Beurre d'écrevisses, Crayfish Butter

There is a recipe that can be made in advance and kept in the freezer for months. It come into the making of the classic sauce Nantua. The fresh water crayfish butter can be served with fish or meat. A classic meat/crayfish association is pan fried veal sweetbreads with crayfish tails and a foamy crayfish butter.
Crayfish is a fresh water crustacean which leaves in mountain streams or rivers in the plains of the east of France, Germany and Central and Eastern Europe, U.S, Canada, Madagascar, South America and Australasia. Most crayfish cannot tolerate polluted water, although some species such as the invasive Procambarus clarkii are more hardy. Some crayfish have been found living as much as 3 m (10 feet) underground. On the old continent, wild crayfish has become rare as water pollution and over fishing depleted the stocks. Another factor is that crayfish's growth is quite slow. It take 5 to 6 years for fresh water crayfish to reach adult size.
In Europe there are 4 main kinds of crayfish: the red stream crayfish (écrevisse a pied rouge), the white steam crayfish (écevisse a pied blanc) which is the finest and most expensive, the stream crayfish (écrevisse des torrents) and the American crayfish which was introduced in Europe just after WWI. In Europe the most common type of crayfish on the market is the farmed Turkish crayfish which comes farms in central Europe. In the U.S, 98% of the crayfish harvested in the United States come from Louisiana, where the standard culinary terms are crayfish or écrevisses.
Recipe for fresh water crayfish butter:
  • 250g cooked crayfish heads and shells.
  • 500g unsalted butter.
  • 1 dash brandy.

Reduce the crayfish heads and shells into a fine paste, either using a mortar, food processor (if you have a strong one) or what I find quite efficient: a rolling pen.

Place this paste along with the brandy and the butter into a pot and place this one into a double-boiler or bain-marie. Allow the butter to melt completely. Let this mixture infuse for and hour at a temperature just below the butter melting point.

Strain, using a fine chinois, pressing the paste to make sure to extract all the butter.

Place this flavoured butter into a terrine and put it in the fridge to set. Then cut into slices and freeze them until needed.

A little tip: I like to very gently roast the crayfish heads and shells in the oven for 2 to 3 hours at 70 degrees Centigrade with a sprig of thyme and oregano and a couple of cloves of garlic and a dash of olive oil before pounding them. It will make the butter all more flavorful.

"In this small fish I take it that human wisdom is admirably figured and symbolized; for whereas the crayfish doth move only backward, and can have only retrospection, seeing naught but the perils already passed, so the wisdom of man doth not enable him to avoid the follies that beset his course, but only to apprehend their nature afterward."

Sir James Merivale

Suitable for vegetarian, pregnant women, coeliacs. Contains dairies. Nut free.