May 11, 2020
ARLINGTON, VA -- Even the most gifted home cooks get in culinary ruts, and when you add circumscribed grocery shopping as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to the mix, it's challenging to come up with something new to make for dinner. So when the opportunity to work with an unusual or hard-to-find ingredient presents itself, you have to jump at the chance.
"Several weeks ago, I was checking in with some of our Louisiana members and they were sharing the problems farmers there were having with moving their crawfish harvest," said Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of communications, marketing, and domestic promotion. "That side of their business has been severely impacted by restaurants shutting down and orders for social distancing putting an end to large group gatherings for traditional crawfish boils. When I made an off-hand comment about how nice it would be to have some of their product in Washington, they offered to ship up as much as I could handle. I notified our Washington USA Rice staff about the crawfish offer and we very quickly put together an order for 40 pounds."
The crawfish came from Richard Farms in Kaplan, Louisiana, and were peeled, cooked, and frozen, and then shipped overnight on dry ice in vacuumed-packed, one-pound bags. They made the trip from Lake Charles to Falls Church, Virginia, in about twelve hours.
"The crawfish I got went into a big pot of étouffée," said Klein. "I followed Randy Thibodeaux's recipe that he shared with Chef Sara Moulton on her TV show, Sara's Weeknight Meals, back in 2016. The segment, still one of the series' most watched episodes, was called "Louisiana Style," and was the first rice-focused show Chef Sara and her crew filmed."
This past weekend, Peter Bachmann, USA Rice vice president of international trade policy, used his share of crawfish to cook his mom a special Mother's Day batch of the same Thibodeaux-inspired crawfish étouffée. In keeping with the Louisiana theme, Bachmann served it over Kennedy Rice Mill's new brand of white long grain, 4 Sisters, but, as a native Marylander, he switched out the Cajun spices for Old Bay seasoning and Old Bay-flavored hot sauce.
The Thibodeaux recipe also popped up last weekend at USA Rice CFO Rebecca Greenway's house where she was cooking for herself, her three kids, and some friends.
Staff Writer Lesley Dixon made étouffée using an old family recipe she got from her uncle in East Texas who makes it for his family at Christmas every year. "I threw in a few extra spices and used half as much crawfish as his recipe calls for, and there was still A LOT of crawfish, so now I'm convinced my uncle is a madman."
"We hosted a social distancing dinner for our neighbors on Friday night and served étouffée made with the Louisiana crawfish over long grain white rice from Windmill Farms in Jonesboro, Arkansas," said Deborah Willenborg, USA Rice director of communications. "Our friends, who are real foodies, raved about the crawfish so much we sent them home with a couple pounds."
"I love when USA Rice staff gets creative about supporting the rice industry," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward. "Everyone seemed to enjoy the results of this effort and it's helping keep us connected with our members at a time when we can't touch base in person."