Spicy Crawdad Ceviche
Cajun Staple Food
When most people hear the word crawdad, the first thing that comes to mind is a classic crawdad boil, a crawdad poor boy or maybe even crawdad etoufee. While it is a quintessential Cajun ingredient and ever so popular in Louisiana, it is a surprisingly versatile little creature to cook with. In this recipe it is used as a substitute for lobster, and can be used as such in other recipes as well. I believe that half of the fun of cooking is the creative freedom you have in the kitchen, so next time you come across these guys at the fish market, stop for a moment and try to think of some of your favorite seafood recipes. Then imagine incorporating them into one of those recipes. While they definitely can't be a substitute for any and all types of seafood, you may find that you prefer them to the original ingredient. If you luck out and come up with something amazing you might just end up with your own signature dish!
Catching and Preparing the Crawdads
Whether you call them crawdads, crayfish, mud bugs or any of the many other regionally specific names, they are one of the best ingredients for ceviche. If you like lobster in your ceviche but don't want to pay a premium price, this recipe is a wonderful alternative. Some people even prefer the unique flavor of crawdads to lobster
If crawdads are available in your area, buy them raw if possible. If they are only available cooked then disregard the "cooking time" in the cooking instructions, and reduce it to 1-2 hours. Otherwise follow the rest of the instructions the same as you would for raw crawdads.
Where I live they are not available in markets, so you have to catch them yourself. For me that is half of the fun, and makes it ever so much more rewarding. I personally use a mask and snorkel and thick gloves to dive for them in the deeper parts of a swimming hole at a local river, but you can use any method that works, provided you aren't violating any local, state, or federal laws regarding fishing or hunting.
In most crawdad recipes you would usually throw them in a pot of boiling water to essentially boil them alive.(after stunning them in the freezer so they don't suffer too much) Since they need to "cold cook" in the ceviche mixture, you can kill them by putting them in the freezer for 25-30 minutes to stun them, then drive a large knife or screwdriver into the back of the head. Again, if you are a bit squeamish about doing this,as many people are, you can find the crawdads cooked or already dead in some fish markets, although the flavor is much better using freshly caught or live crawdads
- 8-10 (about a 1/2 lb) Crawdad Tails
- 1/2 Large Avocado
- 1 Medium Sized Habanero
- 1/4 Medium Sized White Onion
- 1/2 cup Fresh Mango, (frozen works too)
- 1/2 cup Small Peeled Cucumber
- 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 3 Limes
- 1 Large Lemon
- 1/4 Cilantro
- 1/4 cup Ketchup
- Salt to tatse
Separate the claws and pull off the tails. Use a knife make a slit on the underside of the tail, and peel of the shell. Next you will pull out the large vein running along the top of the tail. Set the tail meat aside on a plate. You can crack the claws to get out the meat as i like to do, but you will not get very much meat for your effort.
Squeeze the lime and lemon juice into a medium sized bowl and salt to taste.
Make sure there are no shell fragments in the meat and chop into 1/4 inch size pieces. Add to the lime and lemon juice mixture. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.*
Chop the cilantro and dice the white onions, avocado, cucumber and mango. Mince the Habanero, discarding the seeds and stem. Set the avocado aside in a dish with a squirt of lime or lemon juice on top to keep fresh.Mix all the ingredients except the avocado in a bowl and add the ketchup and smoked paprika. Mix gently.
When the crawdad meat is sufficiently "cooked" add it to the bowl containing the other ingredients. Mix gently and top with the avocado.
Serve immediately and refrigerate the unused portion. It is best to enjoy all of the ceviche within 1-2 days for maximum freshness.
*( refrigerate for 1-2 hours if meat is cooked)