This stock is what you need for Frank Brigtsen's superb Backyard Crawfish Boil Soup, and you can use it for any good seafood or shellfish based stock or sauce needs. This is what you do with all the shells left over after a crawfish boil, and you'll have tons of 'em. Just make sure of one thing -- rins them VERY thoroughly, particularly if you use a sprinkle-on type of crawfish boil seasoning. You want the stock to taste like crawfish, not like crawfish boil seasoning. If your crawfish stock tastes too strongly of the boil seasoning, dilute it with some water, or preferably shrimp stock or fish stock, until the flavor isn't overpowering.

After rinsing as much of the crawfish boil seasoning off of the shells as you can, heat them with a littl oil in a large stockpot, stirring so that they all heat up and release some flavor.

Combine all the rest of the ingredients with the crawfish shells and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat and simmer for about 1/2 hour, skimming if necessary. Strain through a china cap or sieve layered with cheesecloth, and discard the remainder. Cool the stock in an ice-water bath (or use my favorite new trick -- fill ziploc bags with water, seal, freeze and use them to cool stock without diluting it), transfer to a storage container and refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim off any fat that has risen to the top. Use within one day and freeze any leftovers for three to six months.

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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)