Sichuan Crawfish

September 21, 2011 · 2 comments

Sichuan Crawfish

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.

2 comments

Paul Riddell September 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I truly, truly sympathize. One of the good things about having so many New Orleans expats in Dallas is that we get some good crawfish, by the 20-pound bag. Since I’m deathly allergic to lobster, this is the closest I can get to lobster, and I gleefully bury the remains in the garden for both fertilizer and pest resistance. (Many varieties of carnivorous fungus can digest chitin, so putting lots of chitin from crawfish shells encourages enough of a population to devour malignant nematodes as well.)

Of course, I refuse to get involved with the crayfish/crawfish debate. As far as I’m concerned, the stream-dwellers of the northern US are crayfish, and the burrowing red monsters of the South are crawfish. Both have distinct flavors (hell, I used to catch ones in northern Michigan that were the size of chicken lobsters), and I’d never try to mix the two. One day, though, I’m going to figure out how to grow large quantities of northern crayfish in Dallas, and then I’m going to eat myself to death.

David September 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I’ll have to see if my trustworthy fishmonger can get me live crawfish. I’m not ready to give up on the recipe just yet.

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