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Crawfish Beignets

Unlike the airy, pillow-shaped beignets made famous by sidewalk cafés in the French Quarter of New Orleans, these country cousins are rounder and just a bit rough, with a springy texture similar to cake doughnuts. Beignets, also known as croquignoles, are usually sweet, drizzled with cane syrup or molasses. In this case, however, they are savory snacks studded with chopped crawfish, for a cross between hush puppies and conch fritters. For a piquant dipping sauce, blend equal parts mayonnaise and Creole mustard.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 lb. cooked crawfish tails, peeled and deveined shrimp, or lump crabmeat, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, including tender green portions, minced
  • 1/4 cup seeded and minced red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, celery salt and cayenne until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 200°F. In a heavy saucepan or a deep fryer, pour in oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. A thermometer is essential to maintain the correct temperature for the lightest results. Line a platter with several layers of paper towels and set it near the stove.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk until blended. When the oil is hot, make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in the crawfish, green onions, bell pepper and parsley, and season with salt and black pepper. The batter must be mixed just before frying for the beignets to rise properly as they cook.

Working in batches, drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. The beignets should turn over by themselves as they cook; if they don’t, give them a gentle push with a long-handled fork or a chopstick. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towel-lined platter to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter, always making sure the oil returns to 350°F before adding the next batch. Keep warm in the oven until all of the beignets are fried. Serve immediately. Makes 2 dozen beignets.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, New Orleans, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).