A little bit of Cajun country arrived at our house yesterday when a styrofoam cooler from Louisiana Crawfish Company showed up mid-morning. Twenty pounds of "select" crawfish, with 12 to 15 crawfish per pound, translates into almost 300 very much alive mudbugs. Cost was around $125 which included the crawfish, overnight shipping, spices, instructions, mardi gras beads and bibs.
I have to say that when I opened the cooler I wondered if there were any live crawfish in there at all. Or were they all dead? It was a very pungent smell that came out of the box. But that seemed reasonable when I realized that the crawfish had been netted from a Louisiana pound, silt and algae filled I'm sure, a little over 24 hours earlier.
The occasion was my youngest daughter's graduation from high school. Soon both our nest and our bank account will be empty. Might as well celebrate.
I followed the instructions and rinsed down the bag of crawfish with cool water. The crawfish, in a dormant state from being shipped surrounded by ice packs, were soon very active. The mesh bag seemed to squirm as the crawfish moved about.
I would not be cooking the crawfish for about eight hours so I put them in a larger cooler, the mesh bag resting on top of a layer of ice. The instructions said "Don't open the mesh bag!" which means I had to open it right away to take a peek. After photographing some of the crawfish I closed the bag up again (I thought). Soon there were scratching sounds from inside the cooler as crawfish were escaping the bag and looking for a way out of the box.
I read and reread the instructions for cooking crawfish. Boil for three minutes, soak in the seasoned water for 15 minutes. Then put them in a cooler to steam away along with piles of seasoning. Below you see a batch of crawfish, fresh from the steamer. I had to do four separate batches on the stove top. Next time I'll consider renting one of those gas outdoor cookers.
The crawfish kept me busy a good part of the day - rinsing them down, icing the cooler, purging the bag full of crawfish four times in fresh water - but I enjoyed it all.
Seasoning is the key for crawfish and the company sent plenty. It is basically salt and cayenne pepper with a few other ingredients thrown in. I did not use all of the seasoning - next time I will. Most of the spices are mixed in the boiling water along with a couple of lemon halves, the rest ends up with the boiled crawfish in the cooler.
My daughter is a longtime fan of crawfish, we've eaten them for years at the waterfront Bayou Boogaloo Festival. But we weren't sure how her friends would react. We made sure we had plenty of other food available - corn, grilled kielbasa, pasta salad and bread. I explained to her friends that were not obligated to eat, or even taste, a crawfish. They are, after all, labor intensive and considered to be an "acquired" taste. Eat what you enjoy I told my daughter's friends, relax and have a fun time.
While eating crawfish was option, it was mandatory that they all put on their crawfish bibs for at least a quick photograph. They were at least willing to do that. My daughter Grace is the one in the middle.
Our concerns about the crawfish were a waste of time. Soon everybody was loading up their plates with the bright red, steaming mudbugs. My wife had dug out our old Cajun cd's - Beausoleil, Professor Longhair, Buckwheat Zydeco and the Alligator Stomp - and with the chanky-chank music playing in the background everyone had a great time. It is a very social food, something like artichokes, fondue or crab picking. It is a fair amount of work for a little bit of food, but there is a lot of great conversation that goes along with it all. I see an annual tradition in the making.
If you are looking for a different kind of cookout, something fun and entertaining, give crawfish some consideration. I don't think you can go too far wrong.