The Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans each April is more than just great music. It is about our good Louisiana food and culture, too. One of the most popular foods being sold during the festival is Crawfish Bread. This is truly a Louisiana dish and is simply delicious. It makes a great way to sample our native Louisiana crawfish in all it’s glory. Here’s my take on this dish — I’m calling my recipe, “Crawfish Po-Boys.”
I got the idea to prepare Crawfish Bread after we ate it recently at a venerable Italian restaurant, Gino’s, here in Baton Rouge. The crawfish bread was served as an appetizer — an open-faced sandwich — crawfish filling on Italian bread (since it was an Italian restaurant) topped with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Delicious.
The original and most authentic Crawfish Bread originated in central Louisiana and is sold by Panorama Foods at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It was the idea of John Ed Laborde, of Marksville, Louisiana, which is in Avoyelles Parish. Laborde was making sausage bread when an idea struck him one day. Why not make a loaf with cawfish in it with the Cajun craze becoming popular? He went on to perfect his homemade bread and crawfish filling — sort of a calzone — and has been selling it at the Jazz Festival for over 20 years where it is extremely popular.
As you can imagine, there are many variations to Laborde’s recipe for Crawfish Bread. My recipe is a combination of ideas that I like and is more similar to a po-boy than a calzone. One common ingredient is that most recipes include lots of vegetables — onions, garlic, colorful bell peppers. Especially garlic. These are sauteed in butter and added to peeled crawfish tails and lots of shredded cheese. So the filling a wonderful crawfish, vegetable and cheese concoction.
Authentic French bread helps make my po-boy have a special touch. This bread is crusty with a course and open texture. We are fortunate to have a grocery store now which carries New Orleans-style French Bread, Reising’s Poor Boy brand — the best in my opinion. But if you can’t find this brand, then small baguettes sold in large grocery stories are similar or any French bread will do.
Of course, you need peeled crawfish tails. I purchase raw, peeled and frozen crawfish tails. Make sure you are getting ones raised in the United States — not China — which have an entirely different flavor. Since the tails are raw, once defrosted, they must be cooked completely before filling the French bread.
Of course, you can purchase boiled crawfish and peel the tails yourself — but this is very time consuming and expensive. And, it is difficult not to be tempted to eat them up. But it’s a good way to use leftovers.
The crawfish bread recipes (and my recipe) includes cheese. Which cheese to use is a matter of preference. I like shredded white cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend. However, I’ve seen recipes which use Mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese and many others. So use the cheese of your preference.
My recipe is simple to make. Saute the chopped onions, colorful bell peppers and garlic in butter (for extra flavor) until wilted.. Then added in the defrosted and peeled crawfish tails and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Saute five minutes, add parsley and cook a minute or two longer. Remove from heat, stir in cream cheese and chill. (The filling is juicy — chilling helps congeal all the ingredients.) Split the French bread lengthwise, load the crawfish filling, green onions and shredded cheese on one long half of the French bread and spread a little butter on the other half.
Wrap tightly in foil and heat in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and slice! It’s a winner.
Just a note, my recipe is not intended to duplicate Laborde’s recipe sold at the Jazz Festival. In fact, I have never eaten his crawfish bread. But, it doesn’t matter. It is just a starting point for my adventure.
Louisiana Crawfish Po-Boys
- 2 Tbsp butter, plus additional butter
- 1 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
- 1 small green bell pepper and one each small sweet yellow, orange and red pepper, chopped (to make 1 cup chopped, total)
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 lb peeled, defrosted crawfish tails
- 1 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning*
- 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
- 4 oz cream cheese, cut in small chunks
- 16″ to 18″ loaf French bread, approximately
- 4 green onions, sliced with part of green tops sliced
- 2 to 4 oz shredded white cheddar cheese or (or Mozzarella cheese, Mexican shredded cheese of choice) — use more cheese, if you desire
Method and Steps:
- Melt butter In large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chopped white onions, chopped bell peppers and minced garlic. Saute about 10 minutes until wilted. Turn heat down, if needed, to avoid burning. If needed, add a little more butter.
- Add the defrosted and peeled crawfish tails. Sprinkle with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and stir and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the parsley and cook one minute longer.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl and stir in cream cheese chunks until they are blended in and melted.
- Cover and place in refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Split loaf of French bread lengthwise, but do not cut completed through the loaf and place on large piece of aluminum foil.
- Spread the crawfish filling on the bottom half of the loaf.
- Sprinkle with green onions (press into filling) and then shredded cheese.
- Lightly spread butter on the other half of the bread (optional).
- Draw the aluminum foil up over the open loaf and tightly seal.
- Place on baking sheet and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven. Heat for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, carefully open aluminum foil. Fold the buttered half over top to make a sandwich. Slice crosswise into pieces, about 2″ to 2-1/2″ apart to make 8 servings. Serve hot.
*For a slightly less spicy version, reduce Creole seasoning to 1/2 tsp.
NOTE: A variation of this po-boy is to spread the filling over both halves, sprinkle green onions and 4 oz cheese over all the filling and bake, then cut into 16 pieces, serve as an open-face appetizer.
Why no posts for the past several months? Simply, just busy and a new job didn’t help. But lots of great ideas and posts are in the works. And send me your ideas, too. I’d love to include them in a blog post.