Texans have developed a love for mudbugs—a favorite nickname for crawfish. Many rice farmers in the eastern coastal regions of Texas flood their fields after harvest and turn the land into crawfish ponds as an adjunct income. This easy recipe features the humble crawfish as the flavor base for a delicious dish with multidimensional flavors. Enhanced by the crawfish “fat,” mushrooms, thyme and rich sauce, it’s the spiciest in our feast, and frankly, this piquant sauce needs a quencher for a perfect match. In this case, Wedding Oak Winery Viognier IS the wine. It is made with succulently ripe grapes from the Bingham Family Vineyards in Brownfield.
The winemaker purposely left a smidgeon of residual sugar in this wine balanced with crisp acidity that heightens the wine’s ripe apricot and citrus notes, trumps the heat of cayenne and allows the delicate crawfish flavors to emerge.
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb. tiny button mushrooms, whole, or regular mushrooms cut into quarters
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 roasted, peeled and seeded red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch dice
1 large celery stalk, cut into ½-inch dice
2 tablespoons minced flatleaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups seafood stock, or stock made from shrimp bouillon cubes
1 quart whipping cream
2 pounds cooked and peeled crawfish tails with fat
2 tablespoons Pernod, or another anise-based liqueur
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Beurre manié made from ½ cup softened unsalted butter blended well in a food processor with ½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ pound penne rigate pasta, cooked al dente and drained
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed, deep-sided 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the canola oil and heat. When the oil mixture is hot, add the mushrooms and shallots. Cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly browned—about 10 minutes. Add the red bell peppers, celery, parsley, thyme and cayenne and stir well to blend. Cook, stirring oft en, until the celery is wilted—about 5 minutes. Add the stock and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook to reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the whipping cream, crawfish tails and Pernod, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then bring to a boil. Slowly stir in small bits of the beurre manié—whisking until each addition is totally incorporated before adding more—until desired thickness is attained. Th e sauce should be slightly thickened but still pourable— like a cream soup. To serve, place the pasta in a large bowl and ladle the crawfish mixture over the top. Garnish with a scattering of minced parsley and serve hot.
TERRY THOMPSON-ANDERSON is a professional chef, cookbook author, culinary instructor and restaurant consultant. She has written five cookbooks and numerous articles for various publications. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, The Southern Foodways Alliance and Les Dames d’Escoffier, International.