Following last week's theme, it's another homage to another Louisiana music festival. The biggest fest of them all New Orleans Jazz Fest. There are many treats to be had at the Festival but the King of all is the Crawfish Bread. Of course living in New Orleans for as long as I did, I have my own Crawfish Bread experience. Drawing over 400,000 visitors it is on the list for largest music festivals in the U.S. Sounds fun right? It usually is unless you make one innocent mistake.
My twenty-something year old self headed out to the festival with a young person's essentials of a water bottle filled with vodka and my tip money from the night before to meet up with my friends. I trudge through the sea of festival goers till I spot my people laid out on a blanket staring up into the sky as if they were in a quiet park enjoying the breeze. I plop down and just start chatting away and out of the corner of my eye, I see cookies. Not just any cookies but those childhood favorites - iced animal crackers with sprinkles. I grab one and pop it into my mouth. As I am enjoying the memories of the days where getting the fancy animal crackers was a win in life, I notice my friend is staring at me , mouth agape. He slowly says " Did you just eat a cookie?" Of course, I did. Who doesn't eat a cookie just sitting there calling your name? My friends turn and look at me as if they are waiting for me to morph into some sort of creature from Grimm, I realize I had made a mistake. This was no ordinary cookie. They had laced the cookies with some mind altering product to enjoy their fest experience more. Who puts that on a damn cookie?! Not just any cookie those brightly colored cookies with the rainbow of sprinkles just begging you to re-live your youth. Why not a prune? No one eats a prune unless forced by your parents or to relieve certain adult ailments. Needless to say, the rest of that day is sketchy memories of the sea of butts walking by and all the colors. Luckily my friends knew I was not a purveyor of mind altering substances so they made sure to watch after me and keep me by their side till it had passed. I woke up with a pile of half eaten crawfish bread next to me and a sunburn that I am sure took a couple years off my life. The most relevant part of this story? That even with a muddled hallucinating brain and burning flesh I still knew to get Crawfish Bread. Enough to feed me for a couple days. This is not an exact replica but it will please you none the less. So I hope yo enjoy my version and remember never trust childless adults with a box of animal crackers.
*all friends shall remain anonymous since we are now responsible adults now who now carry animal crackers for actual children these days.
Most of the ingredients are self-explanatory and easy to come by. The crawfish can be harder if you aren't in or near Louisiana. Shrimp can be substituted if you have no way to get crawfish. Please try to use Louisiana crawfish, they are leaps and bounds better than the Chinese crawfish. Chinese crawfish are smaller chewier and has a lack of flavor. You will also be supporting our local farmers. When pouring out the crawfish from their vacuum sealed bag make sure to get the fat with them. The fact is that orangey colored liquid in the bag. It is a precious commodity and when cooking with crawfish. About the veggies, make sure they are finally diced except for the green onions. A fine dice will allow them to cook evenly and not have you biting into undercooked chunks.The green onions are thinly sliced, I used the usually rejected white and light green parts in this mixture. I use Vermouth because it lasts longer on the shelf for future recipes. A dry white wine will work instead, I don't drink white wine so the leftovers aren't a benefit for me. Now red wine I love to have leftover. Since this dish cooks quickly I would have spices already measured out in a bowl to add when needed. Also , I have my mayo and cheese ready to go. For the bread choice, a soft french bread tends to work best, if you can't find try to find a bread that is softer and comes in the oblong shape.
Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and celery. Saute until soft and translucent. Add a teaspoon salt and combine. Add garlic and cook until fragrant about a minute. Add Vermouth and cook till it is almost completely evaporated. Decrease the heat to medium and add the crawfish with it's liquid. Stir and cook for a couple minutes. Add the spices and stir to combine then remove from heat. Add scallion and mayo and combine. Add cheeses stir till melted. Once combined add lemon juice and adjust spices. Put aside to cool.
Bread and assembly
While the crawfish cools preheat oven to 450. Cut bread loaf in half and hollow it out leaving a slightly thick outer shell. Stuff with french bread with the crawfish mixture careful not to overstuff. Gently press down the bread, careful not to let the stuffing leak out. Brush the top of the bread with butter. Wrap the bread in foil making sure there is enough to completely cover the bread and tightly crimp the sides and top. Bake for 10-15 minutes checking at 10 minutes to make sure it is golden brown and not burning. Once golden and crispy remove from the oven and gently open top of foil. Let the bread cool so the mixture can thicken enough to not fall out when slicing. Once cooled down you have two choices you can caveman it and eat a whole side or gently slice it and serve. Pro-tip use a serrated knife when slicing it usually causes less smooching( another Meaux technical cooking term). Now matter how pretty the slices start have a fork ready to gather up the crawfish escapees. Oh, and napkins have lots of napkins nearby.
*Stay tuned for a simpler version of crawfish bread in a future blog post.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion finely diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper finely diced
1/2 cup celery finely diced
6 cloves garled minced
1/2 cup sliced green onions, the white parts are fine
1/4 cup Dry Vermouth or dry white wine
1 pound Louisiana crawfish tails
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice, to taste
additional salt and pepper as needed
one loaf of soft french bread
Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onions, red bell pepper, and celery. Cook till they are soft and translucent. Add a large pinch of salt and combine.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant. About 1-2 minutes.
Add Vermouth or white wine. Cook till almost completely evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add crawfish with its fat and cook for an additional 2 minutes till heated through.
Add your spices and cobine. Remove from heat.
Immediately add green onions and mayonnaise and combine.
Add cheeses and stir till melted and combined. Set mixture aside to cool.
While mixture cools preheat oven to 450.
Cut loaf in half and hollow out the middle leaving the sides slightly thick.
Stuff the loaves with the crawfish mixture, being careful not to overstuff.
Brush the top of the loaves with butter.
Wrap the loafs in foil. make sure the foil piece is large enough so you can tightly crimp the top and sides.
Place in oven, on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Check at the 10 minute mark to make sure the bread is not burning.
Remove from oven and gently open the top and let cool for at least 10 minutes to allow the mixture to thicken so it won't run out when served.
Once ready slice and serve. Remeber get those napkins and forks ready for any mixtire that escapes.