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Crawfish Monica: In the Season of Jazz Fest and Gift Giving

I have always really liked listening to DJs on the radio. The ones who talk much more than they play music and have obnoxious laughs that bubble through the speakers and who are generally disliked by their listening audiences. I was listening to one such afternoon program on Tuesday. Between songs or, more likely, commercials, the DJs aired clips from Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook was getting an organ-donation option.

In the press conference, Zuckerberg talked about how his girlfriend, a pediatrician, would frequently come home from work sad because she was watching her young patients suffer. But occasionally, she’d come home ecstatic because a child had received an organ transplant. And so Zuckerberg wanted to use Facebook as a way to continue to make his girlfriend happy.

I think this is an amazing move on Facebook’s part – California had 1117 new organ donors sign up via Facebook in the first day! Still, there is something incredibly funny in the idea that this was a billionaire’s thoughtful gift for his girlfriend. No casual surprise of spring flowers for that girl – nope, she gets a dramatic upshot in the ability to save her patients’ lives.

Because it is Jazz Fest time down in New Orleans, Zuckerberg’s kind gesture reminded me of another thoughtful – and more relatable – move. Crawfish Monica is a standard at the music festival. If you want to find the spicy, creamy crawfish laden pasta dish, just look for the food booth with the longest line. Thirty years ago, Pierre Hilzim, the chef of Kajun Kettle Foods, created this gem for Jazz Fest and named in after Monica Hilzim, his wife. And then he trademarked the name and the coveted recipe is kept secret. Now, that is a nice gift.

If anyone feels inspired to create a delicious new dish in my honor, just let me know! My parents gave me four names, so you even have a few options when you are pondering what to call that dish. Until I get that phone call, though, I’ll be enjoying the end of Jazz Fest and eating Crawfish Monica. And then whipping up the knock-off version.

Crawfish Monica
…or a knock-off version of the secret recipe
Serves 4

1 lb. crawfish tails, boiled and peeled**
1 stick butter
1 pint half-and-half
5 garlic cloves
1 bunch green onions
1-2 tbs Creole Seasoning
1 lb. pasta (rotini works well)

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water. Drain and then rinse in cool water. Drain again.

In a stockpot, melt the butter. Add garlic and green onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the crawfish and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half, then add Creole seasoning by large pinches. Stir the pot and taste the sauce before adding more seasoning.

Cook for 5-10 minutes over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add the pasta and toss well. Let it sit for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Serve immediately.

**If you cannot get crawfish in your area, a pound of shrimp, lump crabmeat, or quartered oysters will work equally well.

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