Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boiling mad! We are crazy for crawfish around these parts

Thursday April 28, 2011
Frisco City, Alabama

Boiling a sack of crawfish isn’t really that difficult.
But like so many other things that are done on such a grand scale, the thought of it can be a bit daunting. Like frying a turkey, if you’ve never done it before, it can be a tad off-putting. Don’t fret. It’s not that hard and I’m here to help. Just follow these painfully simple instructions and everything will be find. The main ingredient — other than a sack of crawfish — comes in the form of a capital investment. Some might argue that dropping a C-note on a sack of anything is a capital investment, but never mind that. Before you start, you will need two primary things: A pot large enough to accommodate 40 pounds of mudbugs and a propane burner powerful enough to bring said crawfish and water to a good boil. First, the pot. They sell them in all sizes, but for my money a good, sturdy 80-quart pot with lid and basket is a good place to start. You can get by with a 60-quart, and a 100-quart is better, but an 80-quart rig is adequate for most boiling tasks. An 80-quart pot will set you back about a hundred bucks. The larger pots cost exponentially more.
Better still, if you have a friend or neighbor who has already purchased the necessary equipment, you are so much better off. You can spend that money on other stuff, like crawfish.
As for the burner, I prefer the single-jet jobs that put out a lot of heat. Don’t rely on the propane cooker that comes attached to your gas grill; it’s not hot enough, and it won’t support the weight of a pot of crawfish.
Speaking of crawfish, they are still a bit expensive right now. The going rate, as of late last week, was about $2.25 per pound. That is bound to fall in the weeks to come.
OK, here is the quick, down-and-dirty boiling method that I’ve perfected over years of practice. And I like crawfish, so we practice a lot.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, figuring about 1 gallon of water for every 2 pounds of crawfish. But don’t use too much water or it will overflow. A little more than a half way is a good starting place.
Season the water with a bag of dry seasoning. I’ve become quite the fan of Zatarain’s Pro Boil, because it tastes good and one jar is enough for a very large sack of crawfish. No measuring, no fuss.
But most of these bags are packaged so that one of them will season a 40-pound sack. Remember to make the water good and spicy.
When the water comes to a good rolling boil, lower the basket with crawfish into the water. When the water returns to a boil, cook 5-7 minutes with the lid off.
Turn off the heat and let the crawfish soak in the water for a spell. This is the most important step in the boiling process, because this is when they soak up the spices from the cooking water.
Soak them with the lid off for up to 30 minutes, the longer the better. When the majority of them sink to the bottom of the pot, or you can’t stand it any longer, they are ready to be eaten.
Dump them out onto a table or into an ice chest and get out of the way.
If you find they aren’t spicy enough, give the cooked crawfish a dusting with the dry seasoning. Adjust the seasonings in the water and start again.
After you finish eating, peel and store crawfish tails in resealable plastic bags. They can be frozen for up to six months, and used for just about any recipe. Just remember, that they are already seasoned; adjust your recipe accordingly.
But, man does not live on crawfish alone. There are a number of ancillary items that get boiled along with the crawfish and add to the excitement. Sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob, mushrooms, whole cloves of garlic and carrots are standard sides.
But other more exotic things also provide another level of greatness to your party. Try artichokes, cabbage, hot dogs and even Brussels sprouts for a change of pace.
The only other thing to consider is figuring out how much crawfish to buy. The easy rule of thumb is to figure on 5-7 pounds per person. Unless you’re in LOUISIANA, and then buy 10 pounds per person.

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