Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crawfish Pie (me-o-my-o)

Whenever I hear the terms jambalaya, crawfish, or file gumbo, the first thing that immediately comes in to my head is the Hank William's (and many other artist's) song "Jambalaya (On the Bayou.)" You know the song. It was featured during the wedding scene in Steel Magnolias. At any rate, the song was buzzing through my head all weekend after I made Crawfish Pies on Saturday.

We had originally intended to head to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (that's today, BTW) this year. But it just didn't work out for a variety of reasons, the primary being that it just snuck up on us before we could make solid plans. Luckily, whenever we drive to Louisiana for a visit, we go to the grocery store and head back with a cooler packed with frozen seafood and other assorted ingredients. I love going to the grocery store when I travel. Who knew that grocery stores could vary from region to region?

Now, we make a mean gumbo (but not generally a file gumbo), and it's become a bit of a tradition to make a huge seafood gumbo for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Rykert's jambalaya is a work in progress, as the flavor is always perfect but the texture is a WIP. And Rykert makes a delicious crawfish etouffee (not my favorite). And I have one more trick, and that's crawfish ravioli (recipe to follow). But Crawfish Pie is a relatively new adventure for me. One of Rykert's oldest friend's mom makes a Crawfish Pie that Rykert always raves about. So, I have taken it as a challenge to find my own recipe. If you want to play along at home, here's the recipe.

Crawfish Pie (mee-o-my-o)

Crawfish Pie (for "ma cher amio")
adapted from "The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine" (a really great book of recipes, photos, and history)

1/2 cup butter (I insist)
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced*
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup garlic, minced (no, that is not a typo)
1 lb crawfish tails**
1 cup heavy cream (again, I insist, you aren't eating this every day)
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Creole Seasoning
Pie Crust (you'll need about 3 crusts)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut and press the pie crust into 5-6 mini pie pans (cutting matching tops), and set aside.

In a large hot deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions, celery, peppers, and garlic. Cook until slightly softened. Add crawfish and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Stir in cream, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in bread crumbs and beaten egg. Add green onions. Season to taste with salt, pepper, creole seasoning, and Tabasco.*** Pour the crawfish filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover with the econd crust, pinching along the edges. With a sharp knife, cut a few slits to allow the steam to escape. Brush the tops with egg white, and then sprinkle with Creole Seasoning. Place pies on a cookie sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes.

*You can substitute red, green , and red peppers. Just use a combination. Peppers can be pricey and low quality out of season, so I use 1 cup total whatever is most economical or freshest. I dice and freeze green bells when they are really cheap at the Farmer's Market in the summer.

** We always buy Louisiana crawfish and bring it back (or if we are lucky, we have it shipped to us). But you can generally find Chinese crawfish in the frozen foods. Rykert refuses to use such a thing, and for good reasons. But I think small shrimp would be an excellent substitute.

***There is a common misconception that Cajun food is powerfully hot and spicy. This really isn't the case. "Cajun" food that you eat outside of Southern Louisiana will likely be spicier than the versions you would find in a restaurant in New Orleans. (I think restaurants think that the key to defining something as Cajun is to make it as hot as possible and label it as "Cajun", but they are generally lacking, with some exceptions). So, season to your tastes, but additional seasoning can be added at the table.

I am most definitely not an expert on Cajun and Creole food. Not in the least. But I'm trying to learn (a) to develop my own taste for it and (b) to develop recipes that are authentic and manageable because Rykert misses the food.

If this is too much, but I've gotten your mouth watering, and you live in the Iowa City area, then drive to West Branch and eat at Champagnes. It's as authentic as it gets in the Midwest. I recommend the Shrimp Boulettes for an appetizer, and the Crabmeat Au Gratin. I'm completely unaffiliated with the restaurant, but I like it so I feel a vested interest in making sure it stays in business.

I have a bunch of recipes I want to share. Few of which are my complete originals. I'm thinking I should devote a separate website just for this purpose, but it feels like a lot of extra work. So, for now, you're going to see a bunch of recipes coming. Sorry if it's a bore. But if you like them or want to share one of your own, let me know in the comments!!!

5 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Ruby Banshee said...

Did you see top chef last week? It was cajun/creole in Lousiana. Apparently the roux is crucial.

Libby said...

Yes, the roux is crucial. I didn't see Top Chef last week. But I do know that a gumbo roux can take Rykert a good hour because we fearfully cook it so slow.

Bridget said...

You ate that? That doesn't sound anything like something that you would enjoy.

AndreaLea said...

That sounds SOOOO good and I think my kids would love it. Maybe we'll have to take a trip down to West Branch to try Cajun/Creole. I've never really tried before.

Cris said...

Wow! That's very pretty. Bet they're good too.

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