Pan-fried Soft-shell Crawfish
Soft-shell crawfish -- and crabs -- are a real delicacy, harvested just as they have shed their shells. The crawfish Nick Apostle uses are harvested, put into ice water, and frozen in the water to protect the delicate appendages. He thaws them just before using. Note that the dish is equally wonderful with soft-shell crab -- and with shrimp, too, if soft-shells are out of season. This dish is also perfect as an appetizer; with salad and crusty bread to sop up the juices, it appears as an entree.
- Soft-shell Crawfish - 12 (alt. soft-shell crabs, or even shrimp)
- Beurre Blanc
- Dry white wine - 3 tablespoons
- Fish stock or clam juice - 2 tablespoons
- Balsamic Vinegar - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic Clove - 1, minced
- Chives - 18, minced
- Tarragon Sprigs - 3, minced
- Unsalted Butter - 1 cup, chilled, cut into 16 pieces
- Seasoned Flour
- All-Purpose Flour - 4 cups
- Salt and freshly ground black and white peppers
- Cayenne Pepper - 1 tablespoon
- Onion Powder - 1/4 cup
- Paprika - 1/4 cup
- Dried Thyme - 2 tablespoons
- Dried Oregano - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic powder - 2 tablespoons
- Whole Eggs - 3
- Cool Water - 1/4 cup
- Oil for deep-frying
To clean the crawfish: Put your fingers on either side of the back of the crawfish, up near the head, and feel the two large hard knobs inside. With a sharp knife, cut the head just behind the eyes, then squeeze the back to eject these hard calcium deposits. All the rest of the crawfish is edible. If using crabs or shrimp, clean these before using; remove the shell and back strip from the shrimp.
To make the beurre blanc: Combine the wine, fish stock, vinegar, garlic, chives, and tarragon in a small non-aluminum saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Reduce heat to low. Whisking constantly, add a piece of butter. When it has melted and been incorporated, add another. Continue, whisking, adding, melting, and whisking until all the butter has been incorporated. If the sauce begins to break and beads of butter appear, remove the sauce from the heat and whisk until blended again. The sauce will thicken slightly. Hold by setting the saute pan over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisking frequently, or in a thermos, until ready to use.
To fry the crawfish: Blend all the seasoned flour ingredients together in a large deep bowl. In a medium bowl, gently whisk the eggs and water together to blend. Heat the oil to 360 F in a deep-fat fryer or large pot. Very gently dip a crawfish in the flour mixture, making sure to flour all appendages. Dip in the egg wash, then place back in the flour mixture, coating completely and separating the appendages. Repeat with 2 more crawfish. Gently lay in the hot oil and cook 1 - 1-1/2 minutes; as soon as they turn golden and float, about half way through the cooking time, turn them over to cook on the other side. Lift out with a slotted spoon or wire lifted and drain on towels or paper towels. Repeat with remaining crawfish.
To serve: Pool beurre blanc on four warm plates. Place 3 crawfish on each plate, tails together.