first crawfish boil of the season
Had my first crawfish boil of the season. I live in Southeast Texas, so the ones we get are from Louisiana. The "word" was that they were going to be small this year. They were medium sized and totally excellent! Boiled some shrimp afterwards in the same boil water. Me and the family had a superb iodine rush :)
It's not very hard. Have you steamed crabs or boiled lobsters? Same general concept. You want live crawfish; rinse with a garden hose in a washtub (or in your sink, if you're preparing a small quantity).
Bring a large pot (a pasta pot with removable strainer, if possible) of water to the boil, seasoned with three or four cut-up lemons, three or four onions cut in half, two or three heads (yes whole heads) of garlic, cut crosswise, and a bag of Zatarain's crab boil seasoning. (You can use other brands, but I like the dry mix for boiled crawfish better than the liquid crab boil seasoning.) You will also need salt, and opinions vary greatly on salt quantities....I'd go with a 1/4 to 1/3 cup for a small quantity like 5 lbs. When the mixture is at a rolling boil, carefully add the crawfish. Boil for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of the crawfish--fish one out and test it after 9 minutes to avoid overcooking.
When cooking small quantities, I generally boil the crawfish first, then use the same water to boil small red boiling potatoes, then fresh ears of corn (shucked). Other boiled sides include artichokes, mushrooms, smoked sausages...people throw all sorts of odd things into the pot under the influence of beer & cayenne pepper.
For Southerngal and Davwud:
So the recipe I use is below. I boil mine outside, but if you have a vent system I see know reason why you couldn't do them on the stove.
Now I do a few changes to this recipe.
1. In the first instructional paragraph- this is under-kill. Washing them is not enough. (I only buy 5 lbs. as we are a small family.) I take an ice cooler and fill it a third up with cool water and add the live crawfish. To the water I add 1/3 of a 1 lb. box of salt- stir it up and let them set for 3ish minutes. The water will darken as they purge themselves. Then I rinse them and do this process 2 more times. I like mine well purged.
2. Since I do 5 lbs. rather than 40, I find 2 gallons of cooking water sufficient, so I half the spices.
3. When they are done I remove them from the cooking water to a cooler straight away. I then add enough of the boiling water to just cover the bottom of the cooler. I liberally dust the crawfish, taters, and corn in the cooler with a Cajun spice- I use Tony's. Then shut the lid on cooler quickley to preserve the heat. I let them steam in the cooler for 5-10 minutes.
4. Then I serve them on a newspaper lined picnic table with beer, cocktail sauce spiked with Louisiana hot sauce, and more Tony's. Best served with some Cajun music or some Dr. John doing some New Orleans Funk.
4 gals Water
1 (26-ounce) box of Salt
1 1/2 cups Louisiana Style Hot Sauce
6 (3-ounce) boxes Zatarain's Dry Crawfish, Crab & Shrimp Boil
1 (4-ounce) bottle Zatarain's Liquid Crab & Shrimp Boil
1 (8-ounce) container Zatarain's Creole Seasoning
1/2 cup Zatarain's Cayenne Pepper
1/2 cup Vinegar
3 Lemons, cut in half
3 Large onions
4 heads garlic, unpeeled
2 1/2 lbs. small new potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
8-10 Ears corn
40 lbs. (1 sack) live crawfish
Pour live crawfish into a large tub and cover with water; drain and repeat 3 to 4 times until crawfish are clean. Drain off water. Remove and discard any dead crawfish and debris.
In a very large (about 15-gallon) pot, combine the 4 gallons water, salt, hot sauce, Zatarain’s seasonings and cayenne pepper, garlic, lemons, onions, and vinegar.
Bring to a boil over high heat and boil 5 minutes; add potatoes and cook 5 minutes.
Stir in crawfish and cover pot; return to boiling and add corn.
Cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on size of crawfish. Turn off heat and let stand 3 minutes; test for doneness.
Drain and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
While I do believe in a rinse before boiling, the whole saltwater-purge thing doesn't do anything and it can actually kill some of the crawfish (which do not live in saltwater). A saltwater soak doesn't cause them to regurgitate or evacuate, contrary to folk belief. It just washes off the outsides, and fresh or salty water work equally well. LSU Ag Center's aquaculture publications has a wealth of scientific info on crawfish culture, if anybody's hard-core interested: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_l... Cool stuff like crawfish burrow ecology, how to make & bait crawfish traps, etc.
For a true purge, you have to hold crawfish in a high-humidity environment (wet sacks or tanks, for example) for at least 24 hours without food. This is also a dicey proposition, because some of the crawfish will die during the holding period. Furthermore, if you're buying live crawfish from a retail vendor, the crawfish has already been held in a moist, food-free environment for quite a few hours, depending on the distance from point of harvest.