In 2011, I was intrigued by the scandal that broke when a visiting New Orleans journalist noted that the shellfish in the lobster salad at the venerable Manhattan gourmet shop Zabar’s was actually crawfish. The dish was renamed, but my view of the Cajun staple was forever altered: Crawfish weren’t just for gumbos. Inspired to experiment, I picked up a few pounds and found that crawfish meat goes great in salads, curries, pot pies—most any dish that calls for lobster. Now every April when the season comes around, I buy them shipped live from the Louisiana Crawfish Company, whose crawdads are sustainably raised in flooded fields in the Atchafalaya Basin. The crustaceans—tiny freshwater cousins to lobsters—are firm and sweet. Plunged into boiling water, they cook through in just two minutes and easily soak up any seasonings, from classic Cajun spices to Asian-style ginger and garlic. As I tug off the tails to use in pasta sauce, dips, or even tacos, I can’t help but pop some into my mouth. It takes five pounds of crawfish to yield a pound of tail meat, but those tails are so good, it’s a wonder that any get past me. Tail meat and cooked or live crawfish start at $7 a pound at lacrawfish.com.
Born on the Bayou