Here’s a delicious and easy recipe for Louisiana crawfish — “Crawfish and Corn Bisque.” Crawfish season in Louisiana has arrived and it is time to cook up some crawfish recipes. Our local Rouse’s Supermarket serves a very tasty version of “Crawfish and Corn Bisque” on their soup and salad bar. Surprised to find crawfish soup at a grocery store? The Rouse folks are from New Orleans and they do know how to cook. I like to occasionally stop by and pick up a quick noon meal at Rouse’s lunch counter; this time they were serving the soup. I have been contemplating making the bisque myself and decided to concoct make my own recipe by combining ideas from several Louisiana chefs and sources.
A bisque is a thick, cream-based soup of French origin containing crustaceans. It is creamy, rich and smooth. Last year, I wrote a post on how to make the very traditional “Cajun Crawfish Bisque” complete with stuffed crawfish shells. Delicious, but it involves many steps. Typically, this dish is served only once during the spring season because it takes all day to make it. The recipe I’m making this year for “Crawfish and Corn Bisque” is a much simpler version and skips the stuffed crawfish shells. This bisque includes corn kernels which adds a complimentary flavor. I used frozen cut corn. You could also used fresh boiled corn cut off the cob or canned, creamed corn.
Crawfish Season in Louisiana
Spring is the season for the crawfish harvest when the little mudbugs come out of their burrows in the swamps in the Cajun part of Louisiana. However, crawfish are very pricy this year — I understand that the two hurricanes which hit Louisiana last summer disrupted the oxygen supply in the swamps. This deprived the crawfish for oxygen for a long period of time (two hurricanes which were three weeks apart). Plus, now we had freezing temperatures for almost a week. So, let’s hope the crawfish crop will recover. Crawfish are such a unique part of the Louisiana culture, cuisine and economy, it would be amiss if they were lost. Here is the swamp if Louisiana where you will find the crawfish.
This recipe uses raw, peeled crawfish tails (or substitute cooked ones.) You can boil the live crawfish yourself and crack and peel off the shells– which is alot of effort — or purchased raw, peeled crawfish tails in the freezer section of the grocery store. My blog post of last March for “Crawfish Bisque” uses fresh, whole boiled crawfish. This year I’m going the easy way and purchasing crawfish tails — already peeled.
My hat goes off to the crawfish “farmers” who go out into the swamp, set traps and return later to harvest the traps and sell the bags of crawfish. It is a lot of work — but this is one of the ways that these folks make a living in the spring. It is a very important food industry for this part of Louisiana. Years ago, we took our canoe for an adventure and outing past Pierre Part, Louisiana, into the swamp. This little Cajun town is the last stop before the Atchafalaya swamp and the road ends here. It was a relaxing and sunny spring day. We just happened to come across several crawfish “farmers” bringing in their catch for the day. I took these photos which captured the very traditional Cajun practice of crawfishing. Here is also a photo of a giant cypress tree (these huge trees are being logged at a faster rate than new cypress trees are growing–a controversial subject) and some of the boiled crawfish purchased at a local grocery store. Just a little “lagniappe.”
My “Crawfish and Corn Bisque” recipe is loosely based one found in the cookbook of Ralph and Kacoo Olinde — the founders of the iconic Baton Rouge restaurant bearing their name. (See the restaurant’s story in last week’s blog.) The Olinde’s published this cookbook in 1986. It’s a heritage or vintage cookbook now — but the seafood recipes will never go out of style and they are a link to the wonderful cuisine of Louisiana.
Since crawfish are so expensive this year, I made several “trial recipes” of this soup substituting peeled, headless shrimp. The shrimp bisque was mighty tasty, too, so either seafood — crawfish or shrimp — can be used in the recipe. Here’s the “Shrimp Bisque.”
Here are the ingredients for my bisque recipes. Traditionally bisque contains heavy cream. I substituted half & half cream to make the soup a little “lighter.”
To make the bisque, sauté finely chopped onion and celery in oil. To thicken the bisque, make a “white roux” by stirring in flour. Add tomato paste. Then slowly stir in the chicken broth, corn and sherry. Simmer for 30 minutes. Sauté the crawfish or shrimp in oil — seasoned with creole seasoning — for a few minutes in another skillet. Then add the seafood to the soup. Adjust the seasonings. If you like a little “hot flair,” add a dash of red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce (not shown). Alternately, pass Tabasco sauce at the table. Although the chicken broth contains salt, you may find that the soup needs a little more salt. After the soup simmers for 10 additional minutes, add the half and half cream and heat through — but don’t let it boil or this may cause the cream to curdle.
Both my “Crawfish and Corn Bisque” and “Shrimp and Corn Bisque” recipes are very tasty. And, I like the “lighter” taste made by using half & half cream rather than traditional heavy cream. The bisque is creamy but not too rich. Adding corn gives a nice flavor addition to the soup, too. I made several batches of these recipes, trying them out, and froze the leftover soup from these recipes. It made for several quick supper meals later on in the month!
The bisque is a nice way to celebrate spring. So, bring a little Louisiana touch to your table! Enjoy.
Easy Crawfish & Corn Bisque with a Shrimp Variation
- 3 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1/4 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
- 1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, may increase to 1 cup corn, if desired
- 1/4 cup sherry or white cooking wine
- 8 oz defrosted peeled, raw crawfish tails, (may increase to 12 oz, as desired)*
- 1 tsp Tony Chechere’s Creole Seasoning or similar brand
- dash red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce (optional)
- 1 cup (1/2 pint) half & half
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
green onion tops, sliced, garnish (optional)
Method and Steps:
- In heavy Dutch oven pot, over medium heat, sauté onion and celery in 2 Tbsp oil for 10 minutes until raw flavor dissipates and vegetables are translucent and tender.
- Sprinkle on flour and sauté for 2 additional minutes, stirring frequently. reduce heat on stove if flour begins to burn.
- Stir in tomato paste.
- Remove from heat. Slowly add chicken broth several spoonful’s at a time, stirring constantly, to incorporate in flour. Press against bottom of pot with back of spoon to break up flour clumps. Continue until all chicken broth is stirred in.
- Return pot to stove and add whole kernel corn and sherry or white cooking wine.
- Bring soup to boil, reduce heat on stove to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Then, season crawfish tails with Tony Chechere’s Creole seasoning. Add heat remaining tablespoon of oil to a medium-sized skillet. Add seasoned crawfish tails to the soup and sauté for 2 minutes. After crawfish to soup. simmer for 10 additional minutes.
- Add either a dash of red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce. Alternately, pass Tabasco sauce at the table.
- Without letting soup come to boil, add half-and-half and heat through.
- Ladle into individual bowls. If desired, garnish with sliced green onion tops.
*NOTE: May substitute 8 oz raw peeled, headless shrimp– (medium size). Sauté seasoned shrimp on stove until they are pink prior adding to soup. If shrimp are frozen, defrost in refrigerator prior to using.