Crayfish à la Bordelaise

James Beard

Author and Educator

Crayfish, or “crawfish” as they are called in the southern U.S., are small lobster-like crustaceans that were once plentiful all over this country. Pollution has taken its toll on their habitat, though they are still caught wild in the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. They are also farmed. Crawfish boils, featuring huge numbers of crawfish steamed in enormous pots with special crab boil seasoning and served with corn on the cob, are a popular pastime in Cajun country.


  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 36 to 40 live crayfish, rinsed in cold water and drained in a large colander
  • 1 ½ cups tomato purée or puréed Italian plum tomatoes


Melt butter in a large kettle or stockpot and cook carrots, onions, and celery until just wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add white wine, let it cook for a few minutes, then add the crayfish and cook them just until the shells turn red, about 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in tomato purée, bring to a boil, and let the tomato blend with the other ingredients. Correct the seasonings, and pour the fragrant, steaming mixture into a large tureen or bowl. Serve with saffron rice, a green salad, crisp bread, and plenty of cold beer.


4 servings