Mark's cooking up crayfish – and showing us how it's done
Owner and head chef Mark LaBrooy recently headed down south to the Flinders Island Food and Crayfish Festival to cook up a seafood feast, that now you can make at home…
Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited back to one of my favourite places in the world… Flinders Island. This small island in the Bass Strait has direct access to some of the most amazing produce, landscapes and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.
Flinders has an incredible rugged coastline that offers up epic waves and some of the best free diving in Australia – southern rock lobsters are abundant, green lip abalone are in huge numbers, and as well as an array of fish life, there is always a quiet protected cove to be found out of the weather on one side of the island or the other. The native birdlife is also worth a mention, with large numbers of Cape Barren geese that reside on the island, as are the the wallabies, which hop around in plague proportions – all making for tasty delights over the fire!
I was down there to cook at the annual Flinders Island Food and Crayfish Festival, where I was allocated the crayfish course. I really enjoy working with these big southern crays, as the eating quality is so high that it just makes me look like a better chef than I really am! The recipe I’ve created below is pretty simple and with a bit of practice can be mastered by anyone.
The group of chefs that come down for this festival are some of the best in the industry… Matt Stone, David Moyle, Jo Barret, Vladimir Panevin, Analiese Gregory and James Viles. I really enjoy my time with these chefs and the island life allows for plenty of time to connect and discuss our love of the industry.
Together, we curated a long lunch that went off without a hitch – there is an amazing sense of achievement in cooking everything on the fire in the bush for 200 people, and completing this task together just cements the bond between us chefs.
FLINDERS ISLAND CRAYFISH
So, this is a dish I have made a few times now down south and I’ve really enjoyed both making and eating lobster this way. There are a few steps to completing this dish, but it’s well worth it in the end! The crayfish meat is extracted from the shell and slowly poached in a beure blanc, made from the head mustard of the cray. The trick here is to not cook the cray meat for too long as it will start to really firm up. It’s also extremely important to use fresh southern rock lobsters or eastern rock lobster, the painted crays of northern NSW and QLD can also be used, but the eating quality of the cold water crays is far superior.
– 2kg crayfish whole live
– 1 large onion, diced
– 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– 2 long red chillis (deseeded), diced
– 1 tbl tomato paste
– 200ml white wine
– 80ml Champagne vinegar
– cray fish mustard
– 500g salted butter
– salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
– ¼ bunch fresh basil, ripped
– zest and juice from 2 lemons (micro plane)
1. First we need to drown the crayfish in cold fresh water, this will take about 30 mins, take a large pot or container and fill with water to the top place the cray in there and put a lid on it, the higher the ratio of water to cray the faster it will drown. Alternatively, you can spike it in the head between the eyes with a sharp knife.
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season with salt so it tastes like the ocean, place the cray into the water for 45 sec then remove. This will separate the flesh from the shell but we want to be careful not to cook the meat.
3. Turn the cray upside down and make an incision where the tail meets the carapace, cut carefully around the tail, twist and remove, when done correctly all of the head meat will come out with the tail.
4. Take the head and remove the mustard (the yellow or red stuff inside the head cavity) place in a bowl for later.
5. Take the tail and turn it upside down. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along either side of the underbelly where it meets the hard shell. Trim off the end and remove the cray meat, then dice the meat into 2cm chunks and set aside. Place the shell, still upside down, into the head that you removed earlier – this will make a “cray boat”, the vessel you can serve your dish with.
6. Take a medium sized pot and sauté the onions, garlic and chilli in some olive oil, add the chilli paste and fry off aggressively, it will turn a deeper red colour and start to stick to the pot, deglaze with the white wine, add the vinegar and reduce for 5 mins or so, add the mustard and reduce the temp, constantly stirring cook for 2-3 mins the mustard has a really high protein content so it will have similar characteristics to egg. Be careful not to scramble it, we want to cook it gently!
7. Take off the heat and place in a thermo mix or similar, blend in high until a smooth velvety paste forms.
8. Heat the BBQ on high heat on the grill side, place the cray body onto the grill to cook the meat left behind in the head as well as the legs, be careful not to cook the tail too hard or it will become brittle and may break.
9. Clean the pot you were using to make the sauce and put back on medium heat, add the paste and start to slowly emulsify the butter into the paste, season heavily, add the crayfish and lightly poach, add the basil, lemon zest and juice and serve in the cray boat on a large platter.
Want more? Join Mark for a crayfish dinner on Friday 20th September at Three Blue Ducks Bronte. Details to come!
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