It’s crawfish season here in Louisiana. These delicate, tasty freshwater crustaceans aren’t around very long in the spring, so it’s time to get cooking. This year I am making a unique recipe featuring this mudbug, “Crawfish Cheesecake.” And it is not what you might think it to be. Nope, this dish is not a dessert. Rather, it is a rich and savory appetizer with just enough crawfish to give it a taste of Louisiana. According to my friends who sampled the recipe, it is best when serve it with salty crackers such as Ritz crackers.
Every year I like to post several recipes featuring crawfish on my blog. After all, this is a site which features the cuisine of Louisiana along with all of my other eclectic recipe ideas. By far the most popular recipe which I have ever posted is, “Cajun Crawfish Cornbread Casserole,” (March 22, 2016). Although I am surprised by this fact, I guess I shouldn’t be as the casserole is easy to mix up making a very yummy way to prepare crawfish. It mixes the flavors of crawfish, cornbread, corn and vegetable seasonings. If you are a bit shy about eating crawfish, this is a good recipe to try as all the other ingredients mellow the crawfish taste. It is difficult to mess this recipe up, although apparently some folks did just that. In any event, one key is to let the casserole “set” for 15 – 30 minutes so the “casserole” firms up.
Next, the recipe, “Easy Crawfish and Corn Bisque,” (March 7, 2021) is frequently searched by viewers. Compared to traditional Crawfish Bisque recipes (which take all day to prepare), this simplified recipe gives a good idea of what Cajun cooking is all about. It still involves making a “white roux” which you must master to cook Cajun recipes; it is a soothing and pleasing soup.
Which is my favorite crawfish recipe? Well, anything which includes eggplant is a favorite one. I have to admit that I could eat “Crawfish-Stuffed Eggplant Pirogues” (March 24, 2019) any time of the year. It includes the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun seasonings along with eggplant, crawfish, seasonings and breadcrumbs. While this dish is often prepared with shrimp, let’s use crawfish while it is available.
My “surprise” recipe is “Cajun Fried Crawfish Tails” (March 17, 2019). The fried crawfish tails really “pop” with flavor when prepared correctly. This dish is rarely found on restaurant menus in Louisiana, most likely because of cost and logistics (it should be served immediately after frying) but it is easy to make at home. Just don’t fry too long or the mudbugs will be tough and chewy!
My other crawfish recipes receive “Honorable Mentions,” including the recipes using pasta and crawfish pie. The recipes are practical and give a good sampling of what to do with Louisiana crawfish besides boiling them. See the tab for “Recipes” to view the entire list.
The idea for “Crawfish Cheesecake” came from several sources. My favorite Creole restaurant in New Orleans, Jacques-Imo’s Cafe, serves an appetizer called “Alligator Cheesecake.” The appetizer is unique and delicious, but I have to admit that alligator is not my favorite Louisiana protein. How about substituting crawfish tails or shrimp? For the actual recipe, my inspiration for making this appetizer came from a recipe for “Artichoke Cheesecake.” Since my motto is, “never throw away a good recipe,” part of this equation is where do you keep the recipe to avoid losing it? I keep a few, select recipes clipped to a magnet on my refrigerator. So, this recipe has been waiting its turn for several years. My adapted recipe for “Crawfish Cheesecake” turned out great on the first attempt.
The process for making this savory cheesecake recipe is very similar to a traditional cheesecake dessert recipe, with the addition of crawfish, red bell pepper and green onions. The recipe makes a slightly smaller cheesecake than many traditional recipes, but that is okay.
I used an 8″ diameter springform pan for the cheesecake and added a “savory” crumb crust using Italian-seasoned Panko bread crumbs. We all agreed that substituting Ritz cracker crumbs would add to the flavor of this dish. Or just plain Panko crumbs works fine, too. Mix the crumbs with a little butter and bake for about 12 minutes in a 325 degree oven.
I purchase frozen (or fresh) cleaned crawfish tails. As mentioned in previous posts, there is a huge difference in flavor between Louisiana crawfish and Chinese ones. If you are going to the effort to make this recipe, I recommend spending the extra money to get the “authentic” crawfish.
Since these crawfish tails are raw, I like to sauté them first to cook them (just a few minutes) with Creole seasoning. This step is done after after sautéing rather large red bell pepper chunks which I added for color and flavor. Then I chopped everything up using a food processor. Don’t over-process — just about two pulses are all that is needed. (You could also do this chopping step by hand.)
For the filling, it works best to first soften the cream cheese at room temperature for several hours. Then use a electric mixer to blend the cream cheese, sour cream, cornstarch and eggs until creamy and smooth. Fold in the crawfish mixture and green onions. And salt? I omitted the salt entirely in the recipe, as I was serving it with crackers.
Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Set in a roasting pan with an inch of water and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. The cheesecake should be puffy and brown on top. This is a firm cheesecake — mine never “jiggled” as do some traditional cheesecakes.
Let the cheesecake chill in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight prior to serving. For garnish, I added a few Panko bread crumbs, parsley and a bit of red bell pepper.
So, just a reminder, don’t serve this “Crawfish Cheesecake” for dessert. That’s just a little too much surprise. However, you can certainly “treat” your family and friends to this unique appetizer and a “taste” of Louisiana this spring! Enjoy!
- 8 oz fresh or frozen raw, peeled crawfish tails: NOTE: May use 12 oz crawfish tails if packaged this way
- 3 Tbsp butter, divided
- 1 cup Panko plain bread crumbs (or substitute 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers); Save a few crumbs for garnish.
- 1/4 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks, with a few bits reserved for garnish (optional)
- 1 tsp Creole seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning
- 2 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened at room temperature for several hours
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- parsley, garnish (optional)
- Ritz crackers (or other salty crackers) for serving
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- In small microwavable bowl, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Mix in Panko bread crumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs. Press into bottom of 8″ diameter springform pan.
- Bake in 325 degree oven for about 12 minutes until crumbs begin to brown. Remove to oven and let set on kitchen counter while preparing filling
- Add remaining 1 Tbsp butter to large, heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Add red bell pepper chunks and sauté for 5 minutes, turning frequently until they begin to soften and sear.
- Add defrosted crawfish tails with juice to skillet. Sprinkle on Creole seasoning. Stir and cook crawfish mixture for 2 minutes.
- Transfer crawfish mixture with juice to medium-sized food processor bowl. Process for 2 to 3 pulses until coarsely chopped. Do not over-process. Set aside.
- Add the softened cream chees to medium-sized electric mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed until the cream cheese is soft and blended. This may take up to 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine. Beat in sour cream and cornstarch.
- By hand, fold in crawfish mixture and chopped green onions.
- Pour onto baked crust in springform pan. Set springform pan in large roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water. (I encased the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil to avoid having water seep into the cheesecake.)
- Bake in 325 oven for 45 minutes until the cheesecake is browned on top.
- Remove cheesecake from roasting pan and chill in refrigerator for at least two hours to overnight.
- When ready to serve, garnish with reserved Panko bread crumbs and red bell pepper pieces and parsley.
- Cut into slices (dip knife into hot water for easier cutting).
- Serve with Ritz or other crackers.
Holy moly, Maylee! I feel like I have just had a weekend at a crawfish festival! All these recipes sound so good, and I am especially drooling over the casserole and the bisque. When I saw your skillet with the crawfish and red bells, I had one thought cross my foodie brain: fritters! Would that work? Maybe with a little corn in the batter?
Hello, Good idea; crawfish fritters sound delicious — and I actually made some for another blog post. However, I didn’t like the final fritters; they could have been much better. Crawfish are so expensive here (up to $18.00/pound) that I put the recipe idea on the back burner for now. Guess I could experiment on ham and corn fritters or something else! Thanks for the suggestion!
I do the same, practicing in less expensive ingredients first to perfect the technique or frying. You already know the flavor will be great! We had crawfish in our local seafood case recently, but I didn’t notice whether it was real Louisiana product.
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