Friday, May 20, 2011

Mudbugs for Dinner?

Crawfish, also known as "Crayfish", or by the fond (but seriously unappetizing) nickname "Mudbugs" are beginning to crop up on menus everywhere.  These lobster-like crustaceans are found in brackish water and streams where they bury deep into the mud, especially in the colder weather.  Think twice before trying to eat them immediately after catching them as they'll likely have a pretty muddy taste -- reflecting their natural habitat.  So says Bill Beck, chef and owner of Beck's Cajun Cafe at Reading Terminal Market: "It takes about two week's of them living in clean water for that taste to go," he explains.

Bill uses crawfish in his New Orleans inspired menu at the Market, preferring to import them directly from the South.  If you're interested in cooking with these beasties, then he suggests buying medium to large crawfish.  "In terms of the meat to shell ratio and the increasing toughness of the meat, you're better off avoiding the extra large ones".

One of the hot favorites at Beck's Cajun Cafe at the moment is Bill's Shrimp Crawfish Jambalaya. 
In Bill's version he adds potatoes, andouille sausage, corn and lastly the shrimp and crawfish.  "It's all in the timing," Bill advises, "timing is everything, you need to stagger cook everything -- starting with the potatoes."

We wouldn't expect Bill to divulge his recipe in full, so we found this one for you, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya  on, which comes close to the mark.  Frozen crawfish tails are readily available from the seafood merchants at the market. 

Mudbugs come as cooked and flavored tails, or as tail meat.  "Best to buy frozen now, as they don't travel well;  they have no longevity out of the water", says Bill.

Everything - including this Louisiana etouffee - is always served with a smile at Beck's.  Whilst there this month, we got to sample the banana bread pudding with whiskey sauce, a soon-to-be released creole mayonnaise and snapper soup. 

Laissez les bons temps roulez!

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