Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cooking the Book – Real Cajun – Spicy Crawfish Fettuccine

It’s time for another installment from “Real Cajun” by Donald Link. In what is fast becoming one of my favorite cookbooks, Link presents a number of recipes that that seem very approachable, even to those unaware of the goodness of Louisiana cuisine. Actually this dish, Spicy Crawfish Fettuccine, seems to have a more uptown New Orleans feel rather than the rustic approach of Cajun food, of course that could just be the heavy cream talking.

It seems that I can’t find a quick and easy recipe any more, and that’s a good thing. I like a recipe that takes time and effort, and with a fair amount of prep work, this one seems to fit that bill.

Here we have a finely chopped jalapeno pepper, poblano pepper, and small onion. Also on the plate are 3 cloves worth of minced garlic.

All of this vegetal goodness goes into a medium sauce pan over medium heat with a tablespoon or so of butter.

You can’t forget the spices. 1 tsp of salt, ¼ tsp cayenne, ¼ tsp paprika, and 1 tsp red pepper flakes make up this mix of spices.

I love how the pan is taking on a lovely red color from those spices.

Whoops, almost forget the 3 ounces of finely chopped tasso. I didn’t make my own for this recipe. I went the easy way and used Manda from Tony’s Seafood in Baton Rouge.

This whole concoction, along with 3 dashes of your favorite hot sauce, are cooked until the veggies were softened. Link gives pretty good time estimates as his 5 minutes for this step were right on the ball.

Even though they’re completely out of season, I found the tomatoes for the next step.

4 medium plum tomatoes, finely chopped are next in the pan.

It’s looking a little watery now.

However, once I add the 1 lb bag of crawfish, everything just looks plain soupy. To remedy this, Link says to reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the juices reduce by half.

10 minutes later, things are looking pretty good, so I’m ready to move on.

3 tbs of ap flour and 2 tbs of butter are the next ingredients.

First the butter is introduced to the mixture and stirred until melted. Link doesn’t specify cutting the butter into small cubes, but I figured it would help things melt faster.

Now the flour is sprinkled over the sauce. I’ll admit I was worried at this stage. Even though I was stirring constantly, I couldn’t seem to get all the lumps of flour to dissolve.

Maybe the 2 cups of heavy cream were the answer. I reduce the heat to low and simmered for another 10 minutes, all while making sure nothing was sticking.

10 minutes did wonders for this dish. The sauce was now a rich, creamy color and there were no flour clumps to be found. My only worry is that the crawfish had been cooking for a good 20 minutes at this point. That seems an awfully long time for a precooked meat.

Fears of overcooked crawfish aside, I added the last few ingredients to the pan.

The juice of ½ a lemon, 4 basil leaves and ¼ of sliced scallions were all stirred into the sauce.

A good ladleful or two of sauce was spooned over a waiting bowl of fettuccine and while it was good, it was missing something.

There we go, freshly grated parmesan never hurt anyone. Yes, it’s rich. Yes, it’s a little time consuming. Yes, it’s completely worth the effort. Link writes that he served this sauce over redfish to impress his then future wife. I don’t know how well it worked for him, but I’d be impressed if someone made me this dish.

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