Virginia Duncan Moseley is a native of Louisiana with homes in New Orleans and on Avery Island. She is a direct descendant of the patriarch, Judge Daniel Dudley Avery, from the first family of the island. Her grandmother, Edith Avery Duncan, was particularly skilled in Creole cuisine. Raised on Avery Island and schooled in New Orleans, her ancestral home on the island was the scene of perennial family gatherings for all occasions. Crawfish Cardinale was a special favorite, served to celebrate the most festive occasions. It is an elegant example of Creole cuisine appropriately served as an appetizer in pastry shells or as an entrée over long-grain rice. Creole and Cajun foods are both native to Louisiana. One of the simplest differences between the two cuisines is that creole food typically uses tomatoes and tomato-based sauces while traditional Cajun food does not. Creole seasoning came from city dwellers. It primarily features herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, rosemary, parsley and paprika. Creole food is not that “hot” from a peppery standpoint but is rather spicy. In contrast, Cajun seasoning is spicier than creole. It was typical of people who lived outside of New Orleans and features a variety of peppers from mild to spicy, like bell peppers and cayenne. The Acadians, French colonists from Canada in a region called Acadie, migrated to southern Louisiana. Classical French cuisine was the foundation of their cooking which blended Spanish and native American seasonings. Once they arrived in Louisiana, the Cajuns, as they subsequently were called, were ingenious in adapting nature’s bounty with economy and simplicity. Shane Bernard, the family archivist for Avery Island, noted that the family would have enjoyed Crawfish Cardinale at Antoine’s, the legendary New Orleans restaurant established in 1840.
Ingredients for béchamel:
1 1/2 cups scalded milk (hot, but not boiling)
2 TBSPS unsalted butter
2 TBSPS all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
White pepper to taste
In a medium-size sauce pan, scald the milk just shy of a boil.
Melt the butter and whisk in the flour 1 TBSP at a time until it becomes slightly foamy.
Whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a simmer.
Season with the salt and white pepper. Set aside off the heat.
Ingredients for the Crawfish Cardinale:
4 TBSPS unsalted butter
4 whole green onions, minced
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 TBSPS tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp Tobasco Brand Pepper Sauce
2 tsps lemon juice
2 TBSPS brandy
1 lb. cooked, packaged crawfish tails
4 TBSPS light cream
Using frozen, pre-packaged crawfish tails, unwrap the package and squeeze out excess moisture in a clean kitchen towel. Set the tails aside in a bowl.
Next, in a small sauce pan, add the sliced mushrooms and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and blanch for 5 mins. Drain and set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the green onions. Cook the onions for 3 mins. Add one cup of the prepared béchamel sauce.
Add the tomato paste, salt, white pepper, Tobasco and lemon juice.
Flame the brandy until the flame is out in a metal measuring cup, 1 cup capacity, by heating the cup and tilting towards a flame.
Add the brandy to the béchamel sauce mixture and whisk in the light cream.
Lastly, fold in the mushrooms completely and then the same for the crawfish tails.