While most of the country is welcoming the arrival of spring, New Orleanians are welcoming the arrival of crawfish. In my hometown, the two are a package deal. And when Mother Nature messes with the calendar and cool temps linger, both spring and crawfish season get delayed. That was the case this year (and last, if I recall correctly). Although there were a few sightings of crawfish before Mardi Gras (which was also late), the temperamental crustaceans didn’t start running consistently until a couple of weeks ago. Now everyone’s going crazy. Finally, seafood markets and restaurants are flashing “Hot Boiled Crawfish” signs in their windows and the price of a sack of live crawfish has dropped sufficiently enough to justify flying them to places like, well, Woodstock, Georgia, where homesick New Orleanians like myself can host their own backyard boils.
We held our first crawfish boil of 2014 last weekend and it was a huge success. But as every crawfish-loving-soul knows, one boil–one shared sack–is not enough to satisfy crawdaddy cravings. In-between boils and restaurant and seafood market splurges, one must turn to more practical means to sate the seasonal addiction. Practicality for most begins in the kitchen with a dozen or so tried and true family crawfish recipes and an icebox stocked with either leftover boiled crawfish or one pound bags of crawfish tails–which are also cheaper this time of year. During crawfish season, I make some type of crawfish dish at least once a week. Constants include Jazzy Crawfish Pasta (my take on the Jazz Fest fav Crawfish Monica), Crawfish Étouffée, Crawfish Mac and Cheese and Crawfish and Tasso Enchiladas. For parties, I turned to neighborhood favorites like Spicy Crawfish Baskets and Bite-Size Crawfish Pies.
Another favorite family recipe I make often this time of year is Crawfish Soup. I believe the first time I ate this soup was at the christening party for my first born. That was back in 2000. My wonderful Aunt Bronnie (that’s short for Bronwyn) brought a huge pot of this incredible soup to share. Relatives from both sides of our family hounded Bronnie for the recipe. A couple of weeks later, we all received in our inboxes a copy of the much anticipated Crawfish Soup details. No doubt we were all surprised to discover that the base of the soup was four cans of cream of potato soup and 2 cans of creamed corn. No roux. No stock. No cheese. And no long hours slaving over a hot stove. Who would have guessed? To be honest, I don’t use many canned products in my cooking. Even the old reliable cream of mushroom soup has to fight its way into my pantry. But I do adore this rich, creamy soup and I love the fact that it can be pulled together in a matter of minutes. Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.
Crawfish Soup Recipe
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 10 1/2-ounce cans cream of potato soup
2 14 3/4-ounce cans cream style corn
3 soup cans of half-and-half or milk (at least 2%)
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning, or more to taste
2 pounds frozen crawfish tails, thawed (but not drained or rinsed)
Salt and black pepper
In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in soup, corn, half-and-half, Creole seasoning and crawfish tails. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 10-12 servings.