Crawfish are one of the foods that are most associated with the Bayou State. Between January and June, Louisianians line up to boil, smother, fry, and sauté as many of the little crustaceans as they can. We caught up with 2009 Chef to Watch Brian Landry of Jack Rose in New Orleans’ Garden District to hear about one of his favorite ways to serve Louisiana crawfish.
Q How would you describe this dish?
It’s kind of like a cross between crawfish bread and the crawfish you’d find in a crawfish boil. So, in a crawfish bread, you get the crawfish and the seafood boil seasoning and melty cheese, but we just decided to do that over spicy crispy potatoes [instead of bread]. I think the interesting thing—the part I like the best—is the texture. While potatoes boiled in a crawfish boil are delicious, there isn’t much to them texturally, whereas quickly frying them makes the skin nice and crispy, and you have the contrast of the crunch from the fried potatoes along with all those seasonings.
Q Can frozen crawfish tails be substituted?
Crawfish season is a full-on season in New Orleans. When crawfish are around, we try to sprinkle them throughout the menu [at Jack Rose] and eat them as often as possible because once they’re gone, they’re gone. One of the things we try to pay close attention to is using fresh tails versus frozen. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using frozen tails, but the texture is a little different. Even during crawfish season when you want to cook with crawfish tails, make sure to look for the fresh ones that haven’t been frozen first.
Q What else do we need to know when cooking with Louisiana crawfish?
If you have crawfish left over from a boil, those tails are so highly flavored that you have to watch out for the seasoning levels when you include them in the dish. I cut way back on the salt and spice in the beginning of the cooking process [when I’m using tails left over from a boil] because once you introduce those tails, they exude quite a bit of spice. Whereas if you’re buying peeled crawfish tails, one of the first things I do is season it like it’s been through a boil (but maybe not so generously). I think it’s important to let the peeled crawfish essentially marinate in some of the crawfish boil spices before cooking with them. That helps get the end result of your dish closer to a dish tasting like you used crawfish tails straight from a boil.
- 1½ pounds small red potatoes
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ tablespoons crawfish boil seasoning
- 1 pound cooked crawfish tails
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 lemon, zested
- Cayenne Cheddar Mornay (recipe follows)
- Fried Okra (optional, recipe follows)
- Creole Hollandaise (optional, recipe follows)
- Garnish: radish slices, red mustard microgreens
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 cups shredded cayenne Cheddar cheese*
- 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 cups cornstarch
- ¼ cup baking powder
- 2 cups cold soda water
- ½ pound fresh okra, cut into bite-size pieces
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups warm clarified butter
- 2 tablespoons Creole mustard
- In a medium saucepan, place potatoes and cold water to cover by 2 inches. Season water generously with salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and let dry in a colander for about 5 minutes.
- If preheating is recommended by your air fryer manual, preheat fryer to 400°.
- Place potatoes on a baking sheet. Using a large fork or a potato masher, smash potatoes, keeping them in one piece. Leave on pan to dry for 5 minutes. Drizzle potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and black pepper.
- Add potatoes to air fryer basket. Place basket in fryer, and set temperature to 400°. Cook until browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle crawfish boil seasoning all over crawfish.
- In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, bell pepper, onion, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic; cook until soft. Add crawfish, thyme, and lemon zest; cook until crawfish are warmed through. Toss with a few spoonfuls of Cayenne Cheddar Mornay.
- To serve, spoon Cayenne Cheddar Mornay into a serving bowl. Top with potatoes and Fried Okra (if using). Spoon crawfish mixture over potatoes. Dollop with Creole Hollandaise Sauce (if using). Garnish with radish and microgreens, if desired.
- In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes, making sure roux does not toast or turn brown. Add milk, ½ cup at a time, whisking until thickened after each addition. Gradually add cheese, whisking until well combined. Remove from heat, and whisk in salt.
- In a Dutch oven or wok, pour oil to a depth of 1 inch, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 400°.
- In a large bowl, place cornstarch and baking powder. Using a large spoon, stir in 2 cups cold soda water until mixture is slightly thicker than buttermilk consistency. (Do not mix thoroughly; tempura is renowned for lumps of flour.) Dip okra pieces into tempura batter, shaking off any excess.
- Fry okra until light golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon, and shake off any excess oil. Let drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt.
- In the top of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, cold butter, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne, lemon juice, and vinegar. Cook over simmering water, whisking constantly, until mixture has increased in volume and achieved a consistency that coats whisk. Using a ladle, drizzle clarified butter into sauce, whisking constantly and slowly. (If sauce appears too thick, add a few drops of cold water to achieve sauce consistency.) Whisk in mustard.