After a long, wet and dreary winter, crawfish season is officially here. Like many of you in the Bayou State, we boiled some this past weekend after the Baton Rouge “Wearing of the Green” St. Patrick’s Day parade, and while they were on the small side, they were a welcome sight. Coupled with that awesome weather, the taste of succulent, spicy tails tasted like spring in Louisiana, and few things taste better than that.
With the weather warming up, the size and bounty of Louisiana crawfish will increase steadily as we rock along over the next few weeks. Good thing, since Holy Week – the height of the commercial season — is right around the corner.
My just released book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey, features a full chapter on the history and lore surrounding crawfish and includes a handful of recipes, including this one.
Like shrimp, crawfish tails are equally delicious in light dishes with crunchy vegetables and herbs as they are in heavier applications. I love a good etouffée, and a succulent slice of cheesy crawfish cornbread, but I also like a fresh and flavorful crawfish salad. This recipe pairs savory sautéed crawfish tails with fennel, hearts of palm, aromatic veggies and basil slivers.
Crawfish Fennel Salad with Tangy Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
1 pound Louisiana crawfish tails
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 cup chopped red pepper
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
½ cup canned hearts of palm slices
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ cup olive oil
Salt and ground pepper
4 cups chopped lettuce
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
12 basil leaves, rolled and cut into ribbons (chiffonade)
4–6 lemon wedges
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté onion until translucent. Add crawfish tails, with fat, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the meat is thoroughly cooked and tails curl. Remove from heat immediately and season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine yellow and red bell peppers, celery, fennel, and hearts of palm. Set aside.
Prepare dressing by adding vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey, and celery seed to a food processor. Combine, and while blade is turning, slowly add oil. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper.
Add crawfish tails to the bowl with the raw, chopped veggies. Pour ½ cup of the dressing into the bowl and toss well to combine. Reserve remainder of dressing for another use. Let the salad marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Serve over cold lettuce and garnish with sliced tomatoes, basil ribbons, and lemon wedges.
Note: Pictured Recipe was made by Gourmet Girls Catering in Baton Rouge.