Harbingers of Spring

When crawfish season is in full swing the possibilities are endless — and flavorful
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We love rice in Louisiana, but we also love grits. Many preparations, such as this one, can be served with either. And grits are no longer reserved for just the breakfast table.

Other states may herald spring with the arrival of shad roe, fiddlehead ferns, a final melting of the ice or robins returning from the South, but in Louisiana, crawfish are the true harbingers of spring. It’s as simple as that.

No matter that fresh crawfish are often available as early as November and that frozen crawfish tails can be purchased year round. Never mind what the elders say about spring — the season hasn’t truly arrived until the pecan trees leaf out. Azaleas? Sure, their blazing colors herald the changing of seasons, but azaleas, like eager gardeners who set out tomato plants too early, can be fooled by a false start.

Maybe the combination of crawfish and spring has as much to do with ritual as anything else. We eat crawfish at other times of the year, but now is the time when we feast on those delectable crustaceans to celebrate the harvest, in anticipation of spring and as an important part of the Lenten diet.

In addition to their innate deliciousness, part of the appeal of crawfish is that they are so versatile and can be prepared in so many different ways. They lend themselves to preparations that are quick and easy to execute and that deliver great flavor. Crawfish also combine easily with a variety of ingredients and seasonings and can be incorporated into many different styles of cooking.

Crawfish preparations can range from bold and spicy to ones of great subtlety and complexity. Crawfish also lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods, seasonings and flavorings from other ingredients. Crawfish are low in calories and fat and they combine well with a number of vegetables for those who want a healthful preparation. Or they can be enriched with butter and cream to satisfy cravings of another sort.

But, ultimately, many crawfish preparations start with the leftovers of crawfish boils. And what better way to celebrate the end of winter than to eat boiled crawfish. Sure, we can buy frozen crawfish tails year round, and as much as we might enjoy a winter étouffée, it’s just not the same.


Crawfish And Grits

2 tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons roux
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
in purée
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cane syrup
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper and hot sauce to taste
1 pound crawfish tails with fat
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
grits, preferably stone ground or old fashioned
4 tablespoons butter

Cook onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, roux and chicken stock, stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire, soy sauce and cane syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, season with salt, peppers and hot sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add crawfish and lemon juice and simmer for another 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Meanwhile, cook enough grits for 4 servings according to package instructions and stir in butter at the end.

Serve crawfish over grits in wide shallow bowls, garnished with onion tops and parsley. Makes 4 servings.

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Crawfish Salad

¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound crawfish tails
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cajun/Creole seasoning and hot sauce to taste

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise with mustard and horseradish, mixing well. Add celery, shallots, green onion tops, parsley, lemon juice and crawfish. Toss to combine. Season with salt, pepper, Cajun/Creole seasoning and hot sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Crawfish With Pesto and Pasta

2 cups loosely-packed fresh basil
½ clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta (orecchiette or shells)
1 pound crawfish tails
½ cup chicken stock or broth
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil. Process until puréed. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan or skillet, simmer crawfish tails in chicken stock, stirring occasionally. Drain cooked pasta in a colander and add to pesto in serving bowl. Add crawfish tails and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Crawfish Stew

4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons roux
1 pound crawfish tails with fat
2 tablespoons lemon juice
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper
¼ cup chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened. 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. Add crawfish with fat and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne, and simmer until thickened and crawfish are tender. Add chopped green onion tops and parsley and serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.

Categories: Food+Drink