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This is the traditional, labor-intensive recipe for crawfish bisque as done by Betty Granier. It makes a nice pot full for a family. This recipe can be doubled or tripled to freeze or feed a crowd.
5 lbs crawfish tails and fat
100 cleaned out crawfish heads (smaller size will need more, larger size need less)
1 bell pepper, divided in half
4 celery stalks
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 stick butter
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
6-8 cups water or stock
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 can Ro-tel, your favorite flavor
seasoning to taste
You will need a good food grinder or processor, a cast iron dutch oven and a kitchen helper for this recipe. A glass of wine wouldn't hurt, either.
If you are doing this recipe after a crawfish boil, it will take a lot of tails to make 5 pounds. Get a helper and get to peeling. Reserve fat with tails but remove black veins. Set aside 100 heads to clean out - remove everything from the body shell and soak the shells in a half gallon of water with 2 tbs baking soda. Drain and rinse well.
If you are using packs of crawfish tails and purchased (frozen) bisque shells - soak shells in baking soda and water while you are getting everything else ready. When it's time to stuff the heads, drain the shells and rinse them well.
Don't want to deal with heads? Use large pasta shells to stuff with dressing. Skip the baking step and add them to the briskly simmering stew 10 minutes before serving. (Just a thought)
Okay, let's get cooking. Set aside 2 pounds of tails and fat for dressing and 3 for the stew. In a grinder or food processor, grind 1/2 bell pepper, 1 onion and 2 celery stalks until finely processed. In a cast iron dutch oven, "the pot", saute the ground veggies in butter on low-medium heat until clarified, not browned. Season them with a little cajun seasoning.
To make the stuffing, grind 2 pounds crawfish tails while veggies are cooking. To the ground crawfish, add eggs, worcestershire sauce and salt, pepper, red pepper (or cajun seasoning) to taste. Fold together gently. Add this mixture to the veggies cooking in the pot and cook over low-medium heat for two minutes. Add 1 chopped green onion and some of the chopped parsley and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and fold in just enough bread crumbs to make the mixture come together in a "stuffing consistency." Set aside in a separate bowl to cool. Clean the pot so you can make the stew. Chop the rest of your veggies for the stew.
If you want, you can grind the rest of the tails for the stew in a separate bowl or you could grind some and leave some whole. I prefer a grinding a few and leaving most of the tails for the stew whole. Your choice.
Preheat oven to 350 and rinse crawfish shells. When the stuffing is cool enough to handle, stuff crawfish dressing into the shells, leaving the exterior of the shells clean so stuffing doesn't burn on outside of shell. (This is where a kitchen helper comes in handy.) Place stuffed shells on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350. If you are stuffing jumbo pasta shells instead of crawfish shells, do not bake them. Set them aside for later in the recipe.
At this point, (no matter what method you are using) you need to make a roux. Okay, use 1/2 cup of a prepared "jar" roux if you want to save some time. Otherwise, add 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup flour to your clean pot. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 25-30 minutes until roux is dark chocolatey brown. If it sticks or burns, throw it out and get you a jar of roux. If you're using prepared roux, just heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until hot.
To the hot roux, add the other 1/2 bell pepper (chopped), 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped celery stalks. Stir into roux and cook until wilted. Add Ro-tel and cook down liquid. Slowly add water or chicken stock to roux, stirring constantly to incorporate the water and roux into a stew consistency. Add garlic (bay leaves too, if you want) and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, until liquid has reduced by an inch and has thickened. Add the tail meat not used for stuffing, remaining green onions and season to taste with cajun seasoning. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add stuffed shells. Let simmer until you can't stand it anymore (10 minutes) and add remaining parsley. Check seasoning, stir and serve (over rice if you want). Make sure each person gets 6-8 stuffed shells in their bowl of bisque.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.