How to Clean Crawfish

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 30,507
    Chef Chris Clime demonstrates how to clean crawfish for Louisiana Crawfish etouffee.

    Chris Clime

    When you’ve mastered Caesar Salad by the age of nine, where else is there to go but into a culinary career? Christopher Clime followed his destiny, and he now finds himself perched at the top of one of the hottest restaurants in town. As Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana, the newest sister restaurant of the popular DC Coast, TenPenh, and Ceiba restaurants in Washington, Clime brings his version of Louisiana-inspired cuisine to the nation’s capital, which he calls home. And make no mistake: home is an important word to Christopher Clime. Clime had a colorful childhood in northern Virginia and in Puerto Rico, where his father was Commanding Officer at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. No matter where they lived, the Climes were always entertaining – their guests often high-ranking dignitaries – and for the Clime family, entertaining was always a family affair. Graduating at 17, Clime headed straight for Providence, Rhode Island, and Johnson & Wales University. Following his New England training, Clime stayed focused on the South. Post-graduation opportunities were waiting in Charleston, South Carolina, at the very exclusive five-diamond Woodlands Resort, where Clime served as chef de partie, a job he describes as “basically, a jack-of-all-trades.” His six years in Charleston gave him a solid grounding in the techniques, traditions, and flavors of southern cooking. It also brought him to the attention of a major corporation that brings him to Augusta, Georgia as a private chef for its executives and guests at The Masters Golf Tournament, an opportunity he still looks forward to every year, serving lavish banquets often based on Low Country cuisine. But while things were going well and he was receiving rave reviews in Charleston, Christopher Clime’s future suddenly had to be put on hold; his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had him return immediately home to Virgina. Needing a distraction at one point, he brought his application to Jeff Tunks at DC Coast, and was immediately hired as a tournant (“basically, another jack-of-all-trades position, a kind of substitute Sous Chef”), which suited Clime’s schedule well. After a year of constant dedication to his mother’s care, Clime was ready to take on more responsibility. Clime forged ahead at DC Coast and then at TenPenh, which provided a creative outlet for this young man during a trying time in his life. All the while, Tunks and his team were already planning the third jewel in their crown, and Clime was the logical candidate for Chef de Cuisine. Clime’s youth in Puerto Rico had imbued him with an inherent sense of Latin cuisine. Two years later, Tunks and his partners were set to open Acadiana, a fourth restaurant that would draw its inspiration from the rich culinary tradition of southern Louisiana. Tunks had spent four years in New Orleans, and knew just what he wanted the restaurant to be. He also knew just what he was looking for in a Chef de Cuisine, and again tapped Christopher Clime. Clime explains that authentic Louisiana cooking is what they serve at Acadiana, but with a contemporary, urban approach for their Washington clientele. “We peel the shrimp for you, but flavor it with the same delicate combination of Creole seasonings we found again and again in rural Louisiana – paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper.” Acadiana is enjoying unprecedented popularity, and already, in November 2006, Christopher Clime has been named one of Washington’s Top Ten Hottest Chefs by DC Style magazine. Has it gone to his head? Not at all: he’s found the ideal balance – his beloved southern cooking, right here at home.

    Hello, my Chris Clime, I am Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana Restaurant, in the heart of the Penn Quarter. I am here today to make a little Louisiana Crawfish touffe. We are starting off with fresh Mudbugs, thats what they call. We are down at Abbeville, Louisiana. We got the pleasure of going down into the crawfish fields and going out and getting some of these. We have already done a regular crawfish boil with these. Spices, a lot of lemon and cayenne and lot of salt, different herbs and spices. Once weve cooked them, we chill them down and then we are going to go ahead and clean them to make our touffe. An touffe is French for smother, so that means smother. So what we are going to do is, we are going to take it out and make sure that we get the fat from the head, because thats very important that fat from the heads and a lot of traditionally the touffes are made with that fat. So its very good to use a whole crawfish. So we take our crawfish here and we separate it from the head as such, okay? Then you can go ahead and break it down, the top part, and we are going to pinch the tail here. When you pinch the tail; that means you are able to get that whole fillet out like as such. Remove that vein and then there is the meat there. Now when I am talking about the fat, its very important, youre going to take your finger in there, and when youre eating crawfish, you actually suck that the head, so, its pinch the tail and suck the head. So, now you want to get some of that fat out there, I got a big finger and it goes like that and that is the gold right there.

    Thats the fats from the head and we are going to use that, and thats going to help us make the flavor for our beautiful touffe. So we are going to go one more time. We are going to remove it from the head; we are going to take this cross section off, just to the top. We are going to pinch the tail, perfectly cooked, pull right out, and if you are really good you can get that vein with the two, sometimes I got lucky there, and then we are going to go and get the fat out again. You dont have to use your finger, you can use a small spoon or so forth, but its better to get it like that and thats a hat Now in Louisiana, thats where the good stuff flavor is and thats how you clean crawfish.