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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

September 4, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Chef Tom Douglas recalls fun times at UW football games while catching loads of crayfish


(Photo by Seattle Times photographer Mark Harrison at Beaver Lake)

What many don’t realize is that plenty of local lakes offer excellent crayfish fishing during this time of the year, and it doesn’t take an expert to load up the boat with a trap full of these yummy creatures.

Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas will contribute some of his tasty cooking advice and recipes for the Reel Time Fishing NW blog in our Catch of the Week each Wednesday through October. Catch of the Day will also include recipes from other local chefs, tackle shop owners and fish-market owners.

Douglas is owner of Lola, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, Dahlia Bakery, Etta’s, Serious Pie Downtown, Seatown, Brave Horse Tavern, Cuoco, Serious Biscuit and Serious Pie Westlake. Another new Douglas restaurant that just opened is Tanaka San at the Via6 Apartment Complex in downtown Seattle.

Here are some suggestions by Chef Tom Douglas on how to serve crayfish:

The lakes in Washington State give us tons of crawfish.

Back in the day when I owned a boat, my idea of a tailgate party was to take it out early on the day of a UW football game and anchor in Montlake Cut just offshore from the football stadium. Then I would fill my crawdad traps with chicken necks, and take a nap until I heard the band playing

Then I pull up the traps, fire up the starboard rail barbecue, and steam those little puppies in lots of cayenne, Yakima Valley Semillon, handfuls of garlic, and cubes of butter.  At this point, I pull out my portable TV and turn on the game.  My pals and I kick back and enjoy the game on TV, listen to the roar of the crowd, and eat crawfish tails by the handful while the Semillon flows and the Dawgs win.


(Photo by Seattle Times photographer Greg Gilbert.)

When I wrote my cookbook, I Love Crab Cakes, I asked some of my best chef buddies to contribute recipes.  Susan Spicer, chef owner of Bayona in New Orleans, sent me her recipe for Jazz Fest Crab Cakes which are made with half crab meat and half coarsely chopped cooked crawfish tails.  You could try the same trick in any crab cake recipe and serve the cakes with remoulade or tartar sauce zipped up with plenty of Crystal brand or Tabasco hot sauce.

Now that summer is on the wane, it’s not too early to think about Thanksgiving.  My preference is for a bread stuffing made from an artisan rustic loaf such as the bread we sell at the Dahlia Bakery.  I cut the bread into cubes or pull it into ragged chunks and toast it first.

To keep the stuffing crunchy and not soggy, I bake it in a casserole dish alongside the turkey rather than stuffing it inside the bird.  Over the years I’ve tweaked my stuffing recipe many times, adding a variety of ingredients like sautéed wild mushrooms, dried cherries, fresh chevre, toasted hazelnuts, chopped ham hock meat, and other taste treats.  One year I went a little Dixie Chicks with my stuffing recipe.

To the chunks of rustic bread and sautéed onion, celery, and bell pepper, I added chopped cooked crawfish tails (frozen is fine, just thaw and drain well), cooked and drained bacon, and blanched, squeezed, and chopped collard greens, all of it moistened well with a few cups of rich chicken or turkey stock before being transferred to a buttered casserole dish ready for the oven. Try it this November if you want to put a Southern spin on Turkey Day.





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