Saturday, July 9, 2011

Crawfish!

When I read in a fellow-foodie's blog (www.dubai-bites.com) that Carrefour were selling crayfish, I rushed over as instantly as possible. And found a pile of these delicious mudbugs right there, looking good. I was chatting with a friend while selecting the crayfish. When she noticed the critters moved (they are alive), I think she cringed a little. And a little more so when I said: "they probably die on the way to the car." It is after all a good 45 degrees here these days. So to cross from the mall to your car in the parking lot is, well, boiling hot. Rest assured though, I was only kidding. I had come prepared with a cooler (and ice packs).

Crayfish - or crawfish as I got accustomed to calling them when I lived in New Orleans - are little freshwater lobsters. Springtime is crawfish season in Louisiana, and eating fresh crawfish outdoors is a favorite pastime. Boiled in a spicy stock, the bright-red crawfish are unceremoniously dumped in the middle of a group on any surface covered with yesterday's Times Picayune - your picnic blanket, a park table, the back of a pickup, the levee even. Next thing, they are systematically devoured.

The devoted (Louisiana) way to eat them is to "suck da head and pinch da tail": you twist and pull the head from the tail, suck that to get all the juices of the boiling liquid (and then some), and then you pinch the tail end to get the meat out. Just like that. Nothing else needed. Maybe a piece of corn, potato, artichoke or andouille (spicy sausage) cooked in the same liquid as the crawfish. That's it. Simple can be divine.

The Louisiana Crawfish Festival kicks off the crawfish season. It features crawfish in so many different ways it is impossible to try them all. Think crawfish and corn soup, crawfish cakes, crawfish po-boy, crawfish pies (don't you dare start to sing), crawfish pasta, crawfish gumbo, crawfish jambalaya, crawfish etouffee. To list just a selection. Actually, the same spread is dedicated to all Louisiana seafood. You will find it at the Louisiana Shrimp Festival. The Oyster Festival. The (softshell) Crab Festival. Oh would I love a fried softshell crab po-boy just about now! Breaded lightly, the crabs are fried whole. All crunchy, they are then stuffed into a crusty loaf and "dressed" with lettuce, tomatoes, and a spicy remoulade. A po-boy (as the sandwich is called) is good with anything, but I think superb with fresh softshell crab.

This is beginning to sound like an Ode to Lousiana Seafood. Well, it should be. Especially after the trials and tribulations over the last few years. Katrina, and more recently the devastating Gulf oil disaster.

The crawfish in my kitchen today come from the rivers in the Northern part of Iran. What am I doing with them? I boil them. Yes in a spicy stock, which I flavored with a good sprinkling of Tony Chacheres' Creole Seasoning. I got it from a Louisiana friend with her heart in the right food-place. I cool the crawfish, and shell them. The tails go in a batter that is similar to a thick pancake batter and has baking powder in it. I also add finely chopped green bellpepper, finely chopped green onion, and more of the Creole seasoning. I then drop spoon-fuls in hot oil to deep-fry what will be: crawfish beignets!

Bon appetit!