November 5, 2012

Crawfish Monica: A Signature Jazz Fest Dish

Crawfish Monica: A Signature Jazz Fest Dish
Crawfish Monica in the Pan

Crawfish Monica: A Signature Jazz Fest Dish

400,000 people crowd onto the Fair Grounds Race Course over a period of two weekends each spring for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. At first glance, you might be tempted to think that Jazz Fest is all about music, right? But, this is New Orleans, folks, so you know food has to play a big part too. And it does! It could be argued that the food at Jazz Fest shares the stage with the music, because it certainly does not play second fiddle to it.

One of the signature dishes at Jazz Fest is Crawfish Monica. And it’s simply delicious.

Simple, Yet Captivating

Crawfish Monica is not a complicated dish. It’s easy to make. The ingredients are simple. Yet, it is amazingly tasty.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s the delicious creaminess of it. Perhaps it’s that little kick of cayenne that dances on your tongue to the beat of all those drums in Congo Square. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. And, of course, without the crawfish there is no Crawfish Monica.

Crawfish Monica is the creation of Chef Pierre Hilzim of Kajun Kettle Foods. He named the dish after his wife, Monica, and it has been raved about in publications like The New Yorker, the L.A. Times and the London Times. For good reason… it’s Good Eats!

Ingredients are Everything

Ingredients really are everything. You can make or break a dish depending on the quality of ingredients that you use. Take Mac & Cheese, for example.

What’s the difference between a box Mac & Cheese that you buy at the store and a Mac & Cheese that is homemade? Everything!

It’s the same with this dish (and just about any other dish you can cook). I prefer Kerrygold Butter. I try to use the freshest onions and garlic I can find. I spend a little extra to get a high-quality pasta. And for the crawfish tails? I buy only Louisiana crawfish.

A Word About Frozen Crawfish Tails

For the last few years, companies in the United States have been importing crawfish from China. They’re cheaper. They don’t taste the same. And they really have a negative impact on our homegrown culture and local economy.

I’m no friend of Chinese crawfish.

Maybe it’s all you get where you live. If so, then I guess you just have to deal. But here in Louisiana, there’s no reason at all to buy Chinese crawfish.

And even if you live somewhere else in the United States, you can still have frozen crawfish tails shipped to you by CajunGrocer.com. [If you order any from them, let them know I sent you.]

Louisiana crawfish, baby! It’s the only way to go.

Crawfish Monica in Bowl

This recipe is an adaption of Emeril’s recipe, which I found over at GoNOLA.com. I’ve made my own adjustments to it. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound linguine or fettucine (I’ve even used spirals)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 stick of butter (we prefer Kerrygold)
  • 2 Sweet yellow onions, chopped
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning (Konriko, Tony Chachere’s, Slap Ya Mama)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound crawfish tails
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Follow package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot and toss with the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.
  2. In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  4. Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated.
  5. Add the cream and lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced.
  6. Add the crawfish tails and cook, stirring, to warm through.
  7. Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce.
  9. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute.
  10. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
  11. Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
  12. Serve. Garnish the dish with chopped parsley or green onions.

NOTES

  • You can leave out the wine if you like, but the dish might be left a bit too thick because of the cream. One way to thin it out would be to add some extra cooking liquid from the pasta. Or just stick with the wine. 😉
  • Speaking of wine, Crawfish Monica goes very well with a dry white wine.

What About You?

Have you ever been to Jazz Fest? Have you enjoyed Crawfish Monica before? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments below!