Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies

Image of Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish PiesHavin’ Fun On The Bayou…

It’s that time again. This week is the annual Chef of The Month Dinner that I have cooked for the past three years as a prize for our school auction.

The first year I was an uber excited over-achiever and all about making the entire meal from my garden. Well, except for the pork. (I’m not about to raise actual pigs. I have three who live with me, and I accuse them of being raised in a barn. That’s good enough.)

Last year was an elaborate Moroccan feast. I may have gone overboard. (Seriously? I poached pears and made the bread from scratch. ‘Nuff said.) I thought it was awesome but I am also a bit of a nut when it comes to Moroccan food. I made too many dishes in my attempt to make others enjoy the cuisine as much as I do and I killed myself doing it. I drooled in the corner for a week.

This year I’m keeping it within the continental U.S., and I’m not going as crazy. I’m makin ’em take a trip down on the bayou. This close to Thanksgiving, I want something that they aren’t going to eat again in the next few weeks. I figure cajun is a good way to go for a satisfying Fall meal.

I consider any gumbo to be comfort food, and there are so many different kinds to choose from. When I think of cajun cuisine this is the first thing that comes to mind, so I had to do it. I am going with the less traditional Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

Pecans are big all over the South, but Louisiana is crazy for them. So, I am making a Caramel-Pecan tart that is almost better than my Grandmother-in-Law’s Pecan Pie. Almost. She’s from Louisiana, she knows her pecans and she makes a MEAN Pecan pie.

Crawfish Pie is a no-brainer. It is just SO Louisiana. Hank Williams even sang about it. Since November is our Month of Pie, I am sharing the recipe as a savory alternative to the obvious.

Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies
Recipe adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer

Makes 8 individual pies.
Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes plus baking time.

For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2  pound (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon cold butter
3/8 cup sour cream

For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small green or red bell pepper, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, diced, optional
1 garlic clove, minced
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup Chicken Stock

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound cooked and peeled crayfish tails, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce
Crispy bacon bits, diced pickled jalapenos, and sliced scallions, for garnish

Make the crust
Place the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter in small pieces and pulse into the dry mix just until coarse pebbles form. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. By hand, gradually work in the sour cream and 1/4 cup ice water. The dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky. Adjust as necessary with flour or water. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes (or up to a day in advance).

To prepare the pies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll each part into a very thin (1/8-inch) round and drape it into a 4-ounce tart pan or individual gratin dish. Cover each shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Place the pie shells on a baking sheet and bake for 10- 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove the beans and parchment and bake 1-2 minutes longer. Don’t let them color too much, because they will be baked again with the filling. Let them cool to room temperature.

Make the filling
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and fennel, if using, and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, scallions, and parsley and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir. Whisk in the stock, lemon zest and juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the crayfish and simmer for a few more minutes, until the crayfish is warm. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to make pies.

Assemble the pies
Fill each cooled shell with 3 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) of crayfish filling.

Set them on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F until hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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