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.
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.
- 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.