Boiled CrawfishFor most folks outside of Louisiana eating crawfish consists of purchasing a package of frozen crawfish meat (which is most likely from China) and cooking it like shrimp. There is no way to understand the joy of this unique food under such horrible conditions.
Like any shellfish, you have to boil them live and that is a prospect simply not possible beyond the borders of Louisiana. Until recently, that is. The popularity of Louisiana cuisine and the efficiency of mail service has changed this.
You can order live crawfish online and have them sent same-day delivery. My family uses Fruge’s Cajun Crawfish who utilize FedEx to get the crawfish on the doorstep as quickly as possible. Figure about 5 pounds for each person eating when you order although folks in my family are known to put away quite a bit more than that.
Today crawfish are harvested in out-of-season rice patties across South Louisiana. They are very seasonal so don’t expect to get any unless it is well into the November to June harvesting period.
But, for those folks bold enough to take the plunge there is the not inconsiderable obstacle of simply never having seen this done before. Boiling crawfish is not hard but it can be a bit intimidating for the uninitiated. So, with that in mind, I offer my interactive guide to the finer points of crawfish boiling.
When you get your crawfish, immediately take an old ice chest you don’t mind smelling a bit funky and put the bag of crawfish in it with the ice. Then fill it with water. You can let the crawfish sit in this for overnight if necessary.
An hour or two before you plan to boil you need to start preparing things. Crawfish need to be “purged” prior to boiling. This consists of putting them in salt water so they expunge any wastes in their system. It’s kind of a mass enema for the little buggers.
Just take the crawfish bag out of the ice chest then re-fill it with water and maybe a cup of salt. Put the crawfish back in and let them sit for half an hour or so.
You can use the time to set up your burners. Make sure the burner is in a level and open area. Hook the propane tank securely. It’s not a bad idea to have a little table or work surface nearby. The biggest hazard is curious bystanders so put yourself in a spot that limits passers-by. Make sure to check to see how deep the basket fits into the boiling pot so you know how much water needs to be used.
Shipping crawfish, no matter how many precautions are taken, takes its toll on the tiny crustaceans. As much as a third of them will perish before hitting the boiling water (it’s usually good to order extra for this reason). For sanitary reasons alone you have to remove the dead crawfish before you cook (they also don’t taste very good).
Take the crawfish out of the ice chest and pour off the dirty water. Re-fill the chest with water and salt. Then go through the bag of crawfish putting the live ones in the water and the dead ones aside for disposal. This is an ideal time to freak out children, pets and spouses with the frantic writhing of these doomed little creatures.
When it begins to boil throw in the onion, garlic, potatoes and corn. These take substantially longer to cook than the crawfish so they have to start first and finish after.
Then fill the basket two thirds of the way full with crawfish. When the water returns to a boil drop them in slowly. This is the best point of the proceedings to scald yourself so take proper precautions.
Turn the flame up to help the water return quickly to boil and let the crawfish cook for five minutes. You will be able to tell when they are done because they will start to float. Turn the flame off completely and let the crawfish sit in the boiling water for another 3-5 minutes to finish cooking and absorb the boil mix.
The traditional way to serve crawfish is to completely cover the top of a picnic table with newspaper and simply pour the cooked crustaceans into the middle. Each person then has a cardboard serving tray (the bottom of a case of beer works perfectly), which they put a heaping helping of crawfish on and dig in. You throw the shells into a second pile in the middle of the table.
Eating crawfish is simple. Just twist off the little tail. Tear away a few of the tail rings so you can grab the meat and pull it out completely. Then take the head and dig out the remainder of meat and the yellowy fat with your finger. Eat both with gusto, take a drink of your beer and move on to the next one.
|comment posted by: Austin on june 18, 2007 @ 1:00 pm|
Hi - I found your website while looking for a website for headcheese. (Thanks for that, BTW).
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