As much as I love running my own kitchen, there are few greater pleasures than having a meal entirely cooked for you. Upon our return from the Oregon coast, I was exhausted + implored to simply sit at the kitchen table and eat creamy French cheeses from Pastaworks while watching the chaos surrounding the task of boiling two pounds of live, extremely cranky crayfish. So happy to not have to help. The recipe in question was Richard Olney’s classic crayfish salad with fresh dill — or salade d’Ecrevisses a l’Aneth — from his thrilling tome, The French Menu Cookbook. In typical Olney style, the directions for preparing live crayfish were ambiguous and detached. He makes it seem so easy:
“Starting with the largest, rinse the crayfish, and remove the intestine of each, grasping the animal just above the point at which the pincers join the body, to avoid being pinched — or holding it with a towel for protection, and with an abrupt motion to either side, tear loose the central fin from the tail fan, then pull gently in order to slip out the attached intestinal tract without breaking it.”
It seemed unusually cruel (and technically difficult) to rip out the crayfish’s little intestines while still writhing in the air, so after a few failed attempts we just tossed the crayfish in a huge pot of bubbling water, and then performed surgery on the cooked crustaceans. Still messy. Equally difficult was preparing the dressing, which required the carapaces (heads, claws, legs and coral) to be pounded in a stone mortar into a coarse puree. Yeah right. Even a few turns in the food processor produced nothing more than a spiky, thin sauce, but it was enough to produce a highly flavorful dressing. In any case, this was one of the best salads I have ever had, and as full as we were, we managed to cap the meal off with a tiny chocolate and hazelnut mousse called ‘The Royale’ from Pix.