Isaac insists on Louisiana crawfish for this dish—they’re just better. And since the dressing is creamy and doesn’t depend on firm meat, this is the perfect opportunity to use frozen crawfish tails.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add onions, bell pepper, and celery, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, they should be lightly browned—since we aren’t braising this dish, you want it more than just translucent; you want it thoroughly softened and beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and cook another minute.
Stir in crawfish, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Add stock. While still over medium heat, slowly bring mixture to a low simmer, then remove from heat. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and stir until it’s fully melted. Once butter has melted, gently fold in crumbled cornbread until it’s well incorporated. Scoop mixture into a 9x13-inch casserole dish and spread out evenly. Bake until edges are browned, about 10 minutes.
Makes 10 cups
Peel and devein boiled crawfish, separating and reserving the head, shells, and tail meat. Reserve tail meat for another recipe.
To a small saucepan over high heat, add brandy and carefully ignite with a long-handled lighter. Allow flame to burn out on its own and reduce brandy to ½ cup.
In a 3-gallon pot, combine reduced brandy, 5 quarts water, crawfish heads and shells (about a gallon’s worth), onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaves. Using a mallet, potato masher, or stiff whisk, crush crawfish shells in pot. (Don’t be shy, it gets the flavor out of the heads.) Bring liquid to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to medium and keep at a low boil, uncovered, for 3 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer to remove shells, but don’t skim. The fat and protein on top give this stock its super-concentrated crawfish flavor.