Crawfish Gratin by Ryan Prewitt
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We asked Prewitt: If he could eat only one sea creature for the rest of his life . . . and before we were even done with the question, he chose crawfish. "They're rich and fatty and tender and really expressive," he says. "When they're cooked right, the flavor and texture are phenomenal."

Also known as crayfish, crawdads, or mudbugs, these shellfish are basically pocket lobsters – smaller and cheaper freshwater versions of their more treasured saltwater uncles. These days, Prewitt takes crawfish tails and bakes them in a cheesy, buttery gratin. "We needed a good rich seafood dish at Pêche that we could bake," says Prewitt. "And crawfish fit the bill."

Crawfish Gratin (serves 6-8 as a side)

Ingredients

For the eggplant béchamel:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or more milk)
  • 2 eggplants, peeled, diced and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

For breadcrumbs:

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 oz grated Parmesan

To finish:

  • 1 lb crawfish tails, with all the fat and juice
  • 3-4 large eggplants, cut into a large dice (you need about 10 cups) and roasted until completely cooked
  • eggplant béchamel
  • 6 oz grated fontina
  • 6 oz grated Parmesan
  • 1 bunch sliced green onions
  • breadcrumbs

Preparation

Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the flour and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the milk, chicken stock, and all of the seasonings. Cook, stirring frequently until mixture begins to thicken. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the eggplant and cook for another 10 minutes. Purée the entire mixture and adjust seasoning as necessary. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little milk to thin it out. Pour into 8-inch by 12-inch casserole dish. Heat oven to 425. Combine all breadcrumb ingredients. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve.