A really good gumbo is a dish you might eat a few times a year. Crawfish bisque – made in the traditional, labor-intensive way – is a dish you might eat a few times per DECADE. Cleaning and stuffing and stewing, oh my! But it is so, so worth it. My question is: how many extra pounds of spicy, boiled crawfish do you have to buy to replace the ones you’re bound to eat as you’re making this?
First, let me apologize: there is no recipe included with this post. I’m still refining it. There are so many decisions! Boiled crawfish or frozen? Stuffed heads or boulettes? Tomato paste or not? Small pot or big pot? Ugh!
On my first attempt, I kept it manageable and went for a small pot, a little less than half of a “normal” quantity of bisque and stuffed heads. I also decided to go the traditional route and used about three pounds of boiled crawfish. I peeled and deveined the tails, saving as much of the fat as possible, and netted about one and a half pounds of meat. I also cleaned and dressed two dozen heads for stuffing.
For both the stuffed heads and the bisque you’ll need the usual suspects of Creole trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), the pope (garlic) and parsley. You’ll need your dried seasonings of choice. And, you’ll need butter and good-quality bread crumbs. I am loyal to Progresso and absolutely love the taste of both their Italian and Garlic & Herb blends. A stock made from the crawfish shells is a nice touch if you have the time, but, if not, you can use seafood stock or water.
For the stuffed heads or shells, I made a traditional stuffing of chopped crawfish tails, sautéed seasonings, dried seasonings, butter, a little stock and bread crumbs. In all honesty, I could have stopped here because this stuffing was so good I could have just eaten it with rice!
But I went all the way, stuffing the shells, dredging them in flour and baking them for about 20-30 minutes in the oven and then setting them aside.
While the stuffed shells baked, I made a medium brown roux, added and sweated my onions, added the other fresh seasonings, added the stock, added the remaining crawfish tails and let it simmer for about 1.5 hours. I then added the stuffed shells and fresh parsley and simmered the mixture for an additional 30 minutes.
The end result was fabulous with a capital F!
But in Part 2, I think I will make a few changes – first, making boulettes instead of stuffed heads or shells. This is not to save time, but to make the actual EATING of the bisque easier. The stuffed shells make for a nice presentation, but the mess! Maybe I’ll do half and half.
Second, I’m going to enlist some help and make a full, large pot. My son and I nearly finished this small pot in one sitting. It was that good. So next time, we go big.
Third, I may augment the boiled tails with frozen Louisiana (only!) tails. I was totally satisfied with the crawfish tail-to-bisque ratio in this trial, but for guests, I’d want more.
And last, I have never been a big tomato paste lover, and though I know many traditional cooks include at least a little tomato paste in their bisque, I’m still not sold. We’ll see.
Give me your feedback and look for Part 2 soon!