I first crossed paths with the late Ron Zappe in the 1980s when he was a struggling local business owner trying to gain entry into the competitive snack foods market. He was the epitome of the Cajun entrepreneur–full of spicy ideas and a taste for adventure. He succeeded in turning that small chip-making outfit in Gonzales, Louisiana into Zapp’s Potato Chips, a national brand.
As the story goes, his wife came home from the grocery store with a bag of kettle-fried chips and sparked the idea for a new career. True to his Louisiana roots, it was the spicy Cajun recipe that created a differentiation for his products and it was a creative branding approach that separated him from the national competition. Crawtator potato chips were born and were an instant success.
With a couple of bags of chips in my pantry, I set out to create a dish that would celebrate the fun and joie de vivre of Ron Zappe. My goal was to combine ingredients that could be either a main dish or a casserole suitable for any occasion. After much trial and error and according to reviews from my friends, I have a winner – Cajun Crawtator Casserole.
This recipe is inspired by the flavor of those chips that mimic the spiciness of a Cajun crawfish boil. With the contrast of the crunch of Crawtators and the creamy richness of the potato and crawfish, this Cajun Crawtator Casserole has a depth of flavor and texture that elevates it to the high heavens.
Ron Zappe is smiling down on us.
- 3 (5.5-ounce) bags Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtator potato chips
- 10 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- Water, for boiling
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 pounds Louisiana crawfish tails
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- Dash of hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Non-stick spray
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Take the bags of Crawtator potato chips in your hands and squeeze together until the contents are crumbled and the pieces broken down. Open the bags and pour into a container and reserve.
- In a medium pot over high heat, add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender. Remove and drain.
- In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Cook until the onions turn translucent and add the parsley, garlic, and rosemary. Add the wine and continue cooking until the alcohol evaporates, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the heavy cream and continue cooking until reduced by half.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the yogurt, cream cheese, Jack cheese, and eggs. Stir together and combine. Add the potatoes and with a spoon break up the potatoes into smaller chunks.
- Combine the two mixtures and stir to incorporate. Add the crawfish tails and stir to combine. Season with Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.
- (Note: You have options — this dish can be baked in a large oven-proof casserole dish or in individual ramekins.)
- Pour the mixture into a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Smooth out and sprinkle with green onion tops and top with the crumbled Crawtator potato chips.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve with crusty French bread.
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