Crawfish Bisque

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  • 20 pounds live crawfish
  • 4 packets Zatarain's Crab, Shrimp and Crawfish Seasoning
  • 3 lemons, quartered
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large onions, finely minced
  • 1 large bell pepper, finely minced
  • 3 ribs celery, finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 cups shellfish stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 dozen Stuffed Crawfish Heads (see below for instructions)

Prepare a large crawfish-boiling pot with enough water for boiling the crawfish; add Zatarain's seasoning and lemons and bring to a boil. Drop the crawfish in live and boil for 10 minutes. Ice down the boil and let the crawfish soak in the cold spiced water; the longer you let them soak, the more seasoning will be absorbed.

Break off the tails. Peel the tails, removing the vein but reserving the little flap of crawfish meat that's over the vein. Remove the crawfish fat from the heads (the little yellow glob that's worth it's weight in gold) and reserve in a separate container.

Clean 5 dozen crawfish heads for stuffing. The so-called "head" is actually the large red thorax shell. Remove all inside parts, including the eyes and antennae. What should remain is the little tube with two open ends and one open side. Be careful, the shell must be scraped clean on the inside and it can be a bit rough on the fingers (a beer can opener can make this job easier). Divide the crawfish fat and tails evenly reserving half for the bisque and half for the stuffing.

Prepare the stuffed crawfish heads according to the recipe below. This is very labor-intensive and takes a long time; most folks I know take two days to make crawfish bisque, cooking the crawfish, cleaning the heads and stuffing them the day before, and cooking the bisque on the second day. Recruit some help if you can. Place the stuffed heads in a pan and refrigerate.

To prepare the bisque, make a roux with the butter, oil and flour. Cook over low-medium heat, being careful not to scorch the butter, until the roux turns light brown. Stir CONSTANTLY. This means CONSTANTLY, without stopping for anything. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft and the roux is peanut butter colored. Remove from heat and cool, continuing to stir.

Gradually and carefully add the stock or water (stock preferably) and combine thoroughly, making a nice gravy. Add half of the crawfish tails and crawfish fat, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. If you've got a little leftover crawfish stuffing, add it to the pot as well, as it adds more body and flavor.

Add the baked or sautéed crawfish heads and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the onion tops and parsley just before serving.

To serve, mound about 3/4 cup of rice in large bowls, and divide the bisque evenly between them. Serve 6 stuffed crawfish heads with each serving.

To Prepare Crawfish Heads:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 medium onions, finely minced
  • 1 large bell pepper, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup shellfish stock or water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups plain French bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup green onions, minced with tops
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 dozen cleaned crawfish heads
  • Flour for dusting

Make a roux with the oil and flour. Add onions and bell peppers and cook until tender, stirring constantly. Mince or grind the remaining half of the crawfish tails and add to the roux-onion mixture. Add the remaining crawfish fat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add stock, salt, peppers, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, green onions and butter. Combine thoroughly, adjusting the consistency with more stock or more bread crumbs as needed.

Fill each head with stuffing. Roll in flour and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or fry in hot oil until the stuffing is golden brown.

Crawfish Étouffée

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  • 4 ounces vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds crawfish tails (can also use shrimp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, tops only, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water

Place the 4 ounces of oil in a thick, cast-iron skillet or pot, add the crawfish, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and cook over a high heat until the water is gone, stirring frequently. This can take some time, especially if you are using frozen crawfish, which have a lot of water in them. If using shrimp, do not cook more than 10 minutes.

About half an hour before serving, prepare some boiled rice. Use two cups of rice and three and a half to four cups of water, a little salt, and boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat until the water boils off the top of the rice. Then, turn the heat to medium and continue to cook it, uncovered, until the rice around the rim of the pot starts to look dry. Turn the heat very low, cover, and cook for about seventeen minutes.

Add the onion, scallions, bell pepper, parsley and garlic to the crawfish, lower the heat to medium-high and cook 7 minutes stirring frequently.

Add the tomato sauce and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add water, lower the heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over rice. MAKES 8 PORTIONS.

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