Crawfish Cardinale: A Little Lighter

Spring is crawfish season in Louisiana and the mudbugs are becoming more plentiful as the weather gets warmer. While boiled crawfish is probably the most popular way to prepare crawfish, the peeled crawfish tails are very tasty when prepared in other ways. Crawfish Cardinale is an easy and elegant recipe. Crawfish Cardinale - 2 - IMG_3453_1 Louisiana Specialty

Crawfish is definitely a Louisiana specialty, and if you come visit us, you must try crawfish prepared in some manner. These freshwater crustations breed and grow in the swamps of Southern Louisiana and in ponds which are dammed up to commercially grow them. In the spring, the crawfish emerge out of their burrows, feed and grow to a size for harvesting. This is a very perishable crop, and the crawfish market hasn’t expanded far outside Louisiana. I’ve tried Chinese crawfish–but they don’t have the same flavor or size.

Crawfish can be prepared and added to many recipes. Peel the tails (or purchase peeled tails), saute them and use in recipes similar to shrimp. Some favorite recipes ideas include crawfish etouffee, stew, bisque (a soup), crawfish-pasta salad and eggplant with crawfish stuffing. Crawfish Cardinale is an easy and elegant recipe.

Crawfish Cardinale, just a little lighter

This recipe is named cradinale because the red color of the sauce reminds one of the Cardinal’s robe. It is traditionally made with heavy cream and consequently is high in calories and fat content. Since it is wise to watch calories and fat intake, I tried making the recipe with whole milk and it turned out very tasty.

Traditional Louisianian recipes often call for “a stick of butter” in seafood recipes. This amount of butter can be greatly reduced and/or substituted with a small amount of margarine. While the stick of butter adds a rich flavor, it also adds many calories. The large amounts of butter often used in Southern cooking really doesn’t have a place in a healthy diet.

The basic idea of the recipe is to saute the crawfish tails with some seasonings. Then make a Bechamel sauce or white cream sauce adding either a little catsup or tomato paste to intensify the red color of the sauce. I didn’t have tomato paste on hand and am glad I added the catsup anyway. Tomato paste is very acidic and tart; the catsup has a sweetness that complemented the recipe and the small quantity added didn’t overpower the other ingredients.

I had prepared frozen puff pastry shells on hand and filled these with the crawfish Cardinale. The Crawfish Cardinale can also be served over rice.

Crawfish Cardinale Recipe

  • 1-ten oz package, 6 individual frozen puff pastry shells (such as Peppridge Farm brand)
  • 2 Tbsp margarine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 lb peeled crawfish tails
  • 1/2 tsp Tony’s Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or seasoned salt
  • 2 Tbsp catsup
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup of whole milk (or substitute low-fat milk, or going the other direction use half-and-half or cream)
  • dash white ground pepper
  • 2-4 drops Tabasco sauce (depending on how much hotness you like)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 green onions, sliced for garnish (optional)
  • curly parsley for garnish

Defrost the puff pastry shells. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Carefully place the individual puff pastry shells on an ungreased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the shells, remove the inside “top” of each pastry shell. Set the shells aside; the “tops” are not used in this recipe.

Meanwhile, in large non-stick skillet, melt the margarine over medium high. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the peeled crawfish tails and seasoned salt. Saute them for several minutes on medium heat, until heated through, stirring constantly. Do not overcook. Add the catsup and stir in.

Turn the heat down to low. Stir in the flour and stir constantly for a minute or two, making sure the flour does not clump.

Remove from heat and stir in the whole milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the milk does not clump. Return to the stove, cook and stir until the sauce thickens and becomes bubbly. Add a dash of white ground pepper, Tabasco sauce and Italian parsley and stir to combine.

Place the puff pastry shells on plates, fill with the crawfish and sauce, add green onions (optional) and parsley for garnish.

As an alternate to puff pastry shells, serve over cooked long-grain rice (about 3 cups cooked rice is needed).

Serves 6.

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