Alexis and I have been exploring a lot lately. I get in these modes when it feels like there is something out there just outside of my grasp that I’m supposed to be doing, or someone I’m supposed to know, but the universe hasn’t decided to share yet. The other day we were out and about, having fun, laughing and just generally enjoying ourselves as we are prone to doing and I actually found crayfish at a local market! I was thrilled!
It’s been years since I had crayfish, since before Lex was born in fact. When we lived in Anne Arundel county I used to pick it up at Whole Foods now and again, but I hadn’t found any this area until the other day! The ones I found were already steamed, but hey, that works! A crayfish is a crayfish after all!
Alexis had a ball playing “helping me” with the crayfish. She had them “talk” to each other, have battles and even helped me in the process of cleaning/shelling them as you can see in the pictures below where she is my demo girl for the pictures. She amuses me, which is neither here nor there, but we really do have a lot of fun together!
I originally thought I might make etouffee, but ultimately decided I’d rather just make a big pot of gumbo! This turned out great! I was really pleased with the result. After all what’s better than a big bowl of gumbo and rice?
What You’ll Need:
5-6 pounds of whole crayfish or 2-4 cups of crayfish meat
1 cup of oil (Note: You can use olive or a clear oil. I’ve used both in the past.)
3/4 a cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of celery, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 quarts of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of Creole or Cajun seasoning, preferably salt free
1 – 1 lb package of frozen okra or 2-3 cups of fresh okra sliced
As I mentioned the crayfish I found were already steamed. I actually popped the bag in the freezer when I bought them a couple of weeks ago because I knew I wouldn’t get to them right away.
I placed the frozen crayfish in a big pot:
Then I covered them in water:
Bring them to a quick boil covered and remove from heat. In this case these are already cooked so you don’t have to cook them again, you just want to knock the chill off of them.
After about 5 minutes drain and place in a bowl to cool:
While the crayfish are cooling let’s get busy with some other aspects of the gumbo!
Chop your trinity (aka your pepper, onion and celery) and set aside:
Now get to work on your roux!
Roux isn’t difficult, though it has a reputation for being so. You basically have oil and flour and you cook it until it’s a nutty brown. It will look golden and smell nutty. I love that smell!
How gorgeous is that?
Basically you add the oil to your stock pot, stir in the flour and your salt and pepper and cook on low to medium, stirring often until you achieve the nutty color/smell.
Many recipes call for you to stir roux constantly, but I’m not going to lie to you, that’s not happening with me! There are very few things I’ll stir constantly, custard being the only one I can think of right off the top of my head. I stir, then chop something, then come back and stir, and then do something else. Every two minutes or so I give it a good stir for 30 seconds or so, but not constantly.
When the roux is a nutty brown (this usually take 15-45 minutes depending on your stove top) add your trinity:
Cook stirring often until onion, pepper and celery are just tender.
Next add broth, Creole or Cajun seasoning and okra:
Cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
You will add the crayfish to the pot during the last five minutes of cooking or so. Now let’s see how to “clean” them!
First look at your crayfish:
The “big” piece of meat on a crayfish is its tail. 5-6 pounds of whole crayfish sounds like a lot, but they are little and there isn’t a lot of meat there! Some people like to suck the head, but I can’t say that appeals to me at all.
The first thing you want to do is remove its arms. If it has big claws you might be able to get a small piece of meat out of the claw itself, but in most cases there isn’t anything in there to write home about so if it’s little like the one pictured above I wouldn’t even bother.
Flip the crayfish over and hold it with your fingers like so:
Pull down on both ends and snap the crayfish in two:
It should break in to head section and tail section. Dispose of the head, unless you’re one of those who enjoys that part of the crayfish.
Next hold the piece of meat that is sticking out of the shell with one hand while holding the shell with the other:
Tug gently and the meat should slip right out of the shell:
Every once in a while you’ll come across a stubborn tail and you might have to crack the shell a bit, which you can easily do with your fingers, but for the most part they just slide right out.
Along the back of the crayfish tail there is a membrane and if you remove it you’ll discover the vein right underneath:
Give the vein a little pull and it will slide right off to be disposed of:
Place the crawfish in a bowl or container and give them a little rinse to make sure they are good and clean:
Place cleaned tails in the fridge until five minutes before servings gumbo and then add to the pot just long enough to heat through.
Serve gumbo over rice with hot sauce, chopped onions or just all by itself!
Notes: You can do this process with shrimp too.