Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fat Tuesday - Part 1: Crawfish Pie

Don't act like you're not impressed.
I miss a lot of things about living in New Orleans. Most of them relate to eating and cooking. I don't, however, miss Mardi Gras. Except for pickup truck crawfish boils driving up on the more residential corners of the Quarter at 3AM, the spectacle never quite balanced out the city's metaphorical roomates' out-of-town friends camping out drunk and underfoot on its figurative couch for 2 weeks. However, up in the white wastes of the Great Lakes, it's a great excuse to put on some Rebirth, break out the cast iron, and make a big mess in the Kitchen. Where else to start, but with one of my two favorite things: Pie!

In this case, Donald Link's  Crawfish Pie. Link's tribute to the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival was a great opportunity to break his criminally underused Real Cajun cookbook. I generally do local standards from memory (often with shortcuts courtesty of Zatarain's), so this was a fun way to branch out (Part 2's hardcore gumbo is even more fun).

Any port in a (snow)storm?
I took for granted that I'd be able to find a pound crawfish tails without much trouble. It's 2014, and Mardi Gras season, right? Technically, I wasn't wrong - the lovely seafood counter at Giant Eagle had a pile of pre-boiled crawfish, for the low, low price of $5 a pound. The prospect of paying $35 for the privilege of peeling ~7 lbs of crawfish did not appeal, so I considered waiting for the next Market Day and trying my luck. Fortunately, inspiration struck and I learned that the good people at Catanese Classic Seafood have a small storefront at their large warehouse down the street from Balls and Pie HQ. Package of frozen chinese (not ideal, but I'll take what I can get) crawfish tail meat in hand, I went about my pie.

So, basically this is like making a dish full of cajun awesome, and putting into at pie. First, I made some of Link's perfect steamed rice, and set it aside. Link modifies the trinity with some of my favorite cooking  peppers (jalepeno and poblanos), so I got these cooking in butter with chopped onion, celery and green bell peppers, and dry seasoning.

The thawed crawfish went next, and got 5 minutes in butter and water given up by the vegetables before adding stock, Worcestershire, lemon juice and hot suace for a 15 min simmer (extra time for the frozen mudbugs). At this point, things tasted a bit salty so I doubled up on lemon juice and a dash of rice wine vinegar to brighten up the dish. Last, the rice, green onions and parsely went in, got a good mix, and the entire mixture went into a large covered baking dish to cool off for an hour.

I'm getting a new camera this week.
Not cool if you live by real crawfish.

But it won't fix my stove's lightning.

Here, I branched out a bit. Expecting a busy evening in the kitchen, I got lazy and decided to bake in premade pie dough instead. The recipe suggests frying the filling in Link's meat pie dough; you could take a look at my Empandas recipe and get a pretty good idea of how this works. I got a few packages of generic pie dough, rolled it into 6 4 - 5 inch circles and 6 3-inch circles of dough. Then I put the large dough circles into a a well buttered jumbo muffin tin, filled with the chilled pie-filling, and wet the edges of the dough in the pan, and covered with the smaller circles. I rolled up the edges and sealed with my fingers, poked a couple holes in each pie.
1. Make a ball
2. Flatten between foil or saran wrap
3. Roll Flat
4. Match up tops and bottoms

5. Fill up tray (and ignore the fact
that pictures from the full tray didn
turn out).
6. Roll it up

I baked in a pre-heated over at 350 F for 30 min or so, until golden brown with the filling just bubbling out of the holes a bit. After giving the pies 10ish minutes to cool in the dish, they released easily from the pan, and I gently transferred 4 to a cooling tray and 2 to my plate to eat hot! The rest went in sealed tupperware in the fridge, and reheated nicely in a convection oven at 225 F/10 minutes for at least the next 3 days.

I'm a big fan of the results. I wasn't sure about the filling going into the fridge, but once all the flavors had a chance to marry, soak into the rice, and were encased in flaky, buttery goodness, I was a happy man. The tender, simmered crawfish is the star, and the best of it is brought out by all the great flavors and textures in the filling and dough. It's a mess, but a great one, and would be at home with all the wonderful festival food I'm probably missing this year.


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