What a way to throw a party. Great food, lots of people, going to town and digging into piles of spicy boiled seafood, basically having a blast. This is the crawfish boil (and also the shrimp boil), a Louisiana tradition from New Orleans to Acadiana. If you've never been to one, you're seriously missing out -- go to Louisiana, make friends and get yourself invited to one. If you're willing to give it a go yourself, I'm ready to offer a little help.
BOILED CRAWFISH (Two Ways),
and BOILED SHRIMP
Here are two methods for boiling crawfish, one from New Orleans and one from Acadiana. There's a lot of work and a fair amount of apparatus involved, but it's worth every iota of effort. If you want to start a little more slowly, have a go at how we do boiled shrimp in New Orleans. This can be done in the kitchen with a large pot, since shrimp go a lot further than crawfish and you won't need as much poundage.
These are some of the best and most fun eating experiences you can have.
New Orleans BOILED CRAWFISH
The boiled crawfish recipe was adapted from the old Jazz and Heritage Festival Cookbook, now sadly out of print. This is the way boiled crawfish were prepared by Jazzfest food vendors The Fontana Family, of New Orleans, Louisiana. Comments and instructions from the original recipe are in quotes; all other comments are mine.
"The Fontanas are one of the largest, oldest, and best known Italian families to settle in New Orleans, originally coming from various parts of Italy and settling in Louisiana in the early 1850's. This recipe is the one served at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival boiled crawfish booth. The secret is to serve hot."
"Place all ingredients but the crawfish in the biggest pot that you can get your hands on and bring to a good boil for about 15 minutes. As all comes to a boil, put you face over the steam and take 10 deep breaths, as the boiling cayenne, garlic and lemon mist is good for your soul - being careful to breathe only throughyou nose.
- 30 pounds live crawfish
- 15 ounces cayenne pepper, plus 5 ounces additional Lagniappe
- 2 ounces Tabasco sauce
- 20 cloves garlic, cut cloves in half, do not peel or crush ng
- 3 dozen lemons, sliced in half
- 1 cup olive oil
- 20 bay leaves
- 4 ounces Louisiana hot sauce
- 2 pounds salt
- 10 bags of Zatarain's crab boil, or 10 recipes seafood boil seasoning
"In the meantime, the crawfish should have been soaking in cold fresh water, with a couple of boxes of salt emptied into it as to allow "mud bugs" to be spitting out the mud.
"Put crawfish in boiling water. After water comes to boil again, add 10 ears freshly peeled corn of the cob and 20 small potatoes. Allow 8-10 minutes cooking time. Remove and add a bag or two of ice to cool the crawfish water, and allow the crawfish to soak in the pot for another 10 minutes after turning off the boiling water. Strain and serve the crawfish hot with the garlic cloves, potatoes and corn." (Alternate method: Remove the hot crawfish from the boiling pot and layer in ice chests with sprinkled Tony Chachere's seasoning.)
Some people also like throwing anything from andouille sausages to whole heads of garlic to hot dogs into the boil ... be creative, but not foolish!
For a great seafood dipping sauce, take some ketchup, add horseradish and Tabasco to taste, and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (never use that swill out of the bottle). Mix and dip. That's how we do it in Louisiana.
Eating instructions: Find the biggest crawfish in the pile. Break the tail off of the crawfish, and slurp all the good juice and fat out of the head (optional). Peel off the first section of the crawfish tail shell, pinch the bottom of the tail, and the meat pops right out. Eat. Drink. Repeat. (Some people save time by pinching the tail and removing the tail meat with their teeth and eating it immediately, rather than wasting a few precious seconds getting the meat out with their hands. As one hardcore native crawfish eater once put it, "That way I could eat four crawfish to maybe y'all's one."
New Orleans SHRIMP BOILBoiling shrimp is a little different, in that the shrimp cook in about 3 minutes. I'll do this in a big pot in the kitchen rather than outside, unless I have a ton of people coming over.
Use 1 pack of Zatarain's Crab, Shrimp and Crawfish Boil seasoning per 5 pounds of shrimp. Bring it to a boil with whatever else you're putting in with the seafood -- corn, potatoes, onions, lemons, etc. -- and let that boil for about 10 minutes, until the corn and potatoes are cooked. Add the shrimp and let boil for THREE MINUTES only!. You may then strain and eat, but I like to dump some ice into the pot and let the shrimp soak for a while -- the longer they soak in the seasoned liquid, the spicier they get!
CAJUN CRAWFISH BOILThis recipe is by Maurice Tate, Jr. from Mamou, Louisiana, who says it's "an old and tried recipe for boiling them 'tings!"
Here are instructions and requirements for approximately 100 pounds crawfish to feed approximately 30 people.
The number of people is based on 30 people eating an medium average of 3-1/3 pounds of crawfish (heads on) each. If guests are heavy eaters use 4-1/2 pounds per person and for lite (polite) eaters, 2-1/2 pounds per person to calculate pounds of crawfish required. For heavy eaters increase average vegetables and spices by a factor of 1.36 And for lite reduce by a factor of .75. If crowd is mixed, then medium will probably work OK.
To do this right, it has to be done in several batches, starting with the vegetables.
- 3 x 35 pound bags crawfish
- 25 pounds red potatoes
- 2 pounds garlic
- 25 ea fresh corn cleaned and broken in half.
- 10 pounds salt
- 96 ounces vegetable cooking oil
- 1 8-ounces bottle Rex or Zatarain's Crab & Shrimp Boil liquid concentrate
- 20 ounces red (cayenne) pepper
- 20 ounces black pepper
- 4 ea box (bag) rex (or equal) crab & shrimp boil
- 32 ounces powdered louisiana (or equal) crab & shrimp boil
- 2 bottles 12 ounces catsup
- 2 bottles 12 ounces tabasco sauce
- 1 bottle 12 ounces horseradish
- 2 bottles squeeze butter
- 1 douncesen lemons
- 4 ea large yellow onions
- 8 ea rolls paper towels
- 4 ea old newspaper to spread on tables
- 2 ea tables
- 2 ea 39 gal garbage cans with 39 gal plastic bags.
- 1 ea 60 qt cooking pot w/cooking basket
- 1 ea propane gas burner w/stand
Batch #1: 25 pounds red potatoes & 2 pounds garlic
Using a 60 qt pot fill with water half full, add seasonings and bring to boil. Add potatoes and garlic. Cook ~1 minute per pound of potatoes. Control heat to prevent boil over.
- 2 ounces red (cayenne) pepper
- 2 ounces black pepper
- 16 ounces salt
Remove from water and drain over cooking pot. Place in container (cardboard or styrofoam box) and include 25% with each crawfish batch.
Batch #2: 25 ears fresh corn, broken into 2 pieces
Add seasonings and bring to boil. Add corn and cook between 12 and 15 minutes.
- 2 ounces red (cayenne) pepper
- 2 ounces black pepper
- 8 ounces salt
Remove from water and drain. Place in container and include 12 pieces with each crawfish batch.
Batch #3: 25 pounds crawfish
Bring water to slight boil. Spray down crawfish to clean off any mud residue. Put 25 pounds crawfish (70% of 35 pound bag) in and bring to fast boil. Add water if necessary. Make sure all crawfish are below water line. Control heat to prevent boil over. Cook for about 10 minutes, 15 max!!
- 8 ounces powdered "crab & shrimp boil"
- 4 ounces red (cayenne) pepper
- 4 ounces black pepper
- 24 ounces salt
- 32 ounces liquid "crab & shrimp" boil (with 8 ounces liquid concentrate "Crab & Shrimp Boil" make a one (1) gallon batch )
- 3 ounces Tabasco sauce or your favorite Louisiana hot sauce
- 24 ounces vegetable cooking oil
- 1 bag Rex or Zatarain's "Crab & Shrimp Boil"
- 2 lemons cut in half. squeeze into seasoning pot throwing reins into pot.
- 1 large yellow onion cut in half.
Remove from water and drain. Spread equally on two tables (covered with plastic or newspaper) along with potatoes, garlic and corn pieces.
Provide each table with squeeze butter for corn. Provide each table with 2 bowls of "hot sauce mix" for dipping crawfish tails.
Hot sauce mix consist of 24 ounces catsup, 12 ounces tabasco sauce and 12 ounces horseradish. Mix together and split into 4 bowls.
Stand there and eat crawfish until you're full. Provide 2 rolls paper towels per table and replace as needed.
Provide area with paper towels, liquid soap and lemons cut in half to wash hands. To wash, first squeeze lemon on hands and rub. Rinse with water then add liquid soap, rub hands and rinse.
Batches #4,5, & 6Repeat batch 3. If there is some concern that batches 5 & 6 will be too spicy, reduce red and black pepper amounts for these batches by 1 to 2 ounces.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)