Tualatin Crawfish Mystery Box Cook-Off!

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Wow…what a crazy, amazing weekend!

The Tualatin Crawfish Festival was fantastic! Way too much to get in to one blog post, so I’ll break it down by event, starting with…the Mystery Box Cook-Off, on Friday night.

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I was honored to be one of the six Chefs invited to participate in this first annual cook-0ff, and had a chance to share “the stage” with some major talent from the local restaurant community. It was a little intimidating, actually! Luckily, these guys (and gal) were, to a fault, a heap of fun to work and hang out around, and kindly accepted me into their ranks without hesitation.

After donning our snazzy new chef’s whites (thank you Tualatin Chamber of Commerce!) we opened our mystery boxes to find…well, a whole heap of great stuff. From memory, we had: crawfish (of course), fresh green and red bell peppers, red and yellow onions, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, jasmine rice, egg noodles, heavy cream, lemons, fresh garlic, clam juice, celery, and…thank you Jesus…bacon.

We each had a “spice rack” of creole seasonings, blackening spice, shrimp boil, butter, and olive oil, as well as a frying pan, pot, a couple of bowls, two gas burners, and a few basic pieces of kitchen gear. We were allowed to bring our own knife rolls, too.

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Well, as soon as I opened the box (which I was just SURE was going to have gummy bears, tripe, and diet root-beer in it) and saw, instead, jasmine rice, onions, bacon, and cream, I relaxed a little…I had risotto, one of my all-time favorite dishes, and one I make often.

That combination of ingredients was like a gift from above! As Chef Chris likes to say…I’d rather be lucky than good. Now, I just had to make risotto in about 55 minutes…OY!

So…here’s the 1st Place winner recipe (woo-hoo!): Creole Risotto with Crawfish Étouffée.

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Creole Risotto with Crawfish Etouffee
Chef Perry Perkins

1 cup arborio rice
1 cup butter, divided
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups clam juice
1 cup crawfish stock (see instructions)
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 lb frozen crawfish tails, peeled
1/2 lb bacon
1 yellow bell pepper
1 sweet onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can red beans, drained
3 Tbs. Creole seasoning
1 tsp. red pepper flake (to taste)
1/4 + 2 tbsp. cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste

(Not all of these ingredients were available in the mystery box, but are standard risotto ingredients, and ones I will add in the future when preparing this dish! – P)

Mise en Place

Dice yellow bell pepper, sweet onion, celery, and garlic. Drain the red beans, disposing of juice. Slice lemon in half, slice two 1/2 inch thick rounds from one half, and then cut those rounds in half.

Creole Risotto

Begin crawfish etouffee (below).

401While water is heating, melt 1/2 cup of butter in a deep skillet or pot, with olive oil, over medium heat. Allow to brown a bit, and then add 1/2 cup onions,  1/2 of the garlic, and all of the dry rice. Cook the rice, stirring often, until just golden and aromatic (the rice will give off a nutty aroma). Stir in 2 tbsp. of Creole seasoning.

Add 1/2 cup of clam juice to the rice, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed (about 3 minutes), repeat until clam juice is gone.

Add the can of diced tomatoes (drained) to the rice, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed (about 3 minutes), add 1/2 cup of crawfish broth/cream mixture to the rice.

Stir constantly until the liquid has been absorbed (about 3 minutes), repeat until only 1/2 cup of crawfish stock remains. Set that aside.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Continue adding 1/4 cup of hot water, and cooking until absorbed, until risotto just reaches a creamy consistency with still a pleasant bite to the rice (you don’t want it mushy.) Stir in the 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Serve immediately.

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In a heavy saucepan, heat 4 cup of water to steaming. Add frozen crawfish tails, and being back to just steam, turn heat to low, and allow crawfish to rest in the water 10 minutes.

Drain crawfish tails, reserving the broth, and set tails aside. Pour 1/2 of the crawfish broth into a clean pan, add 1/2 cup of cream, the remaining butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a simmer, and set aside. This is your crawfish stock.

In a heavy pan, cook diced bacon until just crisp. Drain off as much fat as possible, patting the bacon with paper towels. Now, melt 1/2 cup of butter in that same pan over medium heat, add remaining garlic, diced onions, bell pepper, and celery. Season with salt and pepper, 1 tbsp. Creole seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Cook until veggies have softened but still have a crisp bite to them. Add red beans, remaining crawfish stock, 2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, and remaining cream, simmer and reduce a bit.

Fold in crawfish tails, and squeeze fresh lemon juice over all (from the unsliced 1/2) just before serving.

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To Serve:

Spoon equal amounts of risotto onto 4 plates, and spread into a 1-inch thick disk.

Mound 1/4 of the Crawfish Jambalaya in the center of each.

Add a 1/2 round of lemon leaned against the jambalaya. Dust all lightly with creole seasoning.

Serve immediately.

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