, and (of course) the crawfish. Latiolais thickens his with a red roux, which includes paprika as well as flour kneaded into the butter. The idea is to make a strongly flavored stock which is thickened with a roux so that it envelops the crawfish tails nicely.

CRAWFISH ÉTOUFFÉE

Ingredients

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups seafood stock (can be saved from boiling shrimp or lobster)
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons white flour
1 tablespoon paprika
6 ounces crawfish tails

Directions

1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan melt 6 ounces butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until onion softens and begins to become translucent. Be careful not to brown butter.

2. Add seafood stock and bring to a simmer.

3. In small bowl combine soft butter, flour, and paprika. Knead together until uniform. This is your red roux.

4. Whisk roux into simmering stock, stirring vigorously to keep from lumping. Continue stirring until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).

5. Reduce heat and stir in crawfish tails. Heat until tails are hot. Serve over rice.

Peeling Louisiana crawfish

01-Breaking a crawfish apart Crawfish might look like little lobsters, but getting to the meat takes a whole different approach. For starters, a meal of lobster is one lobster. A meal of crawfish contains several dozen. Because they are smaller, the meat in the claws – let alone the legs – is of little consequence. The tail’s the thing. But crawfish, unlike lobster, don’t have a carapace anywhere near big enough to poke your finger through.

02-Crawfish fat When I attended Crawfish College and the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the first thing I had to learn about crawfish was how to get at those tails so I didn’t go hungry. Fortunately, there’s a time-honored technique that also yields a nice clean tail without the animal’s alimentary tract.

Start by grasping the crawfish with both hands – one on the tail, the other on the main body (as above). Now twist to separate the two sections. This brings you to the existential choice: To suck the heads or to throw them away and move on to the tails. Even some Cajuns think sucking the heads is disgusting. Others enjoy inhaling the briny essence of crawfish. Still others suggest that it depends on how much beer you’ve been drinking.

03-Pulling vein from crawfishThe separated tail will be dabbed with a murky yellow-green mess traditionally called “crawfish fat.” (See the image above on the left.) In fact, it is the liver and has an intense crawfish flavor. It is universally enjoyed. All fans of crawfish agree that when peeling the tails, you need to pinch at the base. As you draw the tail out of the shell, the pressure will capture the digestive tract and pull it out separately from the meat so it can be discarded. (See image on right)

Although the directions sound complicated, they become second nature when you sit down to a special crawfish eating table (below), with a deep well in the middle for boiled crawfish and a funnel to toss down the shells to the garbage can strategically situated below. The whole business goes much faster when accompanied by the spicy Saison d’écrévisses ale from the local Bayou Teche brewery.
04-Peeling table with beer

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05 2013

What to eat at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Cindy Harris of Houston TXWhen it comes to the food vendors at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the food isn’t all crawfish, but to quote a good friend’s catch phrase, it’s all good. Well, most of it. I’d been given a big buildup from a couple of locals about Cajun pistols or pistolettes, which are buns stuffed with seafood and cheese and then deep-fried. As someone said, “they musta changed the recipe.”

Bon Creole Cindy Harris from Houston, Texas (above) opted for Giant Shrimp on a Stick from the same vendor selling Gator on a Stick (“tender and delicious”). In fairness, I tried the alligator on a stick and found it more tender than most alligator I’ve tried. And, no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes like alligator.

Food on a stick always does well at outdoor gatherings where few people can get a place to sit. In addition to the shrimp and gator, one vendor had the venerable corn dog (hot dog on a stick dipped in cornmeal batter and deep fried). More popular than all the meat on wooden sticks were the original meat on a stick: both frog’s legs (deep fried) and turkey legs (grilled over charcoal).

Boiled crawfish Having sampled many of the offerings, I will venture the opinion that the best tasting and probably healthiest options were some of the classics: crawfish etouffée on rice, jambalya, and seafood gumbo. (As the T-shirt says, “All creatures great and small taste better in gumbo.”) But this being the Crawfish Festival, my vote goes to the plates of boiled crawfish. (Watch for a future post on the technique for peeling boiled crawfish.)

Commencement Day at Crawfish College

Cap and gown
Crawfish you lookin' at me By the end of a short work week in and around Breaux Bridge, we the matriculated have been inculcated with the full flush of gracious community, the can’t-help-but-smile chords of a pounding accordion and fiddles, and the feisty spirit of the crawfish (right), which seems to flourish no matter what the world might do to beat him down. (This might be the secret of keeping a French Acadian spirit alive and well in exile from its original homeland. Like the crawfish, they took to the rich swamps and became Cajuns.) So we at the College reached our graduation day as part of the opening ceremonies, where we were presented with cap, gown, and diploma (above).

As the bands began to tune up for the one-of-a-kind Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen and Pete Rago (below) of Covington, Louisiana. They have been coming to the festival longer than anyone can count (Pete admits to being 88, Helen is forever young). No one can even come close to matching their costumes. To honor them this year (they have been Grand Marshals at least once), they were presented with the original painting from which the 2013 festival poster was made. Rock on, Helen and Pete. P1040472

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05 2013