A good ol’ Louisiana style craw
dadfish* boil means a couple things to me. Above all, it means good times, like that first visit to New Orleans when my friend Tipton and I were driving cross-country and taking in a Cubs game at Wrigley. After a few tall ones in the bleachers we decided a detour due south made perfect sense and 24 hours later we were crossing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway into the Big Easy and soon sitting in front of a mound of cooked crawfish at Franky & Johnny’s—my first taste of the mudbug.
The other thing a boil means to me is disaster narrowly averted. My second visit to New Orleans (also during a cross-country adventure) was with Warpo. We caught Mardi Gras, or it caught us, and when it came time to flee we barely made it to the county line before the wheels fell off. Actually, it was the alternator. We pitched a tent on a dry spot in an otherwise boggy lowland haunted by a locquatious hoot-owl and hoofed it to a nearby barn on the side of the road where a local boil was in progress. Now maybe it was because our transport had failed us, or perhaps it was the mournful droop of weeping willows across fetid ground, or even those Poesque protestations from that blasted owl, but I was pretty convinced this might be our last meal. The bayou looked, sounded, and smelled ready to swallow us up for good. When I get nervous I eat, and on that night I ate like there was no tomorrow. Really, I’ll never put away so many craw
dadsfish* again. The next day, though, a new alternator materialized out of the swamp and we effected our escape to another Bermuda Triangle of sorts, Taos, NM, where the funky fresh Cadillac Seville shit the bed once more, a story for another time.
More recently, when my pal Bill told me that craw
dadsfish* could be fished out of the reservoir near my folks’ place in Colorado, I knew another boil was in the offing. It was our last weekend in the Rockies and I had friends coming up from Denver and Boulder. What better way to wind up a month-long getaway than a crawfish boil?
Cowboy showed up with plenty of Ska beer (“Lip up fatty!”) and Betty brought her acerbic sense of humor, which goes well with lots of ice cold beer and crustaceans in the shell. Me, I set the traps Thursday night after fishing the Yampa River and picked them up the next morning. A feast of cat food and fish pellets did the job: We had poundage of the mudbugs scuttling around in the traps.
Lacking my usual spice cabinet, I picked up some Zatarain’s liquid Shrimp & Crab Boil and the basic ingredients: Andouille sausage, corn, small red potatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and a few lemons. We purged the craw
dadsfish* with several changes of water; some say to use salt in this process (the crawdads don’t like it and spit the salty water out, along with the usual mud and debris) but we found it unnecessary. Really, the only complicated part was the timing. You want to use a big stockpot and bring to a boil and cook for several minutes most of the ingredients and spices minus the craw dadsfish* and corn. Then you add the craw dadsfish* and boil for another 5 minutes or so before killing the heat and allowing everything to steep, covered, for at least 20 minutes to soak up the spices. The longer the spicier.
The problem in my mind was how to time the corn. I’m in the 5 to 7 minute camp. Among the many web sites I reviewed, such as this one, none seemed especially concerned about chewy, overcooked corn. Though the boil starts to get a little blurry in my memory at this point, I seem to remember we took some precautions, which involved keeping the ears of corn separate in the pot, removing them after 5 minutes of boil, and then returning them at the end for a few minutes of steeping. A wire basket helps in this task. In any event, the corn turned out perfect, with spiciness and crunch intact.
Per usual boil etiquette, we drained and poured the contents out on newspaper and feasted in the great outdoors. I don’t have to tell you it was good. Eating craw
dadsfish* is a primal experience along the lines of pig roasts, crab feeds, and other messy, carnivorous hoe-downs en plein air that everyone should try, except maybe vegans and vegetarians. Pinch tail, suck head, drink beer. Repeat. After recovering the next day, we cooked up the leftover craw dadsfish* in quesadillas with green chiles.
* According to my Tweet pal Anne: “Don’t let a Loisiannan hear you say ‘crawDAD’! It’s crawfish, chere! :)”