“We had a disagreement. We had a difference of views because when I was a kid, my grandmother used to make a dish she called crab stew, but it wasn’t written down. I have no idea how you make that. And in Lafayette, there was this [cookbook] that came out, called Talk About Good. One of the crawfish recipes we cooked came from that. Paul Prudhomme’s first book, Louisiana Cooking, for me, that’s the book. But he doesn’t make a crab stew either, although his crawfish etouffée is very close to a stew because his etouffée is not really an etouffée, because you make etouffée out of butter. We adapted that. Then DeDe pulls out Talk About Good, which is almost illegible because it’s full of crab juice and crawfish guts. My recipe is a combination of three or four different things, which kind of makes it my own.
I make my roux fast. My mother used to be a two-beer rouxer. That takes too long; about 30 minutes. Fast is the way to go—Prudhomme. But you have to be careful.
Use your grandmother’s pots if you can. I wanted to have her pots because I wanted to cook! And they don’t make them like this anymore. My grandmother was Lucille LeBlanc, and she married a LeBlanc, so she was L.L.L. on all her stuff.
This is a three-pot dish. This is not what you do in Cajun land. This is all Prudhomme and Frank [Brigtsen]. We use stock; Cajuns use water. Prudhomme tells you how to basically use restaurant techniques in your home kitchen, and you can’t change anything. How many times do you think he cooked that stuff in order to write it like that? He’s a nut in the kitchen, but if you follow him, it never scorches, it never sticks; it always does what it’s supposed to do.
We travel all over America, and in our rider for BeauSoleil, it says, ‘Under no circumstances can you feed the band Cajun food.’ Because invariably, you go somewhere, ‘I made Prudhomme’s gumbo,’ and you look at it and it’s beige because they don’t do it right. Pineapple in the gumbo—that was Atlanta, Georgia. They just keep adding shit. Fusion, baby. Occasionally you run into someone who can actually do it. There was one guy in Maine, and a couple in Tennessee. It’s dangerous to get invited to someone’s house. Here we are, seven Cajuns walking around the planet—‘I’m going to make you a Cajun breakfast!’ Sometimes we have no choice.
We have about 80 gigs a year and you need a day to get there, so we’re traveling about half the year. We know every ethnic restaurant in America. We thought about doing a guidebook, but we didn’t want to tell anybody where we eat [or people might show up with Cajun food]. We eat Mexican food, Lebanese food, Thai food. Coffee, traveling as much as we do, that’s the other thing. I’ve always brought a coffee pot and coffee on the road.
Some traveling salesman came through in the ‘40s or ‘50s and sold us this machine, it was handheld; you put a potato on it and turn and it’d make potato chips. It was almost hand-made, and I love potatoes. That was a very good thing. We had some property and this guy there farming, and he’d always bring a crate of potatoes every year, that was part of his rent. He’d bring the potatoes, which my dad would use for crawfish boils or potato chips. I didn’t get this big not eating them, I’ll tell you that.
[My brother] Michael and I argue about how to make gumbo. I make the Paul Prudhomme gumbo and if you follow his recipe, including frying the chicken, it’s an all-day affair. With Cajun gumbo, you boil everything in one pot. With Paul Prudhomme, you use lots of pots.
Here’s another pot to clean. This is where it gets gross, where you get your flavor. It’s an obscene amount of butter. How’s my butter doing? Doing real good. Crab and butter go great together. It’s kind of a waste to use jumbo lump, but it’s good. You could put another stick of butter in here, you could. But I don’t know if it needs it.”
David’s Crab Stew
Seafood stock (makes 4 cups):
2 quarts cold water
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut
1 rib celery a few black peppercorns
1-2 pounds of gumbo crabs
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 stick butter
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1 pound crabmeat (jumbo lump)
Make stock by boiling everything gently for 25 minutes. Strain. In a cast iron dutch oven, heat oil to nearly smoking, then whisk in flour. Stir constantly until roux is dark red-brown. Remove from heat and stir in chopped vegetables and 1 tablespoon seasoning mix. Turn heat to medium/low and continue to stir until vegetables soften and shine, 5-10 minutes.
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups stock to a boil. Gradually add roux mixture until dissolved. Reduce heat and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the flour taste is gone, stirring constantly. In a 4-quart saucepan, melt butter. Stir in crabmeat and green onion. Add roux mixture, remaining stock, crab bodies and remaining seasoning mix. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over hot rice, accompanied by French bread and beer.