Sometimes I screw up even the simplest of recipes. Usually it’s because I mis-measure an ingredient, or make a substitution that just doesn’t work. In this particular case I screwed up due to a lack of attention at least six months ago.
When I see something unusual while food shopping, I’ll buy it and file it away for future use. That’s what happened months ago when I saw a four-pound bag of crawfish: I bought it and filed it away in the Deep Storage Facility until I could come up with a use for it. I remembered the bag when I was looking for a lazy but tasty one-pot meal. The Momofuku recipe for sichuan crawfish could be made in less than half an hour, and I had all the ingredients on hand – all I had to do was thaw out the crawfish.
I grabbed the bag and left it to defrost, paying no attention to the photo of the bright red mudbugs on the bag. It was a “serving suggestion,” or so I thought. It wasn’t until I was gathering my mise en place that I realized I had purchased a bag of cooked crawfish. I was committed by this point, so I chose to push on ahead.
In addition to the crawfish I measured out a quarter cup each of oil and light soy, twenty dried red chile peppers, two tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns, and a half cup of sliced scallions. (Had I been using raw crawfish, I would have soaked them in cold salted water for about half an hour.)
After heating the oil in a large sauté pan over hight heat, I crushed the chiles and added them along with the peppercorns. Once I could smell the peppers, I added the crawfish and stirred them until they were heated through, then added the soy and stirred for another minute. I transferred the crawfish to a large bowl and garnished with the sliced scallions.
I served the bugs over steamed rice topped with ginger scallion sauce.
I taught He Who Will Not Be Ignored how to twist off the heads and pull the meat out of the tails. Due to the double-cooking, there wasn’t anything to suck out of the heads, but the drippings permeated the rice. I could tell after sampling a few crawfish that they were badly overcooked, with a rubbery, stringy texture. The peppery seasoning was a clever Asian interpretation of a classic crawfish boil, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the meal.
I haven’t had to enforce my old “if you screw it up you still have to eat it” rule in years, but we dutifully plowed though the bowl of crawfish, leaving behind a pile of legs, claws, and carapaces that resembled an outtake from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.
I’ll be on the lookout for uncooked crawfish so I can try this recipe again. Failure is not an option.