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Crawfish Bread

One of the most popular dishes at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in recent years is crawfish bread. If you called it the Louisiana answer to pizza, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Basically, the idea is to make a good,thick crawfish-base sauce with lots of crawfish tails, hold it together with a light roux and cheese, and bake it onto a half-loaf of French bread. I think this comes out best if you use half-baked loaves of bread–the brown-and-serve kind are perfect, but even a lightly-baked loaf helps.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup crawfish or shrimp stock or water
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups crawfish tails, with fat if possible
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 3 sprigs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 loaf poor boy bread, or three loaves brown-and-serve French bread

Crawfish bread

1. In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter and heat it to a bubble. Add flour gradually and stir constantly over medium-high heat to make a roux. Cook until light brown–about five minutes.

2. Lower heat and add green onions, bell pepper, and celery. Saute until limp, but not browned–about three minutes. Keep stirring to avoid burning the roux.

3. Add wine and bring it to a boil. After a minute, add stock, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic, then return to a boil. Simmer about five minutes more, or until thickened.

4. Add crawfish tails, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, Creole seasoning, and salt. Simmer for about eight to ten minutes, until sauce can be picked up with a fork. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

5. Sprinkle a thin but complete layer of cheese over bread. Put the bread into a hot broiler or toaster oven until the cheese melts. Take the bread out and spoon the crawfish sauce down the center of the bread, and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven until the sauce begins to bubble. Slice into appropriate serving portions and serve hot.

Serves six to eight appetizers.

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