Vic Roy’s Crawfish Bisque
Recipe is by the late Vic Roy, of Baton Rouge. The bisque consists of two parts: the stew and the stuffed crawfish heads. They may be prepared separately and combined prior to serving. Both the stew and stuffed heads freeze very well combined or separated.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 tbls. Italian-style tomato paste (tube is best)
3 heaping tbls. Savoie’s dark roux in the jar
2 tbls. lemon juice
1 tbl. sea salt
1 quart chicken stock
1 lb. peeled crawfish tails and their fat
1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven and add the chopped onions and press in the garlic. I chop my onions in the food processor to a mush. Slowly sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat, stirring constantly until soft, then add the tomato paste, stir in and continue to sauté, stirring constantly or it will burn. Add olive oil as needed to keep the ingredients nice and moist as they sauté Our goal here is to “cook the red” out of the tomato paste and get the sauté as dark as we can without burning it. I find it takes 25 or 30 minutes to get it right.
2. When the sauté is done, and has that real nice aroma (you will know, believe me!), add the roux and stir in briskly until well combined and creamy. Add the lemon juice and salt and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly until the flour in the roux is cooked into the sauté and a taste is not grainy.
3. Now add a cup of the chicken stock and stir well until it is all combined and nice and smooth. Add another cup of chicken stock, cover, and simmer over a very low heat for 90 minutes.
4. Add the peeled crawfish tails and fat about 15 minutes before done so they don’t cook to nothing. Check now and then and you may add more chicken stock to get the bisque to the consistency you like. If it’s too thin, simmer uncovered to cook it down.
Note: I used no pepper at all. You may add to your taste, but I find none is better, just put some Crystal on the table and let your guests add to their taste. Pepper is easy to put in but impossible to take out; same with salt.
Stuffed Crawfish Heads
Makes 80. Recipe is from Vic Roy.
80 cleaned crawfish heads
A little olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lb. cooked crawfish tails, chopped
11/2 cups Progresso Seasoned Italian-Style Bread Crumbs
1. First, let’s clean the heads. I use kitchen shears to cut the “pointy end” of the head off at the eyes to keep from stabbing your hands a thousand times during this process. Then (I wear rubber gloves) use your fingers under running water to clean the guts out of the head and set aside. Little kids do this very well with their small fingers if properly bribed, but you better cut the pointy end off first. You can store the cleaned shells for weeks in the frig or freeze them. I soak mine in a solution of baking soda and water before storing them to kill most of the odor, but wash them well before using.
2. Now let’s make the stuffing: Take a large iron skillet and cover the bottom with olive oil. Add the finely chopped veggies and press in the garlic, then sauté over low heat until soft, but we are not trying to brown them, just get them soft. Add olive oil if necessary to keep the mass moist, but not runny.
3. Chop the crawfish tails, not too fine. I use the food processor and try for “chunks” of tail versus a puree. Add the bread crumbs, chopped crawfish, and sautéed veggies to your mixer bowl and combine. The consistency we are looking for is a stiff paste that will stand up. Add olive oil to thin or bread crumbs to thicken. As with the stew, note I have used no pepper and this time, no salt. I find the ingredients have plenty of natural flavor and don’t need help.
4. Now stuff the heads by hand, there is no easy way, just stuff them all. If you have any stuffing left over, make little balls out of the excess.
5. Now place the stuffed heads and any excess balls on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven. The baking hardens the stuffing and keeps it from dissolving in the stew.
6. Get your stew ready to drop in the heads; now is the time to add seasonings to taste or cook down or add chicken broth to change the consistency because we don’t want to stir much after adding the heads as it will knock the stuffing outta them. If you made balls, add them shortly before you serve the bisque as they are pretty fragile.
7. Serve over white rice. The stuffing is eaten out of the heads by holding the head in one hand and using the soup spoon to dug the stuffing out. The empty heads are arranged around the edge of the bowl, it’s an old Cajun tradition.
Note: I have made my own roux for years, but must confess that the Savoie’s dark roux in the jar is better than my best. I heat the jar (top off) in the microwave to soften up the roux, then slowly stir it up with a strong spoon. The roux tends to separate out sitting in the jar and needs mixing before adding to the bisque.