Crawfish Bisque Like Your Maw-Maw Makes
I cannot say enough how much I like love crawfish bisque. It may well be my all-time favorite dish. Growing up, my mother never made it, not once. The first time I had it was at my best friend’s aunt’s. That bowl set the bar very high. My grandmother would make it every couple of years. Maybe. Sometimes less. The reason you see it so infrequently is that, done correctly, it takes a lot of time. All together, it probably takes a full day to prepare.
First, you need to boil crawfish. Then pick them. Then clean the heads. Cleaning the heads is the worst part of preparing this dish to me. Not because it is as gross as it sounds (it isn’t much more weird than peeling the tails) but because you have to snip off the noses of the crawfish. This rips my fingers to shreds. Here’s what four look like cleaned and ready to be stuffed:
Only 146 more to go. Yes, the recipe I use (from Marcelle Bienvenu’s “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can You Make A Roux? A Family Album Cookbook” –great title, eh?) calls for 150 stuffed heads. That’s a lot of heads! Now, the next step is to stuff said heads. To do that, you chop bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, and crawfish tails and mix that together with stale french bread crumbs. You then mix in more tails you did not chop and saute in oil with lots of salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Cooling crawfish head stuffing.
Let the mixture cool. Then stuff the heads and roll them in a mixture of seasoned and plain breadcrumbs. They will look like this:
Bake them until golden brown in a 375° oven (about 20 minutes). At this stage, go crack a beer. And give yourself a high mark for Effort. You have come far and done well. You are clearly at the point of no return and the rest, as they say, is a cakewalk.
Okay. Now, the recipe calls for sauteing more crawfish tails (the recipe calls for a total of four pounds of crawfish tails) with salt, cayenne pepper and paprika. The recipe suggests 1 tablespoon of cayenne. That will blow my mouth apart. We used 1/2 tablespoon this time, and that seems juuust right. Then you add warm water and roux to the pot. Well, damn. If I hadn’t read ahead, I’d have been in a pinch because I make roux and don’t buy it. So before I get going on this step, I make that roux first so that I can add it without having to take my cooking pot off the stove.
Pontchartrain Pete doing the work of the sous chef.
In yet another pot, saute green peppers, onions and celery until they are tender then add them to the main pot along with more water. Cook vigorously for 2 minutes. Add more water and cook for 15 minutes at a lower heat. Then add green onions and parsley and let cook 10 minutes more. Use this time to also cook a pot of rice. Your hard work will be rewarded with a lush pot of this:
Everyone you know, and some you don’t, will invite themselves over for dinner. Seriously. It IS that good.
And the best thing is that this is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day after the flavors have had time to meld and relax. So leftovers are as decadent, if not more so, than the first eating.