Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to throw a Crawfish Boil

Let's face it ... Crawfish are ugly.  So why do we love these tiny, weird sea monsters in Louisiana?

Today's post is also featured on National Geographic News Watch —where I am a frequent blogger.
This piece is a variation of a previous, March 2012 Old Country post.   

Why do we eat these weird looking things?

Photo by Julie Becnel

It isn't spring in Louisiana without an inaugural crawfish boil. Crawfish (not crayfish) season spans from March to June. Louisiana spring festivities are marked with Crawfish.  I can't imagine Easter and May graduation parties without it. Farming, however, has extended crawfish season year-round — but locals usually abide by spring boil traditions. 

The worship is almost ritualistic, crossing all cultural and age groups in Louisiana. Many populations claim they were the first for crawfish, and possibly they all were.  Crawfish are an easy, abundant food source in Louisiana.  The alien looking, mudbugs were once viewed as rural cuisine.

There are a few guesses at what turned boiled crawfish into a widespread spring staple. (Other than the fact they are delicious and cheaper than shrimp.)

I have heard folklore that the Depression caused Louisianans to stop turning up their noses at a food source.  I'm not saying people didn't eat crawfish, I have seen étouffée recipes that go back generations. [For my crawfish étouffée recipe, click here.]  The boiled crawfish Louisianans so revere has only been popular for decades.

Crustacean cuisine continues to evolve, modern chefs serve crawfish pie, crawfish cheesecake and crawfish sushi, to name a few.

How do we boil these weird looking things? 
According to my Dad ... 

- 50 pound sack of crawfish
- 2 bunches of celery chopped
- 2 bags of onions (3 pounds each) — cut up 1 bag, keep the others whole
- 1 cup of Cayenne Pepper
- 6 garlic bunches, halved (cut horizontally through the toes)
- 6 bags of crawfish boil
- box and a half of salt
- 10 pounds of red potatoes (corn too if you want)
- 3-5 pounds of sausage, optional

Wash the crawfish in an outside tub with hose. Flip them over to make sure all of the bait and junk has been cleaned off.  My Dad warned, "They're going to bite you.” For the best tasting crawfish, purge them twice. 
Bring water in large crawfish pot to boil.
Throw it all in!
Once it boils again, cook 12-15 minutes
Turn it off and let soak in the hot water for 15 minutes
Dump them out and eat!

Seriously, how do we eat these weird looking things?

Photo by Julie Becnel. 

-       Peeling. The process of peeling a crawfish can be a little overwhelming to boil newbies.  So, I recommend this step-by-step guide provided by Southern Living.
-       Beware. Don't eat crawfish with straight tails. It means they were dead before you boiled them.
-       If you love something … Set one free! As a kid, I would always pick one lucky crawdad to set free in a ditch before my dad could boil him.
-       You remember my good friend Tony? Sprinkle Tony’s Chachere’s creole seasoning on top of the boiled bugs.  Seriously, if you haven’t met Tony yet, you should.
-       Abita Beer. Pair spicy crawfish with cold beer. Ever since Louisiana brewery Abita Beer introduced its seasonal Strawberry Harvest Lager, Abita Strawberry and crawfish have gone together like peas and carrots. (This is my personal favorite.) 

1 comment:

  1. Mmm...quite jealous that's it's crawfish season down there. I can imagine the newspaper lined tables so clearly :)


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