We love barbecues. But for your next outdoor summer bash, you might try going Cajun and throw a crawfish boil like they do down in Louisiana. Lots of family and friends. Platters piled high with bright red “mudbugs”, potatoes, corn and spicy sausage. And plenty of cold beer to cool the fire. I’m pretty sure this is what it’s like in Heaven every night.
You don’t need to be a Louisiana native to throw a boil of your own. Even if you don’t know a bayou from a beignet, everything you need can be ordered online and shipped overnight.
Here’s the savoir-faire for getting your own boil rolling. Just invite over some bons amis and laissez les bon temps roulet!
What You’ll Need:
The most important part of a crawfish boil is the crawfish. And I only recommend getting them shipped live from Louisiana. Two excellent places to order them from are Crawdads.net and CajunGrocer.com. Both will ship overnight and guarantee your crawfish will arrive alive. (If you’re not the boil-them-alive type guy, Crawdads.net can ship them pre-boiled and chilled.)
Figure on anywhere from 3-5 pounds of crawfish per person. Since you mostly only eat the tails, you need a bunch to make a dent. Get some andouille sausage, potatoes and corn to boil along with the crawfish, to add flavor and round out the meal.
For spice, you can buy readymade boil mix, or make your own. Crawdads.net has a great recipe here.
Before you can cook the crawfish, they need to be purged. To do this, dump them out of the bag they were shipped in, into an ice chest. With the drain hole open, rinse the crawfish off with a hose. Plug the drain hole and fill the chest with enough water to cover the crawfish. (The guys over at CajunGrocer like to add in a 16oz can of table salt over them while they purge.) Let ‘em soak for 8-10 minutes. Drain the ice chest, rinse off the crawfish and repeat.
You’ll need a pot large enough to hold a good sized batch of crawfish, a cover for the pot, a metal basket with holes for draining, and a burner to get things cooking.
Fill the pot with water and spice mix and bring it to a boil. If you’re also cooking corn, sausage and potatoes, get them boiling for about 20 minutes. Remove them and bring the water back to a boil. Add the crawfish and boil about 5 minutes, then turn the fire off and let them soak in the spice for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the water and drain. Alternating batches of sausage and vegetables with batches of crawfish adds incredible flavor to both. At a crawfish boil I went to in Shreveport last year, they would drain the crawfish out of the water, put them in an ice chest, sprinkle on more spice mix, close the chest lid and shake for added spice before serving.
You can pile the crawfish, sausage and veggies onto a large platter and let everyone dig in, family style. If you want to serve them in traditional Cajun style, cover a long table with newspaper and pour the drained crawfish and veggies right down the middle.
Peeling crawfish is where most people run into trouble. But once you get it down, you’ll be eating them like popcorn. Everyone has their own technique, but here’s the general idea:
1 – Pick a crawfish with a good sized tail. That’s where all the meat is.
2 – Gently twist the head and tail in opposite directions to loosen the tail.
3 – Pull the tail away from the body.
4 – If you want, you can remove 2 or 3 segments of shell from the end of the tail to give you a better grip on the meat.
5 – Pinch the bottom end of the tail, just above the fans, while carefully pulling the meat out of the shell. It should pop out in one piece.
6 – Enjoy as it is, or dip it into hot sauce or a seafood dip. (A recipe from CajunGrocer.com is here.)
Hardcore crawfish lovers will suck the spicy juices out of the head. True die-hard fans will also dip their finger into the body cavity and scoop out the fat. (I’m sticking to the tails.)
If Anything is Left Over:
After everyone has eaten like they’re going to the electric chair, there may still be some crawfish left over. Don’t toss them. They’re great for Cajun and creole dishes like etouffee, jambalaya and stews. (You may want to order extra, just to make these dishes.)