Here’s the second dish in my trilogy of Lake Sevan’s Gifts (the Trout Kutap was my first)! Lyulya kebabs are originally an Azerbaijani dish consisting of a mixture of ground lamb cooked on a skewer. They’re so popular that they spread far beyond the borders of Azerbaijan, and variations are being offered, with other main ingredients such as potato or crawfish.
I actually had crawfish lyulya kebabs at a restaurant on Lake Sevan, but the mixture used way too much egg and barely tasted of crawfish. By contrast, my version is almost 100% critters, and their flavor is highlighted by the shallots and piment d’espelette. Make sure you buy crawfish tails that don’t come from China, as they hardly have any taste — not to mention that I don’t see the point of getting from the other end of the world something that lives in almost any river near you! You don’t have to spend your weekend turning rocks in a nearby stream, either — you’ll find plenty of online stores shipping the goods straight from Louisiana. Or if you live in New York, you can go to The Lobster Place.
This recipe calls for transglutaminase to bind the mixture, but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you substitute an equal amount of flour, the worst that can happen is that your kebabs will break more easily during cooking. Speaking of cooking: a real lyulya kebab should be grilled on a mangal. As it’s been raining every other day since April around here, I took the liberty of using a cast-iron grill instead.
Crawfish lyulya kebabs
Yields 4 servings
3/4 oz shallot, small dice
1 oz butter
1/2 oz bread, crust removed, small dice
8 oz crawfish tails
1 tsp transglutaminase
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp piment d’espelette
2 tsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the shallots in half of the butter until soft, and reserve. Sauté the bread in the other half of the butter until golden brown, and reserve, as well.
- Coarsely chop the crawfish. Process half of the chopped crawfish with the transglutaminase and olive oil in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the rest of the chopped crawfish. Add the shallots and bread, and season with salt, pepper, piment d’espelette and parsley. Shape the mixture into 4 sausages, about 5 1/2″ x 1 1/4″ x 3/4″ (approximately, this is not a math test!). Roll in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- Heat a cast-iron grill over medium-high heat. Brush with a little bit of olive oil, and cook the unwrapped kebabs on both sides until you get a nice cross-hatch pattern. All of the ingredients are already cooked, so you just need to get them hot. Serve immediately.