THE INSPIRATION FOR THE SWAMP SHACK’S PIE came from Jazz Fest, the annual two-week spring music and food bacchanal known formally as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. At Jazz Fest, crawfish pies and oyster patties and cochon de lait po’ boys are big draws, on a par with the music itself. I’ve eaten my share of crawfish at Jazz Fest but I’ll go out on a limb here and say Trey Corkern’s recipe makes pies that trump the ones I’ve had back in Louisiana.
MAKES 10 TO 12 PIES
FOR THE FILLING
1 pound peeled crawfish tails (steer clear of the stuff from China)
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons Creole seasoning
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup crawfish stock or other seafood or chicken stock
½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
¾ cup cooked white rice
½ cup chopped scallions
¼ cup Creole Cream Cheese (recipe follows)
¼ cup grated white cheddar cheese
FOR THE CRUST
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
¼ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
About ½ cup ice water
2 quarts peanut oil, for frying the pies
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Make the filling: Drain the crawfish tails in a colander over a bowl, setting aside the liquid.
Place the onion, red and green bell peppers, celery, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor and puree them. Set the pureed vegetables aside.
Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over high heat. Let it brown a little, then add the ¼ cup of all-purpose flour and whisk constantly until the flour is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pureed vegetables to the skillet, stir to mix, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the Creole seasoning, salt, black and white peppers, thyme, and the reserved crawfish liquid and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Add the crawfish stock and let boil for 2 minutes.
Add the cream and let the mixture return to a boil while whisking it for 2 minutes, then remove it from the heat, add the rice, scallions, Creole Cream Cheese, and cheddar cheese and stir to combine.
Transfer the filling mixture to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it until cold, about 1 hour. Once the filling is cold, gently stir in the crawfish tails.
Meanwhile, make the crust: Mix both flours and the salt on a large, clean work surface. Cut the 8 tablespoons of butter into pats and pinch them into the flour mixture. Make a well in the flour mixture and add ¼ cup of the ice water. Continue to pinch the dough, adding more ice water just until the dough holds together. Once you have a good firm dough, knead it by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes. If you did it right, your forearms should hurt. Form the dough into a ball, and allow it (and yourself) to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Cut the ball of dough in half, wrap in plastic, and place that half in the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll out the second half of dough without adding any flour. Then sprinkle the dough lightly with flour, flip it over, and roll it again until it is about 1/8 inch thick. When you think you’re done, roll it out and flip it again, dusting it with more flour. Using a cereal bowl about 4 inches in diameter, with a defined rim, trace circles on the dough with a knife and cut them out. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
Heat the peanut oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer attached to the side of the pot registers 360°F.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of one half of a circle of dough. Using a pastry brush, paint the edge of the dough with the egg mixture. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling to make a half-moon shape. Crimp the edge of the dough with a fork to seal it. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the pot, carefully add the pies to the hot oil and cook them until puffed and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pies to paper towels to drain.
SW 5th Avenue and Stark Street, Portland, Oregon
THE SWAMP SHACK
TREY CORKERN knows how to broadcast Louisiana credibility. When I visited his Spanish moss–draped trailer, he displayed, alongside the register, a calendar from the Saturn Bar, the avant-funk New Orleans dive. (If you know New Orleans, you know that the Saturn, decorated with those rocket-booster neon light fixtures, may be that city’s most beloved dive bar.)
But some facets of The Swamp Shack only come into focus when you sit on one of the swivel stools at the counter running the length of his trailer. That’s where you’ll learn that Trey was born in Franklinton, Louisiana, that he’s a photographer by education, and that, for a while at least, he worked the line at Galatoire’s, the fabled New Orleans Creole restaurant.