During the spring harvest, Louisiana residents go crazy for crawfish
Author ROD O'CONNOR
YOU KNOW IT’S SPRINGTIME in Louisiana when the newspaper-covered picnic tables piled high with fire engine-red crustaceans — heads snapped and tails peeled to reveal a pinkie’s worth of tasty meat — start to appear in public parks. Ninety percent of the U.S. crawfish haul comes from the Bayou State, and the locals are passionate about celebrating the beginning of harvest season. At the Louisiana Crawfish Festival in Chalmette this month, mud-bug lovers can get their fill of the boiled beauties — as well as all kinds of crawfish specialties, from po’boys to quesadillas — while basking in the glow of the newly crowned Crawfish Queen.
The start of crawfish season also means that fresh crawdaddies will be creeping onto menus throughout the Big Easy. At the elegant French Quarter seafood house GW Fins, chef Tenney Flynn incorporates them in such decadent recipes as his version of crawfish pie: a spicy étouffée ladled into the same flaky, homemade shortbread crust that holds his hedonistic bourbon-pecan pie. There’s also his crawfish bisque, a labor-intensive soup made with a peanut-colored roux and crawfish stock, which is poured over savory rice pudding and topped with a spectacular piece of sautéed red snapper. To make the bisque, Flynn toasts flour-dusted crawfish heads in the oven and adds them to the pot. (“The flour expands in the liquid and thickens the soup,” he says.) For the final touch, he fills the heads with a riff on the typical bread-based stuffing: a mousseline of lobster, eggs and cream. The result is a delicacy fit for a celebration. — ROD O’CONNOR
When beloved Louisiana craft brewer Abita first rolled out its Strawberry Harvest beer, in 2005, it was a one-off — a yellow lager made with ripe local strawberries for the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. But the beer was so popular that the brewery started bottling it commercially the following year. It’s now such a favorite that Louisianans reach near-panic when it approaches the end of its limited run each May, says Abita president David Blossman. Luckily, summer brings another of the brewery’s celebrated fruit beers: Satsuma Harvest Wit, a Belgian-style white that gets its subtle citrus flavor from the small, sweet mandarin-type oranges grown in Plaquemines Parish at the state’s southernmost point. The satsuma’s peel and pulp are used in the mash, which adds a dose of sugar to balance the beer’s clove-and-coriander profile. Both brews pair well with Louisiana’s shrimp and crawfish dishes, and during the summer months, its sweltering temperatures. —