Crawfish really aren’t fish at all, as you well know, but rather they are arthropods. Yep, you read that right. From the same family as spiders and probably the reason some folks refer to them as “mud bugs”, a term about which a friend recently queried me. Those folks tend to be a little late to the party and from north Louisiana, because I don’t know one self-respecting bayou person or Cajun who refers to crawfish as mud bugs. But again, no matter what you call them, unless you’ve tried ’em, don’t knock ’em.
Typically, we don’t buy live crawfish so we can cook them into delicious dishes like crawfish stew, etouffee, or crawfish pie. Rather, we boil them first in seasoned water, along with onions, potatoes, corn and just about any other thing you like to eat boiled in the spicy water. Some folks also add mushrooms, cauliflower, artichokes, and asparagus. But simple bayou folks stick to the basics. We love us some boiled crawfish!!
Termite just celebrated his 19th birthday, and he wanted to boil up some sacks of crawfish for the family. Of course, we didn’t fight him on that idea. He did a fantastic job, and the crawfish were perfectly seasoned and came right out of the tail with ease.
We have two types of indigenous crawfish in Louisiana–the red swamp crawfish and white river crawfish. A little darker in color, the swamp crawfish have slightly harder exoskeletons (or shells), and the river (also called spillway) crawfish have less red pigment. Both taste very similar once they are boiled.
Historically, crawfish were consumed by Native Americans and poor folks, because they grew in the wild and were easily accessible in the late winter and early spring. It wasn’t until around the 1930’s and the advent of transportation and refrigeration that crawfish became a commercial commodity and in demand by more sophisticated palates. I’m sure those Indians and Cajuns were very, very sad when the secret got out as to just how delicious crawfish really are.
Eventually, rice farmers in southwest Louisiana started flooding their rice fields after the harvest in order to “farm” the crawfish. This industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and has become the rice farmers bread and butter. Many of the crawfish are sold in large quantities to seafood markets by the “sack”, which average 40 pounds each. The majority of those farmed crawfish are sold right here in Louisiana, with a small percentage being exported to other states or countries.
There’s so much more to learn about the crawfish, but I will save all that for another fact-filled article. Right now, I’m interested in sharing with you the recipe that I just cooked up this afternoon using the leftover crawfish tails from Termite’s successful “crawfish boil”.
Don’t fret if you don’t have fresh, leftover crawfish tails, because you can find them in the frozen seafood section of your major grocers. Just make sure that the package says “product of Louisiana” and not “product of China” or some other foreign country.
This recipe was adapted from one in the spring issue of Garden and Gun Magazine. Lance Pitre, the author of this recipe, has won multiple etouffee championships with this recipe; and since I don’t have one of my own that I love, I thought I’d give his a whirl, with just a little tweaking.
- 1⅓ cups yellow onion or one medium onion, chopped,
- ½ cup green bell pepper or one medium bell pepper, chopped,
- ½ cup red bell pepper I used 2 small sweet peppers, chopped
- ⅓ cup yellow bell pepper I used 2 small sweet peppers, chopped
- ⅓ cup orange bell pepper I used 2 small sweet peppers, chopped
- ½ cup celery or 2 stalks, chopped,
- 1 stick salted butter
- 3 tbsp . flour
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 8- oz . can tomato sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth use more after cooking process is complete to thin, if desired
- ⅔ cup half-and-half
- 1 16- oz . package peeled Louisiana crawfish I used leftover boiled crawfish tails
- ½ tsp . cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp . salt
- ⅛ tsp . ground cloves
- 2 stalks green onions chopped
Over medium heat, sauté the onion, bell peppers, and celery in butter until the onions are translucent—approximately 15 minutes.
Add the flour, stirring constantly until well blended but not browned.
Add garlic and tomato sauce, stir.
Stir in chicken broth and half-and-half.
Lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
Add crawfish, seasonings, and green onions.
Heat through for about 15 more minutes, stirring often, allowing flavors to blend.
Serve over a bed of hot rice, with a green salad, and hot French bread or pistolettes for dipping the sauce from your bowl!
Serves 6-8 depending on serving size.
The price per pound of live crawfish is still very high right now, because it is still the Lenten season. Once Lent is over, however, hopefully the price will go down. I’ve seen times when we paid .49 per pound, but right now, they are about $4.00 per pound. That’s just crazy for these funny looking delicacies that live in the mud, but the secret is out, and there’s no going back. Crawfish are just that good if done right. So, get yourself some tails and get cracking on this recipe, and let us know how you liked it.
Spring is finally here!