The Food Almanac: April 22, 2013

Staff Writer
Happy Earth Day!

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Today's Flavor 
Today is Crawfish Bisque Day. In the opinion of many, no crawfish dish is better. It's substantial enough that it can be served as an entree, although in restaurants it's more often served by the cup as a preliminary course. The classic Cajun style veers far from the standard definition of bisque in French cooking. Instead of being thickened with cream or pureed rice, it's made with a dark roux, pulverized crawfish tail meat, and crawfish stock. It's thick, spicy, and aromatic. Stuffed crawfish heads are considered by many eaters as sine qua non. (We stick by our dictum that stuffing and unstuffing the heads is a pointless waste of time, and recommend using crawfish boulettes, made with the same stuffing, instead.)

Most Louisiana chefs who make crawfish bisque agree on two things. First, it's only worth making in the peak of crawfish season. Second, making it properly takes a long time. (The recipe for it is the longest one in my cookbook.) The hard part is extracting all possible meat and fat from the crawfish shells, which often are the detritus of a crawfish boil. Making a good crawfish bisque without the shells is not even worth trying. 

But after all that work, what emerges is as distinctive a Louisiana flavor as any other. Making the pleasure even more intense is the knowledge that this is not something that can be had all the time, but is a seasonal gift of nature. When it's time for crawfish bisque again, you can't wait to get at it.

Annals Of Food Resources
The first Earth Day was celebrated today in 1970. Created by Sen. Gaylord Nelson, it brought attention to recently-discovered degradations of the environment, less well known then than they are now. As the Northern Hemisphere notes Earth Day today (the Southern Hemisphere's Earth Day is in their springtime), we find our scientists discovering major challenges to the globe's ability to continue feeding its growing human population. We're on thinner ice than most Americans realize. If some disease were to race through our corn crops, for example (and this is not farfetched), our diets would change dramatically, and not for the better. Using less seems to be the best idea, but who will go for it? Our fingers are crossed.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Crawdad Creek descends about seventy feet in its mile length, passing through a couple of small bogs (that's where the crawfish are) before flowing into Panther Creek. All of this is in the wooded hills northeast of downtown Seattle. A few houses are at the ends of the winding roads that go up there. A cluster of restaurants is about four miles north of the creek; most are independent pizza operations, with a few Mexican and Japanese operations. May we recommend Snohomish Teriyaki?

Edible Dictionary
ecrevisse, [eh-creh-VEES], French, n.--The French word for crawfish, a resource that has become so rare in France that they import them from Spain (or China). Most of those go into the making of sauce Nantua, a classic. 

Sauce Nantua, [soess-nahn-TWA], French, n.--A thick, smooth sauce made from crawfish, a mirepoix of vegetables, brandy and cream. Its classic use is with a crawfish ragout, or with quenelles of fish. A lot of sauce Nantua is served in southern Louisiana without its being called that, crawfish being more common on the bayous than in France.

Deft Dining Rule #858
Never order crawfish in any restaurant that spells them "crayfish."

Food In The Skies 
The supernova that became the Crab Nebula dissipated in brightness to below what the naked eye could see on this date in 1056. It had been bright enough to see by day. It's still visible as a sort a stellar soft-shell in a telescope.

Annals Of Wine Writing 
This is the birthday (1950) of Jancis Robinson, an influential British wine writer. She has written numerous books on the subject and hundreds of articles, plus a television show. She is one of the most vocal proponents of the merits of Riesling among white wines, saying that it's better than is widely appreciated.

Food Namesakes 
NFL football player Bobby Olive kicked off his life today in 1969. . . Lady golfer Nicky Le Roux teed off in the Big Tournament today in 1959. . . Planet Rock producer Arthur Baker got the beat today in 1955. . . Actress Carol Drinkwater took her first sip today in 1948.

Words To Eat By 
"Any cook should be able to run the country."--Vladimir Lenin, born today in 1870.

"The fact is I simply adore fish,
But I don't know a perch from a pike;
And I can't tell a cray from a crawfish
They look and they taste so alike."--William Cole.

Words To Drink By
"A house where neither wine nor welcome is served to friends, soon will have none."--Rob Hutchison.

Related Links
Plan a Kid-Friendly Earth Day PicnicAmerica’s Greenest Restaurants of 2013