Eating crayfish, crayfish, and crayfish (the same thing) in a backyard crayfish boil is less about savoring a little seasonal lobster-like gem than about party endurance and running an all-day friendship marathon.
Real and successful crayfish boiling is not something you can do without care and preparation. I’m here to tell you that it’s less intimidating if you have a clear leader. It’s me. You can do it and you will be everyone’s best friend as long as you don’t mess it up.
I first ate a plate of crawfish in Austin, Texas at a Shoal Creek saloon. I ordered 2 pounds thinking it would be a massive holiday. My friend Eric, who invited me, ordered five pounds and ate tails and sucked the brains out of them like it was a common move. I was skeptical because Eric has nothing to live for. He’s the kind of guy who can eat a Hershey bar wrapper and not know it. Cartilage at the end of a chicken bone? He is here for this. His courage was not mine.
I was afraid to suck out brains for fear of tasting some weird lousy goo, but after a few glasses of Lone Pint’s Yellow Rose IPA, I turned into a crayfish brain-sucking zombie. I started to like the taste of brainsucker fish broth, but it got too salty, so I switched to sucking the head of every fifth or so.
And it doesn’t even begin to cover the joys right yard digest the restaurant experience. After my delicious experience in Texas, I went for a real backyard crayfish boil in Louisiana. There is no way back. This is the best.
Expert advice on how best to boil crayfish
I turned into awesome New Orleans cRick G. Nelson, Raw Fish Cooking Expert, Afghan Whigs Musician, and Marigny Studios Producer, Rick J. Nelson, for tips on making the perfect crayfish jam. The one that will pull all the friends that you didn’t know that you had from wood.
The Takeout: What does it take to cook crayfish for, say, four people?
Rick G. Nelson: Invite 20 more of your friends. The four of us are cramped, but you can eat a lot of crayfish. On average, you should measure around 3-5 pounds per person. They usually come in 39-40 lb bags. I think the smallest you can find is a 30lb bag.
TO: So, we invite 10-12 people for a 40-kilogram bag. Do you go to a frozen seafood vendor?
RGN: No. You don’t want your cancers to be dead. Shrimps can be cooked when they are dead. If the cancer is dead before you cook it, bad news. A sure sign to look into this: if the tail is twisted after the boil, it’s okay. If the tail is straight, discard it because it was dead before it was cooked.
TO: What do you look for in a good crayfish bag when you look at bags to buy?
RGN: Where I’m from, if you serve a bag of dead crayfish, you’ll be broke in a day. You may have several dead people; this is normal. Once you boil it all down, it will add seafood to whatever you are creating.
TO: Where do you go for your favorite bags?
RGN: New Orleans is my favorite place Bevy Seafood. You can get it pre-boiled or not. They have all these bags iced over, and you pull up to the car with the ice box and drive away. It’s simple.
TO: So that’s how we get the maggot. And we know we have to plan ahead and gather enough people to come. What’s the next step when you get home with mud bugs? Do you buy a ton, cook it all up and eat it over the next few days?
RGN: You must eat it all on the same day. Half of your bag might be dead if you try to make it in two days. Once you have the crayfish in the fridge, start cooking. The beginner’s mistake is to start promotions and immediately reset them.
TO: Do you use your own seasonings?
RGN: No. The first thing I do is use Zatarain powder is brewed, I use half a can and I use liquid boil concentrate, whole called Pro Boil. Keep in mind that I am using 100 liter pot and I use an 80 liter basket.
Place the basket in the pot. Fill a saucepan with a basket inside halfway with water.
I chopped a dozen onions and placed them outside the basket. Basket for crayfish. Outside, I also put lemons. I also use a whole grapefruit and don’t oversalt it. Liquid boiling and powder boiling contain a lot of salt. Maybe add a cup of salt if you need it.
Another beginner mistake is pouring water too high. Once your crayfish are in the pot, it will overflow if there is too much water in the pot. Just fill it halfway with water. Put the core of the pineapple in there!
I work at the stock for two hours until everyone gets married. Then, once everything is ready, first put the potatoes and garlic (because they are dense) for about 10-20 minutes in front of the crayfish.
TO: How do you get poop out of crayfish?
RGN: The step before you cook them is to clear the poop from the crayfish. So, sort the first batch of crayfish and put them in another box of ice. Fill the chest with water so that the crayfish are covered with water, sprinkle salt on top. Wait a bit. This causes them to poop everything out of their system. Empty it and rinse with fresh water. The chest will change from brown to transparent. Because of salt, crayfish poop, as in the process of devination. They are all shit.
TO: So, you brew the broth, let it stand for 2 hours, and then, right before cooking, give the lobster a saline diuretic. Is it time to cook then?
RGN: Your saucepan should boil; Pour the cleaned crayfish into the pot/basket. Add mushrooms and sausage to the basket. You can put a shoe in there, and it will be very tasty. Crayfish will lower the temperature, so bring them to a boil.
TO: Is it corn time?
RGN: Yes. But freeze the corn. Take frozen corn and put it in, stir it up and let it sit for 20-30 minutes and the cold corn will make the crawfish not heat up too quickly. You don’t want raw crayfish and you don’t want the tails to be too stiff. Now add one serving of sacrificial beer to the boiling water. Drink beer all the time. I have never heard of boiling without beer.
TO: How much corn?
RGN: In New Orleans, corn is already half sold. They know here that it is from boils. I would like one or two per person. Just see how much will fit in the basket.
TO: So people should be ready for three meals a day that day?
RGN: From each bag I get three strong boils for ten people. And, yes, you eat it throughout the day, so don’t fill up on the first boil. After the first boil, see if you need to add more spices; you most often do. The third boil of the day is the best.
TO: Any secret tips on how to feel like a pro?
RGN: Yes! After the third boil, add some crawfish broth to the bloody mary mixture, add Worcestershire sauce and vodka, and you have the best bloody mary of your life.
For me, it’s all about extending the day and being outdoors with friends. It’s all about camaraderie; cancers are secondary. I actually love crayfish more than my friends. I’m just kidding, of course.
TO: Of course.
Rick’s Crawfish Marathon friendship beer festival timeline
1. I wake up and spend about an hour at the grocery store to buy all the ingredients, ice and beer.
2. I start cooking around noon, I cook the broth, and the first people may appear around 2:00 pm. Cleaning at 14:30.
3. We put in the first peeled crayfish at about 3 o’clock, then we are ready to eat at about 3:30 or 3:45.
4. Then you clean out the feces from the next round at 5:30. Serve the second round around 18:00.
5. Bring back to a boil and add more spices. Wait another 20-30 minutes.
6. Clean the second ice box again, add more spices, garlic or onions from the table to the pot and you just bring all this magic back to the boil.
7. Serve the third course to your tipsy buddies around 9 p.m.