Summer Means Crawfish!

How to host your own boil

May 2015 Feature Jan Clark

When the azaleas, blue bonnets, Indian paintbrush wild flowers, dogwood and redbud trees come out, then you must be in Texas. Along with these recognizable signs of spring and summer you see yellow pollen with folks with terrible allergies wearing surgical masks and goggles to protect their red swollen eyes. It must be a very profitable time for the doctors in this area as well as the pharmaceutical companies. 

Personally, I don’t have THIS problem, just the lack of sleep from roaming from bedroom to the couch and back avoiding my spouse’s sneezing, wheezing and flipping around like a 200-pound bass in the bed. So right now we look the same: red swollen eyes from lack of sleep. Thank goodness his favorite seasonal hobby is not gardening. Of course it is getting out on the water in his houseboat. And he still comes home with something new that has blown into his path.

In Season

We have even improved our annual crawfish boil with my Captain Tom Clark making gumbo served with rice (for those who don’t like bugs) and Louisiana’s famous bread pudding. Of course, no calories are spared, but one can work up an appetite just getting a small bite of meat for all that work! There’s no place like Texas.  Got any chapstick onboard?

On a positive note, this time of year in Texas and Louisiana the restaurants begin advertising that crawfish is in season. I guess living near Houston, many are Cajuns and we all share in each other’s traditions. 

Yearly we have a crawfish boil on our boat dock. We don’t just have a small three-family event either. We cook like there is no tomorrow for all our friends and family. We include corn on the cob, potatoes, mushrooms, crawfish and of course all those spicy seasonings! With every batch it gets a little bit hotter. After a while your lips are so numb the ability to speak correctly could be blamed on the food or your beverage of choice. But everyone “is in the same boat,” so we forgive and forget. What happens on the dock stays on the dock.

How To Cook ‘em

Cooking crawfish at a crawfish boil, an outdoor party featuring boiled crawfish as the main dish, is the traditional way to enjoy these shrimp-like freshwater creatures in Texas and other parts of the southern United States.

Step One: Prep Work

Always buy live crawfish. Plan on ordering enough crawfish so that each person at your party or dinner gets around 2 to 3 pounds each. Most of the weight will get discarded since crawfish come with their shells on.

One quick tip: if you don't have access to crawfish in your area, purchase it online from a vendor such as Louisiana Crawfish Co., which will ship the crawfish to you live.

When you take home your crawfish or receive your shipment make sure you keep them cool, away from light and heat, so they're fresh when it's time to cook them. Boiled crawfish that have been frozen don’t taste nearly as good as live boiled crawfish.

Since live crawfish are freshly harvested, it's necessary to wash off the silt and debris they have collected before you cook them.

Step Two: Preparing The Boil

First, light the outdoor gas burner, patio stove, or propane cooker that you’re using to make the boil. The important thing is to have equipment sturdy enough to heat up a 60-gallon pot of water.

Next, fill a 60-gallon pot halfway with water. Put it on the burner or stove and let it heat to a boil. Then stir in the juice of 8 lemons and the lemon peels and one pound of crawfish boil seasoning.

Finally, add the vegetables. Crawfish boils are delicious with many kind of vegetables, but the most popular staples are potatoes and corn. Once the pot has come back to a rolling boil, add eight onions (peeled and halved), 10 pounds of new potatoes (or regular potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks), 20 ears of corn, (shucked and halved) and 40 cloves of garlic (peeled).

Step Three: Cooking

First, lower the crawfish into the boil. Place the crawfish in a crawfish basket, made out of wire with a handle for lowering it into the pot. Crawfish baskets are used so that the crawfish can boil in the top part of the water while the vegetables cook underneath. Let the crawfish boil in the water for 5 minutes. If you have a large strainer that fits over the top of the pot, this can be used as a substitute for the crawfish basket.

Once the crawfish are inside the pot, turn off the heat and put the lid on top to allow the crawfish to cook gently for another 30 minutes.

Finally, after 30 minutes, remove the lid and check to see if the crawfish are done. The best way to tell is by removing a crawfish and eating it. If the texture is rubbery, the crawfish need more time to cook. If they're on the verge of falling apart, remove the crawfish from the pot immediately, as they're in danger of overcooking. 

Step Four: Serving

Crawfish boils can get messy, so for easy cleanup it's best to use plenty of newspaper. Line the picnic tables and other outdoor tables on your dock, and set out plenty of napkins and paper towels. You might want to set out bowls for the crawfish shells and legs.

At traditional boils, the vegetables are dumped directly onto the table, and the crawfish are added to the top. If you'd prefer not to do it this way, have guests line up at the pot with paper plates and scoop the vegetables directly from the pot to the plates.

The last step is to add condiments. Butter, salt and additional Cajun seasoning are all great condiments for a crawfish boil.

There you have it; it really is that simple. Get your dock neighbors together this summer and send us your photos. We’d love to hear how your boil turns out. 

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