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Author Topic: Memphis Crawdads - Finally !!  (Read 5236 times)
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NJ Grasshopper
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« on: March 06, 2003, 10:37:00 PM »

3/5/03 - As the song says, ....... today The Grasshopper was: ''Walking..through..Memphis''. Still wanting the Spicy Mudpuppy.

I started with a place called the 'Half Shell' on Mendenhall Rd. on Memphis' East Side.  I walked in the front door and asked if they had my “hearts desire” for the week - Crawfish!!  The response I got from the server was - ''We had a lot of boiled crawdads last night but ….. we ran out. - Sorry. ''  Oh, is it just not meant to be? My luck is just not going well this week.

Ok............... so I'm still: ''Walking..through..Memphis''

Going further East, I find a place called "Owen Brennen’s Creole and Cajun Cooking". 6150 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN 38119   901-761-0990.

My last chance for Crayfish in the deep south. (I leave tomorrow and don't return till May or June). Brennans' is located in an 'upscale' strip mall with a very unassuming exterior.

Walking inside you view an inspired room with a 24' high ceiling. There is a lot of white paint and milk glass lights all over. A real open 'airy' atmosphere. Here they are successfully recreating a .... 'Nawlins' .... atmosphere. Black, Yellow, and Green flags of Mardi Gras around the walls with large plaster heads of the ‘Carnival’ Gods. And, yea, even though it isn’t a red checkered table cloth where I would be more at home, there were nicely starched, white linens on each table.

One look at the menu and I knew I hit a mother lode. No boiled or steamed Crawfish, but, ….. every other type of them and ---- ‘Yo mama’ ……… crabcakes!! After the poor example the night before, (see review of Catfish Cabin), I needed to get my confidence back that they were still around.

The waitress, Shannon, was very patient with me as I went over the entire menu and ''cherrypicked'' what I wanted. This allowed me to sample a wide range of their menu. All evening she was right on top of my request to space the serving of each item I ordered so I could enjoy the food, (and take notes).

The drinks, while not overly generous, were prompt,...... and that's what’s important! A great, light & flaky French Loaf with a 'tub' of butter on the side was delivered with my drink order. Nice!

My 1st appetizer course:

Cajun Fried Popcorn, (Mudpuppy Tails) - lightly breaded & tender – just excellent. (A 'fresh water’ shrimp, for those of you that are still with out this 'cajun experience'). A generous quantity of these crustaceans, lightly floured  and fried until crisp - they were served with two sauces - first a typical vinegary cocktail sauce. Now when I say 'typical', this sauce is high quality – it’s just .... Typical !!! The other however, was - a pink, creamy, Mayo based - spicy and peppery concoction that had a nice 'kick' at the end. Just great!

Next:

Turtle Soup - (I had to try some just because of  some previous posts on this web site!) It was very 'vegetable' flavored. (A lot of tomato).  I could barely taste any Turtle - and what meat was in it was finely chopped, almost minced. No good sized 'chunks' to get your teeth into. Not bad but - just not memorable.

Then:

Creole Gumbo - Maybe a little too much File’ in the Roux for my tastes, but .... again, the quality was excellent – just too heavy for me. It was full - I mean F U L L of Andouille Sausage, large shrimp, whole crawdad tails, and great spices. (Hmmmmm - I needed another drink).

And my last appetizer, (Yea):

New Orleans Crab Cake – Nice …. From the presentation to the taste. Now, I would have liked the choice of whether to have the ‘tomato chili sauce’ on top or not, but, the cake - oh boy - it was full of lump crab meat and sauteed just perfectly!! A very light flour coating with just barely enough breading in the meat to give the crab cake some body. Excellent use of Red Pepper & other spices. "Gently" is the word that comes to mind when I try to describe the way it was fried. ''Light brown & 'gently' fried.''  Yummm ……. One of the best I have ever had.

Lastly – the nights entrée:

Crawfish Etouffee - as I have may have neglected to mention with the previous dishes - this, like the others was a great presentation. A large, shallow bowl with a light red sauce of onions and peppers, topped with a gollop, (I have aways wanted to use that word), a GOLLOP of rice. On top of all was a paper thin slice of lemon & a little parsley for color contrast. The Etouffee, (isn't that another great word?), was again ....  just   ‘F U L L’ .... of large 'mudpuppies'. This very thick sauce that had very little pepper in it. (However, there were three nice assorted bottles of hot sauce on the table if ya wanted to heat it up any.)
--------------------------------------------------
A really great meal and the Total Bill: Two drinks and a ‘nice’ tip = $54.00.  Well worth it and a "Grasshopper" Four claw recommendation!

I'll be up 'Nawth' next week, Nebraska and South Dakota. Don't really know what to review. They are not really known for much except Wheat and Beef. Ok....ok, if I have to. I can be a "meat and potatos kind of guy when I get away from the salt water.  Feedback and suggestions would be great from one and all. Now I'm 'hoppin' back to my house on the river. Till next week - "See ya then"
« Last Edit: March 06, 2003, 10:41:12 PM by NJ Grasshopper » Logged
Steve
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2003, 09:50:21 AM »

Copyright 2003 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company  
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

March 6, 2003 Thursday

SECTION: FOOD; COOKING CREOLE; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1115 words

HEADLINE: Crawfish crazy;
At last! It looks like a good year to eat mudbugs.

BYLINE: MARCELLE BIENVENU

BODY:
There are lots of smiley faces on crawfish farmers these days. This year the crawfish industry is looking forward to one of the best seasons in quite a while.

"And it's about time," says one local farmer.

Two years ago crawfish were so scarce that the people in Breaux Bridge feared they wouldn't have enough to go around at their annual Crawfish Festival, held every first full weekend in May. Last year there were crawfish, but not nearly enough to satisfy the market. Thus, the price was sky high.

"But this year should be a good season for both pond crawfish and Atchafalaya Basin crawfish," says Darrel Rivere, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board.

According to Rivere, who was a crawfisherman for 23 years in Pierre Part, the ponds have been a little sluggish but are getting better. "And what with all the snow in the Ohio Valley, we should be getting a good amount of water in the Basin in the next two weeks. In January, the Mississippi River was very low, but now the waters are rising, a good sign for deep-water crawfish. When you have lots of water, then you can have a grand season for both pond and deepwater crawfish," Rivere said. Prices are holding pretty steady, he said, and will probably drop when the season peaks.

I did some checking around St. Martinville and found peeled tails selling for $8.99 a pound and a 12-ounce bag priced at $6.88. Live crawfish are a little scarce, but after Mardi Gras and when the bad weather is behind us, they should be abundant.

During Lent, the 40-day fasting and abstinence season for the Catholic community, crawfish will be in high demand. When Holy Week (the week before Easter Sunday) arrives, prices may go up only because so many families traditionally have a crawfish boil on Good Friday. It's that old supply and demand thing.

There once was a time when crawfish season ran from March to July, but now consumers begin looking for crawfish in November. "Hopefully the season will last until July," Rivere said of this year.

With this glowing report, I look forward to a crawfish-eating marathon! In January I had my first batch of boiled crawfish, prepared by Victor Huckaby, owner of Victor's Cafeteria in New Iberia. Victor prepared them at his duck camp near Gueydon, where several of us gathered for the final goose hunt of the season. It was a chilly night, but we huddled under the shelter in back of the camp, drank a few beers and watched Victor do his magic.

There were five of us at the table and we easily did in the 40 pounds of crawfish, but you can usually figure about five pounds of boiled crawfish per person.
 
Victor's boiled crawfish

Serves 8

8 gallons water
 
14 ounces liquid crab boil
 
2 cups cayenne pepper
 
12 lemons, halved
 
12 medium-size red potatoes
 
12 medium-size yellow onions
 
40 pounds live crawfish, washed down and drained
 
Seasoning blend, such as Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
 
Salt

Combine the water, six ounces of the liquid boil, one cup of the cayenne, half of the lemons, all of the potatoes and half of the onions in a large boiling pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are tender. Remove them and set aside.

Add the remaining cup of cayenne and the remaining lemons. Quarter the remaining onions and add to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add the crawfish, cover, and at the first sign of steam rising from the pot, time the cooking for three minutes, then remove from the heat. Drain. Layer the crawfish with generous amounts of salt and seasoning blend in an ice chest. Shake the ice chest to disperse the seasonings evenly. Let sit for five to 10 minutes. DO NOT CLOSE THE LID OF THE ICE CHEST AS THE CRAWFISH WILL CONTINUE TO COOK. Serve with the reserved potatoes and onions, and lots of cold beer.

. . . . . . .

A couple of mornings ago, I found myself having a "big girl" breakfast (two eggs over easy, buttered grits, toast and bacon) at Victor's. He joined me and told me about his crawfish stuffed bell peppers.
 
Victor's crawfish stuffed bell peppers

Makes 10

10 medium-size green bell peppers
 
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined
 
1 stick butter or margarine
 
1 cup chopped onions
 
1 cup chopped celery
 
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
 
1/4 cup chopped red bell peppers
 
1 1/2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
 
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup reserved stock
 
Creole seasoning mix, to taste
 
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
 
2 cups (about) cooked long-grain white rice
 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
 
1 tablespoon chopped green onion tops
 
Dried fine bread crumbs

Cut about one-half inch off the stem end of the peppers. Blanch them in boiling, salted water until slightly soft, one to two minutes.

Remove from the heat, drain and set aside to cool. Boil the shrimp in one quart of boiling, salted water until they turn pink, about one minute. Strain and reserve the stock.

Puree the shrimp in a food processor and return to the stock. Set aside. Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, green bell peppers and red bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until they are soft and lightly golden, six to seven minutes. Add the crawfish and cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the mixture thickens slightly. (You can add another teaspoon of cornstarch if you want a thicker mixture.) Add the paprika and season to taste with the Creole seasoning mix.

Remove from the heat and mix with the rice. Add more of the of the reserved shrimp stock to make a moist dressing. Add the parsley and green onion tops.

Stuff the bell peppers with the mixture and sprinkle the tops with a few bread crumbs, and more paprika if you wish. The peppers can be heated in a large baking pan in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

. . . . . . .

And here is my sister-in-law's prize-winning recipe for crawfish cornbread.
 
Crawfish cornbread

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 large eggs
 
1 teaspoon salt
 
1 teaspoon baking soda
 
1 cup chopped yellow onions
 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
 
1 cup yellow cornmeal
 
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
 
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
 
1 cup cream-style corn
 
1 pound peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit for several minutes before cutting into squares to serve.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2003, 09:51:09 AM by Steve » Logged

"Whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality." --Brian Tracy
NJ Grasshopper
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2003, 01:45:20 PM »

Excellent Steve ----- just excellent. Your definetly on top of the research.

Thanks for the recipes. I will be trying all three.

What about starting a RECIPE section on the Home Page?

Also - what about moving these and others to there as well as moving the Resturant reviews there? (Or is that only for Maryland/Virginia locations)?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2003, 01:45:50 PM by NJ Grasshopper » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2003, 07:34:25 PM »

I do have a recipes page... from the main menu, click on cooking & preparation... several recipes there.

I would love to expand the recipes section!! Send me your favorite recipes and I'll post them there.
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