Crawfish boils are kind of a big deal here in Houston. And by kind of a big deal, I mean how much more fun could a person want to have besides drinking beer (ahem, grapefruit margaritas), standing around a gigantic pot filled to the brim with corn, potatoes, crawfish, and scary amounts of cayenne pepper.
All that’s turned out onto a large table covered with newspaper. Suddenly, it’s the ultimate, informal family style experience.
I’ve developed a new appreciation for crawfish this year. You see, I’ve always had this thing with crawfish… or against crawfish.
Really, my thing has to do with getting to the actual crawfish. It’s not the most appealing thing. But a few grapefruit margaritas seem to take care of all of that and I found myself peeling away.
My friend Harmony says peeling crawfish is therapeutic. And I’d agree… all the way up until my fingers began to burn. And that really just meant it was time for another margarita.
Harmony sent us away with a bunch of leftover crawfish and the orders to “make something awesome” with it. And something awesome we made.
I whipped up my favorite stove top mac & cheese and added the leftover crawfish and the spicy corn cut away from the cob. If you already think that a pile of spicy crawfish is pretty much a perfect food on its own, try it in a big bowl of carbs, covered in a light cheesy sauce.
The rest of the leftovers went into the freezer until I have the chance to make something awesome for Harmony
Crawfish Mac & Cheese
Crawfish boil leftovers get new life in a creamy stove top mac & cheese.
8 oz macaroni pasta
4 oz white cheddar cheese, grated (don't use pre-shred)
4 oz fontina
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I use 0% Fage)
1 Tbsp Creole (or other spicy brown) mustard
1 cup leftover crawfish tails
Kernels from 1-2 leftover corn cobs
Sliced dark green onions, for serving
Cook macaroni pasta for 8-10 minutes in salted water, until al dente.
Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Add 1/4 cup pasta water, the yogurt, several dashes of Tobasco, mustard, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping, adding additional pasta water as necessary to thin the cheese sauce.
Stir in crawfish and corn kernels, and serve immediately topped with green onions.
To reheat, microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Add a tablespoon or two of skim milk or water to thin the sauce, if necessary.
At the last minute, we changed our Thanksgiving plans and went home. My home.
My hometown is a modest, quiet little dot on the map north of the big city. The room I had decorated in Wildcat purple & white my senior year is now a sewing room. Mom spends the days of her retirement, when her arthritis allows, stitching lace trimming onto Victorian-era dresses and taking care of my dad. My dad spends his days annoying the every loving crap out of my mom.
Not much has changed in 14 years.
Except the arthritis. And the surgeries and heart attacks and weekly trips to the various specialists. All the things that happen when you get older and so caught up in the day-to-day churn that you forget that the people around you get older, too.
But I’m thankful for another day with the people who drove me crazy in high school. The ones that couldn’t even entertain the idea that the pack of empty wine cooler bottles belonged to me. (Sweet underage baby Jesus, were those things terrible.) The ones that couldn’t see that the broken piece of siding on the house outside my bedroom window was actually the perfect height for a foot-hold.
And I’m thankful for a baby brother that shook some pretty dramatic, troubled teenage years and is now responsible for a family of his own. For the record, he didn’t throw a hissy fit when his beloved broccoli & rice casserole was replaced by a fancier, less-processed version. (He saved the hissy fit for when I handed him a beer that wasn’t Bud Light. Or Miller Light. Or whatever else he usually buys from the gas station.)
And I’m thankful for a partner-in-crime who taught me how to use a camera and would burn a sick day at the drop of a hat to play Halo with me.
And I’m thankful for the little punk with the shiny blonde hair who’s obsessed with dinosaurs, and lizards, and gross bugs. I just wish she’d inherited her father’s attitude instead of mine. And her father’s patience. And her father’s – SERIOUSLY?! BUGS AND LIZARDS?!
Pushing into October, the “why didn’t we move to Colorado when we had the chance” really kicks into overdrive. It doesn’t matter how hot it was in Texas last year, it is always hotter this year. All the pumpkin and apple recipes in the world doesn’t change the fact that I ran a 5K this morning in the same sauna that was there 2 weeks ago and will still be there in 2 weeks.
I try to focus on the positive. Like how we’re about to be overrun with Meyer lemons and Rio Star grapefruit from the dwarf citrus trees by the pool. That there is a pool. And that we get to enjoy summer favorites like my husband’s chicken fajitas for dinner 10 months out of the year.
My husband is the chicken fajita lover in the house. Me? Red meat all the way. When we order out, the servers always mix up our dinners and hand me his chicken fajitas. Because girls are dainty and always concerned about their figure and calorie intake. Those same girls probably didn’t pregame with a pitcher of margaritas before they left for dinner, though
At home, we usually make chicken fajitas. It’s almost always the least expensive option. And let’s face it. They’re really good. (Even if they are chicken.)
The citrusy, salty marinade that my husband uses for chicken fajitas has seen little change over the last 5 years. It’s tempting to constantly try to fix something that isn’t broken but I’ve circled time and time again back to the simplicity of citrus + salt + garlic and the wonderfully tender, juicy fajitas is produces. In 95 degree “fall” grilling weather.
Grilled Chicken Fajitas
A citrusy marinade that produces the most perfectly tender, juicy chicken fajitas.
4 chicken breasts
2 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 white or yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
Olive oil, for drizzling
Jalapeno or serrano peppers (left whole, optional)
Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness (not less than 1/4 inch).
Add the lime and orange juices, oil, cilantro, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper to a large ziptop bag and squeeze a few times to mix.
Add chicken breasts, turning to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour (longer is ideal but an hour will still do).
Remove from refrigerator while preheating grill to medium-high heat.
Drizzle oil over onions, sliced bell peppers, and whole peppers (if using) and place on a grill pan or a makeshift grill pan formed out of a large piece of foil folded to triple thickness.
Cook vegetables for 10 minutes, and then add the chicken to the grill.
Toss the vegetables to promote even cooking and remove when tender.
Cook chicken 6-8 minutes each side, until juices run clear.
Remove from heat, tent the chicken with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Divide chicken and peppers between tortillas and serve topped with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro.