The crawfish (also known as a crayfish or crawdad, depending on the region) is a freshwater crustacean resembling a lobster. Frequently found in brooks and steams, the crawfish prefers to live in only the cleanest water. The greatest number and diversity of crawfish are found in south-eastern North America, where they are caught and prepared in a number of appetizing and economical ways.
But only a small portion of the crawfish is edible–usually the tail. Crawfish therefore feature frequently in soups, stews and bisques. Sometimes the claws of larger specimens can be cracked open and meat extracted; because of the larger amount of flesh they provide, these larger specimens feature frequently in dishes like low country boils, where the advice is to “suck the head; pinch the tail.”
Here is a recipe from an 1887 edition of Good Housekeeping for crawfish bisque. Use your food processor instead of the suggested mortar to save time. Serve the bisque with a crusty French bread and a green salad.
Take fifty crawfish, wash them in several waters, and put them in a saucepan over a brisk fire. Add to them salt, whole black pepper, and butter the size of an egg, with a little grated nutmeg. Stir with a spoon for one-half hour. When cooked, drain the crawfish, free them from the shells, and mash the meat in a mortar. Boil one cup of rice in the crawfish bouillon for a quarter of an hour, drain it and put it in the mortar with the crawfish, pounding it well. Put all back into the saucepan, thin it with the bouillon and pass it through a sieve. Mash the crawfish shells, add bouillon in which they were cooked, and strain it through a sieve into the crawfish and rice puree. It then should be of a reddish color. Put this into a saucepan over a moderate fire, not letting it boil, but it must be very hot. Put some toasted bread in the tureen, add to the broth one wineglassful of Madeira wine, and pour over toast. Serve immediately.
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