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Released March 25, 2003

Spice up your life
Origins of crawfish unclear, but not their taste

LONG BEACH – If you're from the South or you have visited about the time of Mardi Gras, you know how enticing those little mudbugs can be. The origins of the crawfish may be a little unclear, but their taste and their popularity certainly are not.

Spice up your life with the following crawfish tidbits.

One tale of unknown origins states that the crawfish has only been around since 1775. It seems that when the French lived in Acadie, Nova Scotia, they were expelled from their region and traveled by land and sea across North America and arrived in south Louisiana. They were welcomed by the French already living there and were given land by the Spanish. The Acadies from Nova Scotia really liked their lobster. So, when they made their move, they brought their lobsters with them.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Louisiana. The crawfish lost their appetite along the way and shrunk quite a bit. Since the smaller lobster didn't look like a lobster anymore, the Acadians, now known as Cajuns, called this small crustacean a crawfish.

Wherever they came from, thousands of people wait for the season of crawfish to begin. If you're from the South, you call them crawfish; if you're from the North, you call them crayfish.

Many agree the best way to eat them is boiled so the tails can be pinched. But there are other ways to prepare them. The tail meat can be removed and incorporated into sauces, soups, added to rice, sautéed in butter, mixed in with stuffing, fried for po boys, or just popped in your mouth and enjoyed.

Crawfish are moderately fatty, so if you count calories, you may need to pass up the mudbugs. Crawfish are available January through June, with peak harvest coming just in time for Mardi Gras.

It takes about six pounds of whole crawfish to equal one pound of tail meat. Just in case you were wondering, crawfish do not freeze very well. Whole crawfish can be frozen for only four to five weeks before the fat turns rancid. Crawfish tails can be frozen after being blanched and washed, but quality is lost during the freezing process.

Whatever you call them – crawfish, crayfish or mudbugs – just call them good. Try the following variety of crawfish recipes to spice up your Mardi Gras season.

Crawfish Cardinale

1 lb. crawfish tails

9 T. butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 T. flour

1 T. tomato paste½ pt. half and half

1/4 c. wine

2 ½ T. parsley

½ t. salt

½ t. black pepper

1/8 t. cayenne pepper

1/8 t. white pepper

spinach fettuccine-cooked

fresh parsley, chopped

paprika

Saute crawfish in 4 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes and set aside. In the remaining butter, saute the onion for 10 minutes. Then add flour and tomato; paste and blend well. Add half-and-half, wine, parsley, crawfish, salt and peppers. Continue cooking for five minutes. Serve over cooked fettuccine noodles. Garnish with parsley and paprika.

Cream of Crawfish Soup

½ c. unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

½ c. flour

3 c. broth (shrimp or lobster)

2 lbs. crawfish tails, cooked, divided

1 t. Old Bay seasoning

dashes of Tabasco to taste

salt and pepper to taste

½ c. white wine

Parsley for garnish

Saute onion and celery in butter for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour in broth and cook for 15 minutes. Add crawfish tails and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste. Add wine and heat through. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley.

Crawfish Salad

1 lb. fresh crawfish tails, cooked

1 ½ T. mayonnaise

1 t. Creole mustard

1 green onion, chopped

1/4 t. minced garlic

1 t. lime juice

½ t. Old Bay seasoning

1/4 t. dill weed

Combine crawfish tails, mayonnaise, mustard, green onion, garlic, lime juice and Old Bay seasoning. Serve over shredded Romaine leaves with avocado slices, tomato wedges and quartered hard-boiled eggs.

Chef Pam Lewis is lead instructor of Southern Miss Gulf Coast Culinary Arts Academy. For information on the Southern MissGC Culinary Arts Academy, call (228) 214-3240. For recipe/story requests, culinary questions or comments, e-mail Chef Pam at pamela.lewis@usm.edu or write to her at

Chef Pam Lewis, Culinary Arts Academy

The University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast

730 East Beach Blvd.

Long Beach, MS 39560

-30-

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July 16, 2003 9:42 AM

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