Poached Crayfish Tail with Mango & Basil Dressing

POACHED LOBSTER WITH MANGO & BASIL

I am not a big a big fan of pairing fruit with savoury dishes with a few exceptions such as venison and figs, game fowl with citrus fruits and this mango dressing with shellfish such as crayfish or prawns. For the best results the mango must be fully ripened and sweet. Use a peppery extra virgin olive oil and a good quality sherry vinegar or verjuice for the dressing. Make the dressing an hour before serving and keep refrigerated until you are ready to dress the crayfish.

Preparing live crayfish for the first time can be daunting but there are humane ways of preparing them without causing distress to the creature. Place the crayfish in a freezer compartment for 2 hours before cooking this will cause it to sleep and hibernate. Remove it from the freezer and firmly insert the tip of a sharp knife through the centre of its head. This will kill the crayfish instantly without any pain to it.

Court Bouillon

Translated it literally means ‘short – boil’ A seasoned cooking liquor used for blanching sweetbreads, cooking lobsters, whole fish.  To 2 liters water, add the white of a leek chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 1 onion chopped, 1 stick of celery chopped, 1 small bulb of fennel chopped, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 large sprig each of parsley and thyme, 6 crushed white peppercorns, ½ lemon sliced and 150 ml white wine.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  The court bouillon is then passed off and can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 3 days before using.

4 x           350 g       live crayfish

2              l               court-bouillon (see above)

1                              ripe mango

65            ml            extra virgin olive oil

Sherry vinegar or verjuice to taste

8                              Fresh basil leaves

¼                             Cucumber

8                              Sprigs of basil

Salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Bring the court-bouillon to the boil in a heavy based saucepan, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Lower the crayfish into the court-bouillon and cook for 7-9 minutes depending on their size. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the crayfish to cool in the court-bouillon.

When cold remove from the court-bullion and prepare the crayfish meat. Hold the crayfish firmly behind the head. Grip the middle of the tail with your thumb and forefinger, twist the body and pull away from the head. With a heavy, sharp knife split the head lengthways in half. Remove and discard the gritty sac from behind the eyes. Remove any meat from inside the head and reserve. Remove the green tomalley (the liver) and the coral (roe) both of these can be added to sauces or the crayfish meat to enhance flavour. Rinse the head under cold running water. Using a scissors cut along the underside of the crayfish on both sides taking care not to cut into the meat. Gently pull the tail meat away from the shell keeping it in one piece. Remove the dark intestinal vein that runs down the back of the crayfish with the tip of a knife. Using the scissors cut the tail shell in half lengthways.

Cut a cheek of the side of the mango and reserve for garnish. Peel the remaining mango and remove all of the flesh from the stone. Place in a food processor and blend to a puree. With the motor running add the basil and olive oil until fully incorporated. Add the sherry vinegar or verjuice to taste. Lightly season the dressing with salt and freshly ground pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the remaining mango from its skin and slice thinly. Cut the cucumber into julienne. Chop the meat from the head of the crayfish. Gently mix together the chopped crayfish meat, half of the sliced mango and cucumber in a bowl and bind with a little dressing. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon the mix into the shell of the head and set on a chilled plate. Slice the crayfish tail with a sharp knife into six even medallions. Lightly coat them in a little dressing and rearrange them back into half a shell and set them beside the head arranging the crayfish in its original form. Spoon a little more dressing over the crayfish, garnish with the remaining sliced mango and sprigs of basil. Serve the remaining dressing separately.

The crayfish should be served at room temperature to maximize its flavour, dressed in the chilled dressing.