July Fish of the Month: US-farmed Crawfish
Your seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of our oceans and lakes—so make sure they’re positive ones! Every month, Shedd’s Right Bite team highlights a sustainable seafood item as our Fish of the Month. July’s pick is US-farmed crawfish, and I have a dish that will bring Louisiana to your kitchen— crawfish po’ boys. Also, don’t miss out on a recipe for crawfish etouffee from Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones. His Andersonville restaurant is one of Shedd’s sustainable seafood restaurant partners in the Chicago area; click here to view the full list.
With more than 90% of crawfish production coming from Louisiana, it is clear why this southern critter of many names (crayfish, crawfish, crawdad, mudbug) is a necessity in any Cajun kitchen. US-farmed crawfish can be found on Shedd’s “best choice” list for sustainability and I often use it as an alternative to less sustainable options, like imported shrimp.
Chef Paul is known for both his passion for environmentally friendly fare and expertise in traditional southern food. He recently shared with me that, “Whatever you do, absolutely, positively make sure you are getting American crawfish.” According to Paul, “Imported crawfish is never of the same quality [and] may be mislabeled.”
Paul also notes that, “crawfish weren’t considered an important food in South Louisiana until the early 20th century and in Louisiana crawfish production is symbiotic with the rice industry.” He is right; crawfish are typically grown in rotation with another agricultural crop, like rice. As the crop is harvested for the season, the previous growth is submerged under water and the crawfish are added into the mix. The freshwater crustaceans nibble on the leftovers like small invertebrates, which means no marine resources are utilized through fishmeal. The excess feed used in many fish farms is a point of concern when it comes to sustainability. Most importantly though, red swamp crawfish are native to Louisiana, where they are primarily grown. When crawfish is imported from around the world, it often comes from places where the non-native species can escape and wreak havoc on the local ecosystem.
If your stomach is growling for crawfish and you’re not sure where to get it, I recommend calling ahead to a local fishmonger or grocery store, or swinging by one of the many crawfish boils that Paul will be hosting at Big Jones this summer.
Farmed Crawfish Po’ Boy
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning blend
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound US-farmed crawfish meat
1 baguette, cut into fourths and lightly toasted
1 tomato, sliced
1 ½ cups lettuce
1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, hot sauce and lemon juice. Stir until combined and set aside.
2. In another bowl, toss Cajun seasoning over the crawfish, thoroughly coating the meat.
3. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the seasoned crawfish and heat for 3 to 5 minutes, continuously stirring.
4. Spread the mayo along the inside of the baguette. Layer with tomato, lettuce and crawfish.
Paul Fehribach is Executive Chef and co-owner of Big Jones. Throughout his career Paul has supported the farm-to-table and slow food movements. "I do what I do because I want to see nutrition, sustainability, and humane treatment of farm animals become the standard by which we judge food - not cheap price, industrial consistency, or marketing dollars spent. We can all eat better by treating the land and our animal friends better."
One stick (1/2 cup) plus three tablespoons butter, cut into small bits
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced celery
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 cup white wine
1 nice-sized sprig fresh thyme
1 pound picked crawfish tails, with fat and juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons butter until foaming but not brown.
2. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until medium-brown, and the color of peanut butter.
3. Add the vegetables and garlic at once, and stir constantly while cooking until they sweat and turn translucent.
4. Add the white wine and thyme, stir, and bring to a boil while stirring. Add the crawfish, pepper, and some salt and return to a boil, stirring often. Once boiling, reduce heat to low to maintain the boil for 15 to 20 seconds, and then remove from heat.
5. Stir in the remaining 1/2-cup of butter off the heat, stirring constantly until all is melted. Remove the thyme sprig, and season with lemon, Worcestershire, and parsley, plus additional salt and pepper as desired.
6. Serve it up at once with hot steamed rice.
Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation