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May/June 2014

CRABS FROM VERMILION BAY


FOR May June 2014


By Marcelle Bienvenu


It’s time to head out to catch some crabs on Marsh Island, an uninhibited low-lying marshy island between Vermilion Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Just in case you aren’t familiar with this beautiful place, it’s bordered on the south by the Gulf and is separated from mainland Louisiana by East Cote Blanche Bay to the east, West Cote Blanche Bay to its north, Vermilion Bay to its northwest, and Southwest Pass to the west.


I’m waiting for a call from my fishing buddy Pat Caffery who gets antsy this time of year to put his Boston Whaler, the Lucky Baby, into the water.  When we meet at the boat landing at Cypremort Point, I can count of Pat to have a couple of crab nets, two cast nets and a bag of chicken necks.  His ice chest is usually filled with tuna fish sandwiches and deviled eggs, cold drinks and lots of ice.


After donning out life jackets, we head out of the canal into the open water of Vermilion Bay. Ah, it’s good to be on the salt! There is usually a good breeze making for a little choppy water, but that doesn’t bother us at all


Once in the marsh, we head to one of the dams on the island and hope are early enough to get a place to put out our baited crab nets while we take turns casting nets for shrimp. I spot an alligator nosing around the edge of a shell beach. Herons and gulls swoop down on the water catching their breakfast.


Oops! I see the line pull tart on one of the nets. Wow! Six large crabs in one trap. Our luck holds, and in a matter of a couple of hours, we have over three dozen crabs and about 2 pounds of still-jumping shrimp. Enough for supper. But what will it be? A crab and shrimp stew. Or should we make shrimp cocktails and follow up with crab patties with tartar sauce?  We discuss the possibilities while we take a break under a shrub oak and eat lunch. If we netted a few more shrimp, we could also make a small batch of shrimp beignets!


CRAB AND SHRIMP STEW

  • Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 1 dozen crabs, scalded
  • 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (heads and shells reserved)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cup chopped onions
  • ½ cup chopped bell peppers
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Cooked rice for serving

Pull the back off the crabs, clean out the dead man fingers, lungs and center of the crabs.  If there is any fat in the crabs, scoop it out with your fingers and put in a small bowl.  Crack the claws, but do not remove the shells.  Break the crab bodies in half.  Set aside. 


Peel and devein the shrimp.  Put the heads and shells in a large pot with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 1 hour. 


            Meanwhile, c


ombine the oil and flour in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Stirring slowly and constantly, make a dark brown roux.  Add the onions, bell peppers and celery, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the bay leaves. 


Strain the shrimp stock.  You should have 4 to 5 cups of stock.  Add enough water to make 6 cups.  Add to the roux mixture and stir to blend. Season with salt and cayenne.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. 


Add the reserved crab bodies (and any reserved crab fat) and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the lump crabmeat and shrimp.  Cook for 10 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat and add the parsley.  Serve hot with rice in bowls. 


SHRIMP AND EGGPLANT BEIGNETS


Makes about 2 dozen


  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  •  ½ cup chopped onions
  • ½ pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups solid vegetable shortening

Seasoning mix (combination of 1/8 each of salt, cayenne, black pepper and garlic powder)


            Season the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne.  Heat the two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, 2 to 3 minutes. 


Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn pink.  Remove and set aside to cool.


            Combine the eggs, milk, baking powder, and the remaining one teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in a mixing bowl.  Add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, beating until the batter is smooth.  Add the eggplant and shrimp mixture and fold to mix.


            Heat the shortening in a deep pot or deep fryer to 360 degrees.  Drop the batter, a heaping tablespoon at a time, into the hot oil.  When the beignets pop to the surface, roll them around in the oil to brown them evenly.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with the seasoning mix and serve immediately with tartar sauce.


Here is a quick recipe for boiled shrimp AND homemade tartar sauce.


BOILED SHRIMP

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 large lemon, quartered
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup cayenne
  • 3 pounds shrimps (leave peelings and heads on)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup cool water

Put the water, lemon, onion and cayenne in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for five minutes.  Add the shrimp and bring the water back to boil.  Boil for three minutes.  Remove from heat and add the salt and the cool water.  Cover and let stand for three to five minutes.  Time will vary according to the size of the shrimp.  Drain.  Cool for a few minutes before serving. 


CREOLE TARTAR SAUCE

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoon chopped green onions
  •  1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  •  1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Put the egg, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and green onions in a food processor. Pulse several times to puree. With the processor running, pour in the oil through the food tube in a steady stream. The mixture will thicken. Add the cayenne, mustard and salt, Pulse to blend. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.


Because this is made with raw eggs, it’s best to use the mixture within 24 hours. 



MARCH/APRIL 2013

CRAWFISH SEASON


I’m just back from four days in Santa Clara, California attending an international travel promotion show. It was spectacular—complete with areas devoted to zip lines, mountain climbing, a segway course AND a pool in which to bounce around zipped inside huge clear beach balls!


But the Louisiana entourage was THE hit at the culinary stage. I was part of the group with the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and we cooked a plethora of what else, but crawfish-based dishes. Every time it was announced that we were cooking crawfish, attendees began lining up to taste our sumptuous dishes. On the “menu” was crawfish etouffee, crawfish stuffed bell peppers, crawfish and eggplant fritters with remoulade sauce, crawfish salad in avocado halves, and my personal favorite—crawfish fettuccini.


You had better get your stash of fresh, live crawfish, boiled crawfish, peeled crawfish tails and crawfish puree so you can duplicate our dishes at YOUR house. Don’t forget the French bread!


This can be mixed with rice to make a crawfish jambalaya. I also mixed it with rice and used it as a stuffing for red and green bell peppers.


CRAWFISH STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

  • Makes 8 to 10 servings
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound peeled crawfish tails plus 2 cups crawfish puree
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 2 tablespoon chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Cooked long-grain rice:


Heat the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to throw off a little liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the water and flour mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne. Remove from the heat. Add the green onions and parsley.


Combine the mixture with 3 to 4 cups cooked rice.


For the stuffed peppers:
Cut red and/or green bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Put the peppers in a shallow baking pan with about ¼ inch water or chicken broth and bake in a 350-degree oven until the peppers are slightly soft. Drain off the liquid in the pan. Spoon the crawfish/rice mixture into the peppers, sprinkle with bread crumbs and return to the oven. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.



CRAWFISH FRITTERS

  • Makes about 2 dozen
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onions
  • ½ pound peeled crawfish tails
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups solid vegetable shortening for frying

Seasoning mix (combination of 1/8 each of salt, cayenne, black pepper and garlic powder)


Season the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne. Heat the two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, 2 or 3 minutes.


Add the onions and cook stirring, until soft, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring, until they throw off some of their liquid, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.


In medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, baking powder, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon cayenne in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating until the batter is smooth. Add the eggplant and crawfish mixture, and fold to mix.


Heat about 4 fingers of the shortening in a deep pot or electric fryer to 360°F. Drop the batter, a heaping tablespoon at a time, into the hot oil. When the beignets pop to the surface, roll them around in the oil to brown them evenly. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix and serve immediately with the remoulade sauce for dipping.


Remoulade sauce

  • Makes about 2 ½ cups
  • ¼ cup Creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil in an electric blender or food processor. Cover and blend at low speed for 30 seconds. With the motor running, gradually pour in the oil in a steady stream. Sauce will thicken. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. * Since the mayonnaise is made with a raw egg, it’s best to use within 24 hours.



    CRAWFISH IN SPICY CREOLE MUSTARD

    • Makes 8 to 10 appetizer portions
    • 1/4 cup Creole mustard
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup rice or red wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup
    • 1/8 teaspoon (about 6 dashes) Tabasco sauce
    • Zest from 1/2 lemon, finely chopped
    • 1 pinch chopped parsley, plus 1 tablespoon chopped in reserve
    • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions, plus 2 tablespoons chopped in reserve
    • Cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 ½ pounds peel crawfish tails, rinsed

    Combine all of the ingredients (except for the 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons chopped green onions) in a mixing bowl and whisk until all is well blended. Refrigerate for 24 hours. It may be stored for up to one week. When ready to use, whisk again. To serve, toss the rinsed crawfish tails in some of the sauce, according to your personal taste. Add the reserved parsley and green onions. This is excellent served atop assorted mixed salad greens, or in tomato or avocado halves.



Whenever I have a crowd over for a crawfish supper, this is THE ONE. It’s very rich, creamy and oh, so delicious.


SHRIMP AND CRAWFISH FETTUCCINI

  • 3 sticks butter
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound Gruyere or Fontina cheese, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • Salt and cayenne
  • 1 pound fettuccini, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy, large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until they are wilted and lightly golden.


Add the flour and stir to mix. Cook, stirring often, for two to three minutes. Add the parsley, shrimp and crawfish. Cook, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.


Add the half-and-half, cheese, jalapeno peppers and garlic. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.


Arrange the fettuccini in a three-quart casserole and pour the seafood mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture bubbles.


A DOWN-HOME COOLER WEATHER SUPPER

Like a lot of us in the Deep South, my husband is wishing for cooler weather. As sad as I am to bid adieu to summertime, I have to admit that cooler weather will be more than welcome after the hot, hot days of August.

A change in the season also means modification in the foods we eat. While I’m not yet ready to close down my outdoor grill, I know that the first cold front will set the tone for heartier dishes, like gumbos and stews, as well as what Papa used to call low-down home-cooked food—pork chops, lima beans, cabbage, and gateau de sirop (syrup cake).

Browse Cajungrocer’s website and make a shopping list for some items you might not be able to find at your local supermarket. For example, order a few cans of Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup. That glorious syrup is a must on biscuits, pain perdu and cornbread, but it’s also the main ingredient in making a favorite Cajun dessert called gateau de sirop (syrup cake.)


Christmas is Coming!

It’s not too early to begin your Christmas wish list. If you don’t already have your seafood boiling rig that can also double as a turkey-frying pot, you MUST get one. Don’t forget the propane gas burner to go with it. It’s simply a must-have for year-round use.

Once you have taken care of yourself, then begin making your gift-giving list.

The Tabasco gumbo bowls are great for, well gumbo, but they are also perfect to use for homemade soups and stews. Get yourself a set of four, and you might also consider giving a set to each of your nearest and dearest friends. If you can afford to be generous, but all means get everybody a Tabasco chef apron – they’re practical and good looking!

Check out of gift section and you’ll be impressed by all the goodies you can get for just about everyone on your long list. Boxes of yummy pralines, bags of breakfast goodies, Cajun seasonings mixes, and even a Cajun meat gift baskets. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.


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