I have lived several places in and around New Orleans but grew up in a small town about 15 minutes southeast of the city named Arabi. Arabi is really small town and like most small towns it moves at a very slow pace and has several unique characteristics. In Arabi everyone refers to you as dawl'in whether they are an old friend or you are meeting them for the first time. Can you imagine my culture shock when I moved to DC where people avoid eye contact on the street and go out of their way to ignore your greeting? The people of Arabi exemplify southern hospitality. Everyone is friendly, everyone is excited to see you and everyone acknowledges each other on the street. This hospitable nature carries into other aspects of conversation and when you see someone you haven't seen in a while instead of asking "how is your family?" they leisurely inquire, "how's ya mama and them?" Unless you lived in Arabi you really had no reason to be there. You didn't pass through on your way to another town and there was nothing there you couldn't get or do elsewhere. For me it was never my ideal geographical location. The hospitality was refreshing but I never wanted to settle in a small town. Although I knew I was destined not to stay, I am certainly happy it is where I started. Something about that close knit community in which you know you can rely on others is very comforting.
Since Arabi is such an obscure town with very few "passer throughs" it wasn't a place that most fellow New Orleanians knew much about. I went to high school in the city and anytime I told someone where I was from I got the same reaction - "Oh yeah, that town from that Christmas song!" Arabi got its 15 minutes of fame when it was the featured in the classic New Orleans Christmas Carol Spoof, The Twelve Yats of Christmas. In the first line of the song Benny Grunch states, "On'da foist day'a Christmas mah Mawmaw gave'to me a Crawfish'dey Caught in Arabi". The funny part about this line is that I never knew a person to catch a crawfish the whole time I lived in Arabi and couldn't tell you where you would go to do so- but who cares right? If it got us on the map then it was worth it, despite its accuracy.
Louisiana Crawfish Cakes
Recipe adapted from James O'Donnell of the House of Blues
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
10 tablespoons yellow onion, 1/8-inch diced
3 tablespoons green bell peppers, 1/8-inch diced
3 tablespoons red bell peppers, 1/8-inch diced
3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds crawfish tails
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon of Zatarain's Crab Boil
1 teaspoon of Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan, ground
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons bread crumbs
Parsley sprig, for garnish
Heat oil in sauce pan and sweat onions and peppers for 1 minute. Add garlic and crawfish tails and heat through. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and Cajun Seasoning.
Remove from heat and let cool. Beat eggs in stainless bowl and add crawfish mixture. Fold in Parmesan and 1 cup bread crumbs.
Combine all ingredients and form into 5-ounce patties. Dust cakes with additional bread crumbs.
Heat crawfish cake through in broiler. Place Rémoulade sauce in the middle of the plate. Place heated crawfish cake on top. Top each cake with a 1/2 teaspoon of remoulade sauce. Top cake with parsley sprig.
Forrest and I were invited to a dinner party (a very great one I might add with awesome food and equally as awesome company) this weekend and I volunteered to bring the appetizer. I was delighted to make something that offered a little piece of where I came from!