Classic Cajun dish stunning with seafood favorites, crawfish

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 31, 2012

It is that time of year when you can buy fresh crawfish. I like to buy some pounds of boiled crawfish and just come home and eat them, even though they are messy. A pound of boiled crawfish is about $3.69 this time of year, but they will get cheaper. A pound of fresh crawfish tails is running about $14.99, so that is rather expensive also, and about $2 more than last year.

Perhaps the best crawfish étouffée recipe that I have found is from John Besh’s cookbook, My New Orleans. Étouffée means smothered, and this dish is smothered both with a lid and with the holy trinity of vegetables – onion, celery and bell pepper. The essential flavor is taken from the crawfish tails, which are used to make the stock. (See recipe below). The crawfish should be added near the very end so they do not become tough. The velvety texture of the étouffée comes from browning the flour in oil in the early stages; this makes our roux, the base of this classic dish.

Basic Shellfish


Makes 6 cups

½ cup canola oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 leek, white part, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish or lobster

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Heat the canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the shells from the shrimp, crab, crawfish, lobster, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and 3 quarts water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about two hours.

Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool, cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.




Serves 6

3 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons flour

1 small onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

Half a red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 quart basic shellfish stock (above recipe)

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound peeled crawfish tails

2 green onions, chopped

2 dashes Worcestershire

2 dashes Tabasco


Freshly ground black pepper

3 cups cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk the flour into the very hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle and fizz. Keep whisking and reduce the heat to medium. Continue whisking until the roux takes on a gorgeous dark brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, reduce the heat, and cook until the onions caramelize. If you add all the vegetables at the same time, the water that results will boil the onions and their sugars won’t caramelize.

When the onions have turned the roux shiny and dark, add the celery, bell peppers, garlic, thyme, cayenne, and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes. Now add the tomatoes and the Shellfish Stock and increase the heat to high.

Once the sauce has come to a boil, reduce the heat to moderate and let simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Be careful not to let it burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the butter. Add the crawfish tails and green onions. Season with Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and black pepper. Once the crawfish tails have heated through, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Serve in individual bowls over rice.