Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Much Ado About Mudbugs

We are mudbug fans in my family, have been for ages. Mudbugs, crawfish, crayfish, crawdaddies, whatever you call them, they have been a favorite of all of ours for a long time, although I will confess here that I mostly order them in restaurants, so as to avoid the labor intense process of boiling, pulling, peeling, all for that tasty small morsel of tail meat.

Crawfish are not the delicious secret they used to be. These Lilliputian Lobster types have their own website now. In addition, there are all sorts of recipes, blog posts, and even diy type pages dedicated to show the uninitiated how to peel them.

Lots of folks, Texans especially, like to throw a crawfish boil and by my insistence on eating crawfish in restaurants I mean them no disrespect. I think it is great fun to line a picnic table with newspaper, roll out a pile of boiled corn, potatoes, sausage and crawfish, hand out the bibs, cold beers, and let folks have at it. As long as it is somebody else's picnic table, newspaper, cold beer, house, and pile of boiled food, that is. I was looking for some way I could have my cake and eat it too, only with a lot less fuss and muss.

Enter the New York Time's Mark Bittman and his recipe for "Crabby Crab Cakes". He stated this recipe has gotten the lion's share of compliments handed out over the years and speculates it is because the recipe showcases the crab rather than other ingredients.

"Hmmmm" I thought. "I wonder how these would taste made with crawfish instead of crab?".

So I hauled over to the grocery store where they were selling cooked crawfish, and bought me some. Realizing how little recoverable meat there is in the average crawfish, and seeing as I shared half the cooked crawdaddies with my daughter who loves them as much as I do, I thought I'd supplement using cooked Orange Roughy mixed in. If all those "imitation crab meat" products can use fish in place of crab, I see no reason I couldn't try the same thing for my little Crawdaddy Cakes.

At the moment the Crawdaddy/fish cakes are sitting in the refrigerator waiting for it to get closer to dinner time. I have some vague anxieties over how well they will hold together. I only prepared enough for 2 people so had to cut the recipe in half, which might prove tricky considering the many substitutions I've already made.

As a matter of fact, this little experiment in terror runs counter to my usual practice in the kitchen - "make the recipe as is one time at least before substituting" being a cardinal rule of mine. But that is what is great about testing something new for dinner. Afterwards, for better or worse, you've either enjoyed eating the results or agreed to throw them out and make peanut butter sandwiches as the ultimate substitution.

I'll share how my substitutions fared more thoroughly if my cakes turn out. If not, hope you enjoy the photos and then we must never speak of this again....

UPDATE: Hey! The cakes not only held together, but they browned beautifully and Bittman is right - the cakes taste wonderfully like whatever the main ingredient is because they are so simply put together and don't have a competitive mish-mosh of tastes.

My husband approached me while the cakes were browning with a slight air of concern. "What are those?". "Crawfish-Fish cakes" I told him. "Are those all we have?". "Yup". "So, what are YOU going to eat for dinner?", he asked.

He had a point - with the yummy lime/black pepper aioli featuring the last of our German Garlic from Tecolote Farm, we could easily have thrown back an extra cake or two each. Not that we'd have NEEDED that to be full mind you, they just tasted that good.

Here are my notes - I was able to halve the recipe by beating the one egg called for in a small bowl and pouring half into the mixture. I had about a half cup of cooked crawfish and a half pound orange roughy fillet (I'd previously pan browned the roughy and flaked it with a fork). The irregularity of the fish pieces and the crawfish tails (which were small enough that I mostly left them intact) had me worried the cakes wouldn't hold together but something about the 2 hours in the refrigerator obviously did the trick. I did add the Dijon mustard Bittman lists as an optional ingredient. There are few foods that don't taste a little better with Dijon mustard in the mix, says me. I am adding Crabby Crab Cakes to my "Technique as much as a Recipe" file and envision future fun trying to stick together all sorts of ingredients that I'd like to serve in small cake form. Shoot - I might even try it out with crab one of these days...

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