Monday, May 31, 2010

Mudbugs in Mobile

I have been craving crawfish lately. Now, I have fried crawfish tails at my favorite Boiling Pot in Mobile, but I was wanting some fresh boiled crawfish, dripping with seasoned boil water, pleading for me to release them from their spiny armour and devour them. It was nearing, or even past, the end of crawfish season and I was yet to have some. I had seen this place in Mobile on the drive to the seaport from the airport, and wanted to stop and eat but they only do carry-out.

The place is Mudbugs, and the have wonderful BIG crawfish that are boiled to perfection. The heavenly aroma oozed from the plastic bag-full of tasty, red crustaceans, starving me as they filled my head with visions of mounds of the vermillion varmits. OK, I wax poetically about these things, but they are oh-so good.

Mudbugs has all types of fish and seafood that you can get fresh, fried, steamed or boiled. They also have other foods like smoked sausage, boudin, tasso, andouille, as well as alligator meat and frog legs, to name a few. They're speciality though, is exemplified in their unique moniker, unappetizing to some of faint culinary heart, but to true lovers of crawfish, Mudbugs says it all.

Crawfish, as those of you who've had them will tell you, are a bit messy, but I find them easier to deal with than shelling shrimp. I am always tempted to crack into the little claws and try and dig the little bit of the claw meat out, but you're wasting your time, go for the tail, for the most part it's fairly easy.

For those of you who haven't had the honor, first you crack the back half off of the crawfish at the spot where the tail meets the body shell, or carapace. Sometimes the tail comes away with a set of legs. Peel this ring off, along with the legs, and pinch the base of the tail to loosen the piece of meat from the shell. This will slide right out ready for eatin'.

There will be a small amount of crawfish fat, (or "butter" as the NOLA folks call it) attached to the tail, this is a tasty extra you don't want to wipe off. You can also push your pinky finger into the carapace and scrape out more of this "butter". My friend Ralph Fountain taught me this little trick to extract it as opposed to all this "suckin' heads" business. These, by the way, are actions employed my true crawfish-anados. Diggin' for the "butter" is not usually for the squeamish first-timers. You might also want to slide the "vein" out of the tail meat, as you would a shrimp. BTW... it's not a vein.

What do you dip them in? Well, you don't have to dip them in anything. I like them plain, most times, and sometimes I will employ a little red cocktail sauce. You might actually want to dip them in drawn or clarified butter, but I think that's just overkill. Just enjoy the sweet flavor of the morsels of tail meat without covering it up with strong flavors like horseradish or worcestershire sauce, ingredients usually found in cocktail sauce.

Can you use crawfish tails in other dishes, well yes you can. The aforementioned fried crawfish is a wonderful treat. You dip the peeled crawfish tails in a wash of milk and egg, then into some corn flour that's been fortified with a little cajun spice mix, and fry in a deep fryer or skillet full of 365º oil.

You can also make a nice crawfish étouffée or put some into a seafood gumbo. Hank Williams sang about Crawfish Pie which are a delicacy in Cajun country. There are many things you can put these crawfish in after shelling them, and you can even buy already-shelled crawfish tails for recipes. This makes it even easier to cook with. Mudbugs sell those shelled crawfish tails by the pound.

I thought I would publish a crawfish beignet recipe with this column. These are wonderful and easy to make. This recipe came from Creole Delicacies/Cookin' Cajun in New Orleans on St. Anne's. Lisette and the girls would make these occaisionally and I talked them out of the recipe. Make these up with a batch of remoulade sauce and sit back and enjoy.

If you are traveling in the Gulf Coast area, remember most all crawfish are farm raised and are fine for consumption. For now most seafood in the region is OK, but let's pray they can clean the BP oil mess up before it destroys the oyster beds or shrimping areas. Alright, that's another story, let's wrap this up.

As you can see by my Crawfish Puppet Theater, I love crawfish. Ever since the first time I had them, I've had this obsession about them. Try them, if you haven't yet, and you might catch the fever as I did. If you can't get to Mudbugs, you can order crawfish on-line and they will be flown, alive, to your home. A crawfish boil is easy to put on, but it takes 3 to 4 pounds to make up enough for the average eater. I've heard 10 lbs of whole crawfish yields 1 lb of meat, but it's worth it.

Mudbugs is located at the loop 408 at Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile Alabama, they have a super friendly staff, and great fresh seafood. They are closed on Mondays, and have no indoor dining facilities, but the nice lady did offer to let me sit on a bench in the store and eat them off of a tray, but I thought better of it. Get over to see them soon, and tell'em RouxBDoo sent you.

Crawfish Beignets

2 cups plain flour
2 tbs baking powder
2 tbs cajun seasoning
¼ cup minced bell pepper
1 tbs minced garlic
4 green onions thinly sliced
3 tbs fresh minced parsley
1 tsp hot sauce
1 ½ cup seafood or chicken stock
1 lb Crawfish tails

Mix dry ingredients evenly. Add remaining ingredients, except for stock and hot sauce. Mix well and add hot sauce ans then the stock, but just enough stock to form a loose sticky dough. Let stand for 15 mins.

Preheat fryer to 350º Spoon in batter, or use a portion scoop, and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, serve with remoulade sauce. These go well with a nice cold beer.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Red Beans and Birthday Skillets

Hello friends, as Justin Wilson used to say "How Y'all are?" I hope everyone is well and looking forward to a great summer of grilling lots of great food and enjoying the season with friends and family. Although today isn't Monday, (it's Friday) I made a big ol' pot of Red Beans, Creole style. This is one of my favorite dishes, although I am not having rice with them tonight.

Why did I mention Monday, because Monday was the traditional day to make red beans as it was "Wash Day". The woman of the house, or maid, would be busy with washing and cleaning up from the previous week and weekend, they needed something that could be put together and slid to the back of the stove to simmer all day. Plus there would be a big ham bone left over from Sunday to throw in the pot as well. I have posted a red bean recipe here before but I thought I'd repeat it. I usually make something a bit different every time I make it. These are no exception. This is slightly different from my previous red beans recipe.

Red Beans & Rice

1 lb pkg, Red Kidney Beans (dried)
1/2 stick butter
1 onion (diced small)
2 ribs of celery (diced small)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tbs worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 lb Andouille sausage (diced small)
1/2 smoked (or country) ham scraps
1 chicken stock cube
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbs Tony Chachere's (or similar) Cajun Spices
2 cups crushed tomatoes
Water - enough to cover by 3 inches

First for the beans, soak them overnight or par-boil them before using them. In a 7 qt. dutch oven, melt butter, fry ham 5 mins. add onions, celery, and garlic, cook 5 more mins. Add the andouille, spices, sauces, tomatoes, and herbs. Stir well and add 2 cups of boiling water with the stock cube dissolved in them. Cook 5 mins. and then add beans, stir well. Add enough water to cover over the beans 3 inches. Bring up to MED/HI and cook for 30 mins. stirring often to prevent sticking. Turn down to MED and let cook uncovered until beans are tender and water has reduced and thickened. Usually about 2 hours. Serve with rice topped with thin-sliced, green onions.

On an ending note. I was at my Mother's house today making the beans and I mentioned I wanted to buy a new cast iron skillet of pretty good size. As you can see by the beans pictures, I love my sweet Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven. I said jokingly that I might get the new skillet for my birthday in July. She walked out on her back-porch and came back carrying something wrapped up in an old plastic grocery bag. She said "this has been sittin' on the porch for a long time, I was wondering what to do with it, Happy Early Birthday".

I couldn't believe it but it was a Griswold Cast Iron #6 Skillet that's at least 50 - 60 years old. It was in great shape, a few little rust spots I quickly buffed out, but all it needs is re-seasoning. Griswold was a fine old cast iron company from Erie Pennsylvania that produced sturdy, wonderful cookware like my new early birthday present. I am lucky she hadn't tossed it or given it to someone else, but I am also lucky to have a wonderful Mom like mine. At 87 years old she is still active running around with her friends, performing with a show-choir, and worring about her children and grand-children.

Man, those sure were good red beans tonight.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oil Spill effect on Louisiana Seafood

The seafood industry is in terrible trouble in the Gulf of Mexico. This not only affects Louisiana but the entire Gulf Coast, eventually. While the Obama Administration twiddles it's collective thumbs, the problem gets worse. Prices are already being doubled on oysters in some markets. Most likely, it will affect all seafood. I hope there is a solution, and some genius finds it before too soon, BP sure isn't going to do anything but pass the blame.

Here is an article that illustrates the seafood industry's problems. It's not only the wholesalers, restauranteurs, or diners that are suffering, but the fishermen will be hurt the most. Many are just now starting to recover from Katrina, and now this. I am completely speechless, I have nothing else to add to this post.

CLICK HERE for the article.