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February / March 2014

Carnival Season

By Marcelle Bienvenu


Everyone in south Louisiana is up in arms during this long Carnival season. This winter’s cold weather blasts have sent our little delectable crawfish deep into the mud to keep warm. Plus it’s much too cold for the crawfishermen to get out on the ponds to pick up their nets! What a calamity! But have no fear, the weather in Louisiana changes in the blink of an eye. According to the weathermen, we will have days of balmy 65-degree weather in between the cold weather.


I’m just as anxious as the next person to have my first taste of crawfish, whether it be at a crawfish boil or an etouffee, and a myriad dishes made with our freshwater crustaceans. While I’m waiting for the warm weather to slide in, I’ve made my list of dishes I hope to prepare when I get my hands on fresh Louisiana crawfish tails.


CRAWFISH CORNBREAD


Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1 cup cream-style corn
  • 1 pound peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan.


Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.


Remove from the oven and let sit for several minutes before cutting into squares to serve.


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 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 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, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to throw off a little liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch 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 20 minutes. Serve warm.


* You can also bind the crawfish mixture (without the rice) with bread crumbs and use it to stuff flounder.


KING CAKES

I’m usually a traditionalist when it comes to King Cakes, which means I like the old-fashion kind that was made with rich, buttery brioche dough topped with the purple, green and gold colored sugar toppings. But this year I’ve made a list of some of the newer flavors to try this year. For example, on cajungrocer.com I spotted the Cajun Kringle king cake that features praline filling topped with caramel icing and pecans. Wow! There is also one with chocolate and cream cheese filling. OMG!


I also spotted one recently that was labeled “bananas Foster” and I brought that home and ate it all by myself.


If you really want to do something over the top – do as my sister does. When there are pieces of leftover king cake, she stores them in airtight containers in the freezer, then when she has enough to measure about 4 cups (cut into small cubes), she makes a king cake bread pudding! Use your favorite bread pudding recipe and simply substitute the bread with the king cake.





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