This week, Finger Food Friday is welcoming spring the best way it knows how. With crawfish! That’s right. Crawfish season has officially begun. Well, actually, there’s no “official” start to crawfish season since these dirt diggers have rather unpredictable life cycles (thanks to every extreme weather condition that affects South Louisiana). But they’re available now live or hot-from-the-pot at many grocery stores, seafood markets and restaurants. Supplies of frozen crawfish tails are also on the rise this time of year, which means they’re usually cheaper. So get them while the getting’s good. That way, you’ll be ready to cook up great crawfish dishes, like my Spicy Crawfish Baskets, anytime of the year.
I created this recipe to introduce a handful of my “cautious” friends to the wonderful world of crawfish. These gooey, cheesy, spicy crawfish baskets were a hit. And it wasn’t long after that initial crawfish experience that I had my buds sucking heads and pinching tails–that’s boiled crawfish talk, y’all, not nasty talk! The recipe’s ingredient list is long, I know. But it’s mainly spices and seasonings. This finger food comes together quickly. Trust me!
Before you break out the pots and pans, I want to clear up one point about cooking with crawfish (since I didn’t touch on this in my Crawfish Etouffee post). Crawfish are purchased live, boiled or frozen. Anytime a recipe calls for crawfish tails, unless otherwise specified in the ingredient list, it’s referring to previously boiled and peeled crawfish tail meat. You’ll see it listed in cookbooks and recipes any number of ways, including:
- cooked crawfish tails
- cooked crawfish tail meat
- peeled crawfish tails
- fresh, peeled crawfish tails
- cooked and peeled crawfish tails
- crawfish tail meat
- crawfish tails, peeled
- crawfish tails with fat
- frozen crawfish tails
Live crawfish, of course, will produce the freshest flavor when cooked. But it’s hard work to purge, boil and peel them, especially considering it takes five to seven pounds of whole, boiled crawfish (depending on their size) to equal one pound of cooked tails. Clearly not an option for my laid back Finger Food Fridays. Boiled Crawfish is an okay option, especially if you have leftovers from a recent boil. But, again, you’ll have to peel at least five pounds for this recipe. Frozen crawfish tails are your best bet for this and similar recipes. The frozen packs contain cooked and peeled crawfish tail meat with fat (the creamy, yellow stuff). The fat’s important to the overall flavor of any crawfish dish.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, it’s time to focus on my adult beverage for this evening. I’m thinking Hop Czar Imperial IPA (BridgePort Brewing Co., Oregon) for this Finger Food Friday. Wanna guess what my hubby will be having? That’s right. Miller Lite. And the kids will be hitting the water jug tonight, because they’ve had way too much sugar lately!
Until next week …
Spicy Crawfish Baskets Recipe
24 slices whilte or wheat bread
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 16-ounce package Jimmy Dean’s Premium Pork Hot Sausage
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 8-ounce package Velvetta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound frozen crawfish tails, thawed and drained (but not rinsed)
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
FOR BREAD BASKETS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crust from bread (an electric knife is perfect for this job). Lightly coat two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. Gently press one slice of bread into each muffin cup. Combine melted butter and garlic powder. Brush each bread slice with butter mixture. Bake until toasty brown and firm, 12-15 minutes. Set aside.
FOR CRAWFISH FILLING: In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook sausage until browned and crumbly, breaking it up as it cooks with the side of a spoon or a potato masher. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter, onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic; saute until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add cream cheese and Velveeta cheese; stir constantly until melted. Reduce heat to low. Slice crawfish tails in half. Add crawfish tails and remaining ingredients to pan. Stir to combine; cook over low heat until mixture is heated through, 3-5 minutes.
ASSEMBLY: Fill each bread basket with a generous amount of crawfish filling. Serve warm.
DO-AHEAD TIPS: Bread baskets can me made one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature once they have completely cooled. Crawfish filling can be prepared, covered and refrigerated two days ahead of time. Rewarm bread baskets for 2-3 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Rewarm filling in the microwave or stove top. Assemble and serve. Makes 24 baskets.