Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Fat Tuesday Feast: New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po' Boy

Happy Fat Tuesday and Merry Mardi Gras! It's time to unwind and celebrate as we know they are doing right now in New Orleans, Louisiana. And just in time is a recipe that combines a classic take on a traditional festival fare and punches it with flavor and a touch of healthfulness. I give you - the New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po' Boy. 

One summer long ago when I was 14 (okay, not that long ago), I took an extended trip with my dad from Tennessee to Texas, via New Orleans. We spent a day touring (and eating our way through) the richly cultured city, and it's a memory I have carried with me always. When I was in college, I spent a Spring Break in New Orleans to relive some of those places I remembered first seeing with my dad. I sampled coffee at Cafe Du Monde, rode on the Natchez sipping Midori Margaritas, and I stuffed myself on Gumbo, Jambalaya and Po' Boys.

Although the traditional Po' Boy sandwich is made with fried shrimp, I wanted to present something more in line with being able to harvest your own meat for this sandwich while keeping it in the spirit of the South. Also as a child, I spent many summer hours wading through foot-wide creeks with my brother and a dip net catching crawdads (or crawfish, or crayfish). The big ones we ate; the little ones we let go so they could get big. They're briny, earthy taste I never minded. In fact, I probably enjoyed them more than the rest of my family. Today, you can likely find crawfish in your higher-end supermarkets, or just go find them yourself. We have very large ones in the rivers and lakes of western Montana, and they're just as good as the ones from my youth.

New Orleans Blackened Crawfish Po’ Boy
1 lb. large boiled crawfish tails, peeled and cooled (Here’s a great link for a traditional Crawfish Boil!)
1 Tbl. Cajun-style blackened seasoning (I prefer Slap Ya Mama)
1/4 c.  plus 2 Tbls. mayonnaise
2 Tbls. lime juice
4 6-inch submarine-style French rolls
1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. butter or margarine, divided
2 medium red bell peppers, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ c. shredded lettuce
Tomato slices
Pickle slices

Toss the crawfish tails with the Cajun seasoning in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lime juice and set aside.

Split the rolls. Pull out centers of the roll halves, leaving a one-inch shell at the edges and a 1/2-inch at the bottom and set aside.

Melt 1 Tbl. of butter or margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crawfish and sauté for 2-3 minutes, just to reheat and slightly brown (remember, they’re already boiled). Remove the crawfish from the skillet and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add remaining butter or margarine to the skillet. Now add the peppers and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the pepper slices are tender.

Spread 2 tsp. of the mayo-mixture in each roll’s bottom slice. Now spoon the pepper-garlic mixture over that. Drizzle some of the remaining mayo-mixture over the crawfish and spoon the crawfish over the pepper-garlic mixture. Top with lettuce, tomato and pickle slices. Cover with roll tops and serve immediately.

(Note: You may substitute shrimp for crawfish as shown in the picture above, and if you want to be a purist)