Monday, September 20, 2010

Louisiana Crawfish Boil (Page 342)

RECIPE #1216

  • Date: Friday, September 10, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Helen, Charles, Clara, Corbett, Mary, Allison, Ron, Esther, Bob, Ben S, and Marcie.
  • Recipe Rating: A

My special gentleman loves crawfish and has been suggesting that we make the crawfish boil from The Book for quite some time. Live crawfish are difficult to come by in most places, but certainly there was no way we were going to find them in Michigan when they were out of season to begin with. So, we needed to have them shipped to us live from another part of the country. We ordered them from Louisiana, but they actually arrived from Oregon. The minimum quantity we could have shipped was 20 pounds, so we approximately tripled the recipe in The Book and threw a party! I have mail-ordered live seafood before (e.g. steamers), but when the 20 pound box of crawfish arrived I was a little startled by how alive they were. They were moving around in the box quite a lot, causing the box to shift back and forth a bit on the counter. Our kitties were mesmerized. I was disturbed. Eventually I built up the courage to take them out of the box and clean them in the sink. We had about 250 crawfish, and only 4 of them died in transit. Pretty impressive! I got them into the sink:

Then I gave them a good rinse. My gloves were not so protective -- I got pinched many times. I think I swore more times while rinsing those crawfish than I usually do in a month!

While I was in the process of purging the crawfish, I was also preparing the boiling liquid. I combined water, seafood-boil spices, salt, cayenne (15 tablespoons of cayenne! Yes, 15 tablespoons!), some onions, lemons, and whole heads of garlic in a HUGE canning pot and I brought it all to a boil over two burners. When it was boiling I added some red potatoes and boiled them until they were cooked through. I also boiled ears of corn. By that point all of our guests had arrived and were wandering in and out of the kitchen to see the spectacle that was 250 live crawfish in the sink! The unfortunate thing was that with so much cayenne boiling away on the stove, there was cayenne in the air. It was impossible not to cough. It quickly permeated the whole first floor of the house, and everyone was coughing and coughing. I felt bad for everyone, but particularly for little Clara and Allison, who are both about a year and a half old. Their little coughs were so pathetic!

After I removed the potatoes and the corn from the boiling liquid, I added the 20 pounds of crawfish:

I boiled them for a few minutes, then let them stand in the liquid for a while to absorb the seasoning. We covered a table on the porch with newspaper (in true Louisiana crawfish boil style) and dumped the potatoes, corn, and crawfish on the table. We served the boil with some saltines and horseradish cocktail sauce (which I will post about next). It was a lot of food:

We crowded all 13 of us around the table and everyone just dug in with their hands, discarding shells in piles on the table or into pots and trash cans. About 20 minutes into the meal I thought there was no way we would even come close to finishing all those crawfish. But two hours later, as the last few people got up from the table and came inside for dessert, the only thing from the boil left uneaten was one potato (which we saved and ate the next day). The only other things on the table were piles of corn cobs and shells:

I was amazed that everything got eaten! So how was it? I think my special gentleman summarized it best. He declared this meal in the top 20 from The Book for quality of food and the top 10 for fun. It was really fun! We had a great crowd of people eating with us and it was just a wonderful experience. I am not a huge seafood person, but I liked the crawfish more than I thought I would. And I loved the potatoes and corn, which both picked up great seasoning from the boiling liquid. It was very liberating to hold a potato in my hand and take bites from it like an apple. It was that kind of meal! I don't know much about crawfish boils, but we had several former New Orleans residents at the table and they gave this boil their seal of approval. In retrospect I wish I had taken a picture of everyone around the table eating. I always get so wrapped up in eating the food that I forget to take a picture of the people who were there. It was a lovely evening, and what made it great was not just the food but the friends we had there to share it with us! The A grade I gave this recipe was not just about the taste of the food, but also about the experience of preparing and eating the meal. My special gentleman is already talking about having a crawfish boil again next year!

(Thanks to Helen for some of the pictures!)

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kingshearte said...

While a large part of me is horrified at the mere thought of having that many sea insects alive in my house, another part of me does find the notion of a meal that you can have a bunch of your favourite people over, dump the food on the table, and dig in extremely appealing.

I'm glad you guys had a great time, and perhaps you have indeed started what will become a cherished tradition.

Teena said...

I was a little horrified myself, but it was worth it!

MikeHill said...

Crawfish aren't insects! * horrified look * While they are arthropods, they aren't insects any more than a crab is!

As a true Louisianan (never thought I'd say that), I'll make a suggestions you might find helpful in the future: boil them outside. You never do the boiling part inside, for exactly the reasons you found! Plus it makes it feel more rustic. Yay!

Teena said...

Yeah, outside would have been the way to go. Unfortunately, not being true Louisianans, we didn't have the outdoor set-up to boil 20 pounds of crawfish. If this does become a family tradition we will have to invest in some outdoor burners!