Hubby and I just returned from our Memorial Day get-away in the small town in Louisiana where he grew up. Not everyone in his family managed to come back to town for the weekend, but we did get to hang out with his parents, four of his five siblings, and his siblings’ husbands/ wives/ kids, so that was a blast.
Life in Louisiana pretty much revolves around food. Of course, it was required (by hubby) that we hit all the traditional home-town eats, which include a run-down old Mexican place with dubious-looking floors and spectacular nachos, a little restaurant where no one looks at a menu but simply orders “The Special,” and a pizza place that’s got a little something for everyone.
I was there to relax, so I didn’t go too crazy with the camera. But I suppose I should have taken a few pictures to show my northern family and friends what a real BBQ consists of. Apparently grilling is not the same thing as barbequing. My family’s idea of a BBQ is tossing some burgers on the grill (and I’m not knocking that!). Hubby’s family takes BBQ pretty seriously, though, spending hours upon hours smoking things to perfection. His brother had prepared 35 pounds of brisket and 12 pounds of pork in advance, spending all day in the backyard BBQ pit. Well, he had prepared some ribs, too, but the cooking time on those was miscalculated so they got charred (from what I heard). Nevertheless, yesterday we feasted on smoked brisket, pork, coleslaw, and rice dressing. A good Southern meal.
But the star of the weekend’s menu was the crawfish. In the past, hubby’s dad has picked up three sacks of crawfish for this big family gathering. This year, we expected a few more people, so he decided to get four instead. Somehow, he ended up with five sacks of live, wriggling crawfish. Here are three of them.
The first thing to do is to purge them, or basically rinse them until all the dirt is all washed away and they drain clear water. They’re bottom feeders so this can be a process.
Let them sit for a bit, then drain them and do it all again. Here they are soaking in clean (ish) water.
Sometimes they escape when you try to drain them. Then you have the fun task of picking these buggers out of the grass (or you could be like me and take pictures while your husband does the dirty work).
I do like the division of labor along gender lines, though. The boys take care of the hard stuff (boiling the crawfish), while us ladies get to take care of setting the table. This consists of laying down a plastic table cloth on a picnic table, covering it with newspapers to absorb liquid, and attacking the whole thing with masking tape to keep it from blowing everywhere. The black trays that you see in the picture here are for the shells and heads and claws and pretty much every part of the crawfish except for the meat of the tail.
This is the cooking set-up. The crawfish are boiled in batches in that basket you see on the ground. The basket is dipped in that big pot next to it, which is heated by a burner with a propane tank.
They’re boiled with a mixture of Cajun spices (the brand mix is “crab boil”), cayenne pepper, salt, butter, and either lemon juice or vinegar. After a little while, they look like this.
Give them a moment to drain and cool, then dump them on the picnic table. This is batch #1 out of… maybe 6? 8? 10? Who knows, you loose track after 2 or 3. But it was a lot.
Batch #1 wasn’t spicy enough, so after the kids were given their chance to dig in (I think one kid may have taken 1 crawfish, the rest avoided the whole operation), hubby’s sister took that giant container of crab boil (it comes in both powder and liquid forms) and applied it generously over top of the pile. Mmmm that ratcheted up the flavor and spice a bit.
To eat them, you grab the tail in one hand and the head in the other, and twist off the head. Toss that aside, then peel off the top ring of the shell on the tail. If you’re good at this, you should be able to pinch the tail meat with your fingers or mouth and pull the whole thing out. If you’re me, though, you’ll just tear it to shreds and spend the next few minutes trying to dismantle the rest of the shell because you suck at getting the meat out. It’s worth the effort, though.
Each batch got spicier and spicier. I’ve got to be honest, fellow Buffalonians, you’ve got nothing on these crazy Cajuns. These were so spicy that your fingers began to hurt after a while. I learned from last year to be VERY careful about wiping my running nose on a paper towel that I’d already wiped my hands on, so I used too many paper towels and still had to make an emergency trip or two to the bathroom to wash off my burning upper lip. Thank God I didn’t have any paper cuts.
Oh, but it was so worth it. So delicious.
That big pot on the table contains potatoes, mushrooms, and corn on the cob. The veggies were boiled in the same water as the crawfish and were pretty delicious, but I didn’t get pictures because I was avoiding touching anything with my burning fingers
It’s kind of embarrassing that out of ~120 lbs of live crawfish, we only had ~20 lbs left (about 2-3 lbs of meat). Someone will get some pretty delicious leftovers to make etouffee with this week.
For me, though, it’s back to the diet. *sigh*