Crawfish boils rock. What’s more fun than bugs, beer and buddies?
We have some useful tips on how to throw your first crawfish boil… without everyone knowing you’re a rookie. Follow along.
Lose The Beads
Maybe the only time you’ve been to New Orleans is Mardi Gras, but beads and masks are for Carnival only. Fleur-de-lis, hurricane glasses, Drew Brees life-size cutouts? Cool all year round. “But what if I’m having my boil during Carnival?” Then you paid too much for your crawfish – they are better and cheaper April and May.
Ditch The Seats
Yes, it is socially acceptable to ask your guests to stand around a table covered in newspaper over a giant pile of crawfish. If you put seats around that table, they’ll just be in the way. At a boil chairs are for the weak. Crawfish is serious business. One needs a proper athletic stance (knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart) to eat 5lbs of crawfish without coming up for air. Having a fancier boil? Seat your guests at tables covered in red and white checkered vinyl table covers and have your boiler portion hot crawfish in silver galvanized tubs.
What’s more embarrassing than mispronouncing “Tchoupitoulas”? Running out of crawfish. Hungry crawfish eaters will eat 5lbs of crawfish. Average eaters will eat 3lbs. Do the math and get enough crawfish. Have leftover crawfish? Get someone drunk enough to promise to peel tails for you and you’ll be making etouffe all summer. (PS, its “CHOP-a-TWO-liss”)
You Get What You Pay For
If it seems too good to be true, it is. If you find crawfish that are 50% less expensive than other ones, there is a reason. Most likely, 50% of your crawfish sack will be dead. In the end you’ll pay the same amount per lb, but instead of enjoying your boil you’ll be scrambling trying to find more crawfish.
“They came pre-purged”
Maybe they did. But purging your crawfish is so easy, and the risk of un-purged crawfish isn’t worth it. You’ve got to dump them in a cooler anyway. Just fill with water, add a box of salt, stir and let them sit 15-20 min. Your bugs will “expunge” anything in their system and the salt water cleans them outside too. Dump and repeat. Keep purging/cleaning until the water is clear and you’ll have a much better boil. It can take 45 min for your water to get to a boil – what else do you have to do?
Reheat Is a Cheat
What do French fries and crawfish have in common? Both are delicious served warm and disgusting served reheated. Ever had really bad crawfish in a restaurant? Chances are, they boiled them a while ago and then reheated them before serving. Do it right – boil them, let them sit getting spicy, then serve and consume immediately.
Soak For Spice
Crawfish gets spicy one way, and one way only – sitting for a really long time in the spicy water it was boiled in. Longer it sits, the spicier it gets. 45 minutes will give you great spicy. Sure you can sprinkle cayenne over the crawfish once its served for some extra spice, but post-boil spice can NEVER substitute for properly boiled spicy crawfish. Spicy on the outside/mild on the inside? Be prepared to get a lecture from the LSU grads.
Avoid these pitfalls and your guests will be asking you for your favorite Jazzfest food stands and Marigny restaurant recommendations and Boudin markets around Lafayette. NO ONE will suspect it’s your first boil.
Jon Alexis is the owner of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market and one of the very few fishmongers in Dallas.