I didn’t grow up eating very much crawfish. In my New Orleans community’s cuisine, shrimp was the preferred crustacean. Of course, I had heard the Hank Williams’ lyric “Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Filé Gumbo.” And over the last decade, or so, of visiting New Orleans, I had noticed how prominent the crawfish had become. Eventually, I started ending the last day of my visits making a trip to Rouse’s to pick up a couple of pounds of crawfish tails to carry back to Los Angeles with me.
While I had eaten my share of Filé Gumbo and Jambalaya, over the years, I had still made it quite far into my life without tasting a Crawfish Pie. So last year, on a springtime visit to the Crescent City, I went on a search for this iconic dish which had so far eluded me.
I learned that there is no one definitive Crawfish Pie, but the good thing is, I got to sample all kinds of savory pastries baked with crawfish. And just in time, too, as soon after I returned home, my friend Greg Henry (also an expat Southerner in L.A.), asked if I would like to contribute a recipe to a wonderful cookbook called Savory Pies that he was writing. I was happy to jump in and try my hand at a Crawfish Pie.
I must admit that I’m pretty happy with my version of the Crawfish Pie- these little Crawfish and Corn Turnovers- a perfect bite for a summer party.
Crawfish and Corn Turnovers
Crawfish and Corn Filling:
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons celery, finely diced
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more or less, according to your spiciness level, but remember you will be getting just a tablespoon or 2 of filling in the pastry, so don’t be afraid of the spice)
- About 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Corn kernels from 1 large ear, about a 1 cup, sautéed
- 3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 tablespoons scallions, minced
- 1 pound crawfish tails*, drained and dried with a paper towel
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 1/2 teaspoon double strength tomato paste
- 2 ounces cream cheese (I recommend Philadelphia brand, which has a smoother melting texture than some other cream cheeses)
Yield: About 36 1 1/2/ inch turnovers
Cream Cheese Dough (recipe below)
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan. Add the celery, onions, bell pepper and thyme and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic, black pepper and cayenne and salt, and cook for another 1 minute, or so. Stir in the corn, scallions and parsley, and remove from heat.
- Melt additional 2 tablespoons butter in another large pan, until bubbling. Add the crawfish tails, sauté quickly at high heat for about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the brandy. Ignite the brandy with and cook until the flames die. Return to heat and cook until the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the tomato paste, and the cream cheese, stirring until the cream cheese is melted. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove from the heat and allow the filling to cool.
* I use Louisiana crawfish tails, found frozen in some specialty grocery stores, or ordered online. Small shrimp, which are much easier to find, may be used instead of crawfish. I do not recommend crawfish from China.
There will be some filling leftover, but it freezes well, and I’ve found it makes a very tasty pasta sauce, too.
Cream Cheese Dough
- 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 pound butter, room temperature
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix until combined. Divide dough into two flat disks and wrap well with plastic wrap. Rest in the refrigerator several hours.
Gisele Perez contributed this recipe to Greg Henry’s new book, Savory Pies. It is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Savory-Pies-Delicious-Vegetables-Perfectly/dp/1612431062, or just click the pic below.