Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cinco de Mayo: Crawfish Tacos

Cinco de Mayo presented quite the challenge this year. How was I supposed to have a cooking adventure worthy of past efforts like Margarita Cupcakes and Tacos Bistek on a work night (while cooking partner Kevin was busy studying for finals!)? If I wasn't going to undermine Mexican culture with heavy drinking, offensive fake mustaches and sombreros, I could at least bastardize the holiday with some fusion food. Since my Lenten season was woefully devoid of mudbugs (hmm, I should just pretend that's what I gave up!), I knew exactly what I had to do.

Crawfish Tacos
Servings: 8-12
Time: 60 minutes

1 1/2 lbs peeled crawfish tails (I used frozen)
Flour Tortillas
Necessary crunchitude

Cabbage Slaw
Previously Seen Here
3/4 of a purple cabbage, thinly sliced
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste

Adapted from All Recipes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Sriracha
3 tbsp hot and spicy or Creole Mustard
1-2 tsp prepared horseradish
1 tbsp Tabasco
2 tbsp lime juice
Perfectly hot
4 green onions, diced
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Tony Chachere's to taste
Salt to taste

Previously Seen Here
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, deveined and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
Tabasco to taste
Tony Chachere's to taste
Salt to taste
1-2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp butter
So many good smells. Also, this makes a fantastic dip for tortilla chips.
  1. Prep the cabbage slaw by tossing all the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate
  2. Make the remoulade by whisking all the ingredients together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate
  3. Start the piquant by sauteing the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic in olive oil until the onions become translucent (about 5-7 minutes). 
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and season with tabasco, Tony Chachere's and lime juice. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add in the crawfish and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Taste and finish seasoning. 
  6. Melt in the butter.
  7. Build your tacos with crawfish, cabbage slaw and remoulade.

And with that, my imaginary food truck had its signature dish.

I absolutely loved these tacos. This was the kind of dish that I'm excited to work on further and make it even more my own. My basic inspiration was a fish taco infused with Cajunness. By combining the crunch of cabbage with the potent kick of horseradish powered remoulade, the basics of what you expect from a fish taco were properly amped up to Big Easy quality. Seriously, the remoulade was the epitome of what I look for in spicy food. It brought a wonderful heat that cleared the sinuses and lingered in your mouth but didn't burn.

The only real question was how to handle the crawfish. The answer, as with most things, resided with my mother. I dug deep into the old bag of tricks and cooked them in a piquant sauce like the one we used for my favorite breakfast ever, Cajun Eggs Benedict, during the great Mom's Diner cook-athon of 2012. Crawfish have a fantastic natural flavor but can be pretty bland if you don't cook them properly. I was able to impart a lot of flavor with some fairly simple veggies and seasoning (which only got better with time. Yay, leftovers!). For future trials, I think I would like to use some blackening seasoning for additional New Orleans style and perhaps replace the parsley in the remoulade with cilantro to help tip the scales slightly toward the Mexican half of the fusion, but I could not have been happier with my maiden effort.

Not pictured: half the crawfish falling out repeatedly and my hand being covered in remoulade
Stay tuned for the rest of my Cinco de Mayo celebration- the super refreshing and easy Watermelon Jicama Salad.

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