Monday, June 14, 2010

My Southern Food Journey - Part 1

Hello ladies and gentlemen! I know it's been a while, but it's just been too stinkin' hot outside lately to be stuck in a stuffy kitchen, stirring pots and pans of steaming food. I did have a cooking kick last night, though, so back to the kitchen it was for me.

Living in South Florida, I've got TONS of options for new foods to try out. I've been trying to steer clear of comfort food since I'm still in the throes of wedding planning and live in fear of not being able to fit into my wedding dress in October.

After a particularly sweltering weekend (it got up to about 99F with a heat index of 104F - bleh), all I wanted was some good, southern, home cooking. I had some frozen crawfish tails that I picked up at the market hanging out in my freezer, just waiting to be used. Having never cooked with crawfish, I was stumped. So, off to Google I went.

While searching online for a killer crawfish recipe, I brewed a big pot of sweet tea, which is one of my weaknesses. I foolishly drank two large glasses of it with dinner, and sat up half the night like a hoot owl, but that's not the point.

I will admit, I love the luxury of having this crawfish tail meat already prepared for me. When my fiance and I went out to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, he got the New Orleans steam pot that included crawfish, and let me tell you...that was a struggle! I actually remember him saying to me "These sure are a lot of work for little to no meat!". I felt bad for the poor guy, so I handed him one of my crab legs for his efforts.

Before I go on, let's take a little trip down memory lane with Mehgan, shall we?

Imagine me, about four years old, bright blonde hair and blue eyes, living in Sumas, WA with my dad. My dad is a self-proclaimed red-neck who loved farming and living in the sticks and saying stuff like, "Hoo boy! Didja see that? That was a good-un'". So, one day, my dad decides to take me fishing in the creek behind his mother's house. (And when I say "creek", it doesn't rhyme with "peek", it rhymes with "nick". Just so you know.) I'm standing on the bank of the creek with my little Barbie fishing pole, hoping for a bite from a trout or whatever kind of fish we had in there. My dad, up to his thighs in the freezing cold water (he was wearing waders) is slowing moving his arms back and forth in the water. I specifically remember thinking that it was the same way he used to look for his glasses in the morning. Anyway, he shoots up like a jack-in-the-box, hooting and hollering "It pinched me! Yeeoowww!" and flailing his arms about (this was quite hilarious, since he's a 6'4" tall redneck in overalls and waders). Dangling from his right pinky was, what looked to me like a giant insect, but was in fact a crawfish (or crawdad or crayfish or mud bug, whatever you prefer).

This continued for another or hour or so, me trying to stifle my laughter while still patiently waiting for a bite that would never come. My grandmother did manage to cut a steak into the shape of a fish, so that I could say that I had fish for dinner that night.

Now, on to the incredible way my dad ate these crawfish: once they were boiled up, he would bite their little heads, sucking out all the juices, and then pinch the tails so that he could get all the meat out. I'm a girl. I don't do these things. I sat in wonder as my did finished off a good 20-30 crawfish in one sitting. father....gotta love him.

Fast-forward about 20 or so years, and you have me thanking the Lord almighty for not having to endure the process of getting together 3/4 of a pound of crawfish meat in order to make my crawfish etouffee for dinner!

Mehgan's Crawfish Etouffee

-1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
-3/4 to 1 lb crawfish meat
-3 cloves of garlic, minced (I like mine on the garlicky side)
-2 to 3 stalks of celery, chopped
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-1 large onion, chopped
-2 bunches of green onion, chopped
-1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock
-2 tbsp canned tomato sauce or tomato paste
-1 to 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
-1/2 tsp corn starch
-2 cups cooked white rice

Directions: In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery and green onion until the onion becomes transparent. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste/sauce, crawfish meat and Cajun seasoning, stirring until the meat is thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes. Add the corn starch, a little at a time, to thicken it. Side note: I know most people make their own roux with butter and flour, but seeing as how I had neither the time (I was hungry) or patience (side effect of being hungry) I opted for corn starch. Once it's good and thick, serve over the whtie rice. Enjoy!

My thoughts: DELICIOUS! I'm sorry I wasn't able to get a good photo before I mixed it all together, but in my rush to feed my face, I didn't even think to take one. As I was bringing the spoon to my mouth, I was like "Crap! I need to take pics!" Haha! But yeah, it was amazing, and really hit the spot. I ate a heaping helping of this while watching "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and drinking a big ol' glass of sweet tea.

Since my wonderful fiance is currently deployed, I have a ton of leftovers, but that's ok, because I'm in love with this dish. Just look at that delicious broth!! I could drink that by itself!...but I won't.