The Food and Drug Administration, marine scientists, environmental experts and members of the fishing community all agree that the seafood on the market from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. Now I'm giving it the Batali stamp of approval. Gulf seafood is back. And crayfish, one of the Gulf area's beloved crustaceans, is no exception.
Crayfish are small freshwater crustaceans prevalent in southeastern North America — the South's answer to Maine lobster. Only a small portion of the body of a crayfish is edible. In this recipe, I use tail meat.
Like all crustaceans, crayfish shed their shells, or molt, in order to grow. After they molt, the shells are thin, soft and edible. These soft-shell crayfish used to be considered an inferior product. Now we know better.
Frozen soft-shell crayfish are just as tasty as fresh, and often more readily available. Allow them to thaw at room temperature. They pair perfectly with the jalapeno basil mixture in this recipe.
This dish is the perfect embodiment of my credo: Use the best local ingredients as simply as possible and serve them with flourish and joy. At my restaurants, we cook as an Italian might in America, using seasonal ingredients from our surroundings.
Use American crayfish in this Italian-style preparation for a supremely delicious combination of Italian flavors and domestic ingredients.
Mario Batali is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto and other renowned restaurants. His latest book is “Molto Batali,” published by Ecco.
BUCATINI WITH CRAYFISH, JALAPENO AND BASIL
Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main course.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and julienned
2 cups basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try my Mario Batali pasta sauces)
2 tablespoons salt
1½ pounds bucatini pasta
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Grated zest of 2 lemons