Friday, April 6, 2007

Cooking with "Kiki"

Right, so I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my once-upon-a-time cooking show host alter-ego, Kiki. Turns out Cooking with Kiki is about as entertaining as Cleaning with Children...

My grandmother handed down one of her old French Acadian cookbooks, and after allowing Shawn to peruse it, he got his heart set on having Crawfish Pie. "Not a problem," I say, "I'm 1/2 Cajun, it should come naturally." That, and I have the recipe, which you would think should be enough.

You would think.

I have this funny little habit of reading (aka:skimming) everything very literally, not always using that tool most handy to cooks around the world: common sense. So I get to the store and proceed to the Seafood counter to purchase 3 lbs cooked crawfish. Not because it calls for 3 lbs of crawfish, but because I also have a funny little habit of not fully reading (aka:skimming) recipes before I shop, and thus have misunderstood 3 cups to mean 3 lbs. Please don't ask.

Fine fine fine. But wait -- it's Good Friday -- they're all out of cooked crawfish, and Amy gets suckered into buying the uncooked kind instead. You know, the LIVE, creepily, crawling, bugging little-eyed mudsuckers that my sisters and I used to watch, fixated, as they boiled to their demise in our grandfather's huge boiler. Those uncooked crawfish. Ryan about shit herself.

She's not yet been totally inaugurated into the Cajun family history, and as of yet, is still a bit unfamiliar with the cuisine and the fun it entails. No time like the present for a good history lesson, right?

So I excitedly order 3 lbs of the buggers, completely disregarding the fact that I've never personally boiled crawfish before (there must be instructions somewhere that I can skim, no?), and carry on with my shopping list.

Next up is "a bunch of shallots". Hmmm...I'm pretty certain shallots are onions, I think they may look like chives or leeks, so I make my way to the produce section. And I'm looking, I'm looking, I'm shallots listed on any of the signs...I could ask the produce guy standing right next to me, but that would mean admitting I don't know something, and that is not allowed in the make-believe world of "Kiki". So I turn around and peruse the bulbous-onion side of the produce section. Ah, yes! Right there, little mini-onions labeled "Shallots" -- except, wait, there are two bins with different sized mini-onions, but only one sign above them. Which do I get? The baby one or the bigger ones? And what constitutes a "bunch" of these things? Christ on a Cracker, I guess I'll just have to get some of each and cross my fingers. (That's usually a good plan when cooking.)

Luckily, I have my wits about me enough to grab some boil seasoning before leaving the store, and arrive at home ready to fly my coon-ass colors.

Woopsie Poopsie, I just realized that the recipe called for 3 cups, not 3 lbs...and how do I know how many cups 3lbs of uncooked crawfish will yield?? What if we have a huge influx of unused boiled crawfish just lying around?? And, do you think they could possibly have had pre-cooked, pre-packaged crawfish meat somewhere in the store, and I just didn't look hard enough? Hmmm....

Anyhoo, here I am trying not to flip over this tiny snafu, ignorantly thinking we can just eat the rest of the boiled crawfish, not taking the time to even attempt to Google the conversion of pound live crawfish to cups cooked. I'm a rebel that way. It gives you guys something to laugh at.

I go about boiling the mud-spitters, completely ignoring the instructions to rinse in cold water and salt to make sure they're nice and clean...that probably only pertains to the real Cajuns who pull their own crawfish out of the ditches and swamps, right? Yeah, probably.

Okay, perusing the recipe, and, huh. Time to pay the piper regarding the whole "bunch of shallots" business. I know! I'll call Mom -- she'll know.

(10 minutes later)

Some help she was. she couldn't answer one of my questions. Cajun-smajun. Fine, I'll just Google "bunch of shallots" and see what I find.... Okay, here is a whole mess of them grouped on a vine-like thing like grapes, but surely they can't mean all those onions. Let's see..oh, wait -- here they are! And whaddya know -- they're just like green onions, but with little white bulbs at the end. Slap my mouth and call me Fred, my initial instinct was right! Too bad I didn't follow it, guess I'll just send Shawn to get some at the store. That should only take AN HOUR.

Right. So, the crawfish are ready for me to de-meat them. Unfortunately, I boiled them for 15 minutes, which is about 10 minutes too long, so even if we had enough to eat straight out of the shell, they'd just be nice and soggy, and no one wants soggy crawfish. Also? 3 lbs of crawfish yields ONE CUP of meat. Yikes. The recipe calls for 3 cups. Oh, well. Live and Learn.

I'm not giving up! I'm not giving in to this screaming banshee in my head telling me what a failure I am! I've just spent 3 hours prepping the ingredients for this damn thing, and we will eat it whether we like it or not!

Fortunately, everything is better with Cajun spices and salt and pepper, and although it turned out to be more of a crawfish-flavored rice pie with crawfish bits included, it was still good. Plus, now I know all kinds of things I didn't before -- like what shallots are and the conversion from pounds to cups of crawfish, and you can't just learn those things from, say, the Internet or--oh, wait....Never mind.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!!

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