It's Crawfish Season! Time for Crawfish Etouffee
When I was a kid, one of my favorite outings was crawfishing on Sunday afternoon with my father, we would pull some sort of beef melt out of the freezer for bait, load up the poles and nets, and off we would go to a secret spot known for plentiful crawfishing. I will never forget the time one Easter Sunday, we went crawfishing and I brought along my chocolate Easter bunny that was in my basket. I mistakingly left it on the front seat of the car while checking the nets and when I returned, much to my dismay, my bunny was a puddle of milk chocolate melted all over the front seat of the car! I learned a big lesson about the strength of the Louisiana heat that day. Spring is usually the best time to forage for crawfish in Louisiana. Today, there are crawfish farms that do the work for us.
Crawfish is a staple of Louisiana cooking today. I suspect most of the crawfish grown in Louisiana stays in Louisiana, but you can get imported crawfish tail meat frozen as close as your local Walmart. The locals say if you use these, be sure to rinse them well before using them.
Fun facts about crawfish from the Louisiana Crawfish promotion and research board:
Natural vegetation does not provide enough food sources so farmers must plant a food source. Usually, the farmers plant rice because of its ability to grow in water.
Crawfish can shed (molt) their shells up to 15 times!
A crawfish nearly doubles in size with each molt.
The development of new freezing techniques and the removal of the fat from the tails gives crawfish a shelf life of up to 12 months.
Crawfish are an excellent source of protein. The low-calorie edible meat is found in the tail.
Louisiana leads the nation in the production of domestic crawfish.
A one-quarter pound of crawfish tails contains only 82 calories.
Crawfish are also a good source of calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein, and B Vitamins.
Crawfish ponds are usually flooded in late September or early October.
Farm-raised crawfish account for approximately 88% of crawfish harvested and production from the wild accounts for approximately 12%.
"Dating back to the native Americans and the early European settlers, the crawfish has been an inherent part of Louisiana culture. Abundant in the swamps and marshes across south Louisiana, crawfish were a favorite food of early residents. Centuries later, crawfish season in Louisiana is still exciting, with crawfish boils and backyard parties a time-honored tradition."- The Louisiana Crawfish promotion and research board
What kind of crawfish should I buy?
Louisiana crawfish in season is best. There are resources abound on the internet, but I would try your local fish market first. They can probably order them for you if they don't stock them. I like The Louisiana Crawfish Company, they have been around and have great products. I suggest starting with tail meat and when you are wanting to expand your horizons you can consider having live shipped to you.
What else can I make with Crawfish tail meat?
I think anything you can make with shrimp, you can make with crawfish tail meat. The traditional dishes are Etouffee, Gumbo, PoBoys, and casseroles. They will shrink like shrimp too, so be mindful of cooking time.
Cheater Crawfish Etouffee
In some parts of Louisiana, there is a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup involved. I wonder if a few Minnesota Folks slipped in under the radar because up north we call Cream of Mushroom soup Lutheran Binder. Nevertheless, I suppose it could be a stand-in for a roux. I have also seen Rotel tomatoes included too. This is for sure a shortcut for making a roux but, if you take the time to make it as my mama used to, you will not be disappointed with the results.
Mama's Crawfish Etouffee
Serves 6-10 depending on how many Cajuns are in attendance.
1/2 cup vegetable oil (Avocado or Grapeseed oil)
1/2 cup white flour
1 green pepper, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic
Cajun seasoning to taste
2 Teaspoons dry Italian Seasoning
4 cups shrimp or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound crawfish tail meat
Salt and Cayenne Pepper to taste
4 cups cooked rice
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Heat the oil in a medium skillet (black iron works best with a wooden spoon) until almost smoking hot. Add flour and stir like crazy, making sure it gets combined and not burned. Your roux should look like a thick paste. If it's too thin add more flour, too thick, add more oil. Lower heat to medium and cook until the color of peanut butter.
When the roux is ready add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic to the roux. This will stop the cooking process. Mix well until all vegetables are coated with the roux.
Transfer this mix to a dutch oven. Turn on heat to medium and continue cooking. Add the stock and tomato paste. The stew should thicken up immediately. Keep stirring until all is blended. Add the Cajun seasoning and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and red pepper and cook over low heat for at least an hour, 2 is better. After it turns to more of a stew-like appearance, check for seasoning and add the Lea and Perrins and hot sauce. 10 minutes before you are going to serve, mix the crawfish tail meat, chopped parsley, and green onions in the stew and stir until blended well. Serve over Cajun caviar- Steamed Rice