Yankee's First Crawfish Boil
Photos courtesy of Annie Drummond
My fiancé works out of town for several days out of the month and he pretty much missed all of Mardi Gras. He'd text me every once in awhile – "Y'all goin' parading tonight?" – and I'd say yes (I had a great night at Muses), or I'd say no (I was paraded OUT, no Bacchus for me), and he'd text back, "Have fun, luv."
But I knew deep down that it was killing him inside.
On Mardi Gras day I woke up early with my neighbors, sat on our porch, drank Bloody Marys and watched people parade down the street, dressed up in crazy costumes. (My favorite was a flock of men and women dressed up like the Black Swan.)
I have to say that it was all insanely fun, but there was a big part of me that really missed my dude, and I felt bad that he was stuck at work.
When he returned home (on the day after Mardi Gras, poor dude) he mentioned that his friend "knew a guy" that could get a good price on crawfish ... so we thought, since he had to miss all of the awesomeness of the parades and parties, why not throw together a cool crawfish boil and really get down – yeah?
There were a few people responsible for this thing: my neighbors (an awesome couple from Colorado), myself (a northerner, from Ohio) and my fiancé (born and raised in Louisiana) ... and none of us had actually thrown a crawfish boil. Also, we (and when I say "we," I mean "I") only had a vague idea of how to do it.
At first I figured, hell ... all you need is a big pot and some live crawfish, yeah? But then you discover that you have to (duh) get a burner, propane tank, some kind of paddle to stir the crawfish, tons of sausage, vegetables, seasonings, special plate things, newspaper, etc. There was also the little fact that we didn't have a proper table to eat at. You see, we haven't been in our new house for that long ... and we hadn't gotten around to buying patio furniture/miscellaneous crawfish items.
When everything was said and done, our crawfish boil was an awesome time. Everything went relatively smoothly considering the short amount of time that we spent planning it and our total lack of boiling skills. My fiancé printed a bunch of crawfish boil recipes from the interwebs and studied them. Our neighbors bought the pot/propane tank; my fiancé bought more than 100 pounds of crawfish; his sister bought a ton of sausage, potatoes, veggies and spices; and I bought miscellaneous stuff like salt, tray things, soda, corn, etc.
My neighbor ended up building a table out of a scrap door that was left at the house when we moved in. It turned out to be a really nice table. As for the newspaper ... while dining at Bacchanal, we just took a huge pile of Where Y'ats/Levees/Gambits.
The only glitchy thing that happened was that one of my fiancé's friends came up to me and said that something was wrong with the propane "regulator" ... and I had drunk enough Abita Strawberry that all I could think to say was ... "You want to listen to some Warren G?"
Out came the duct tape and all was good.
So here are the top 10 things I learned from my first attempt at co-throwing a crawfish boil. I'm sure that most of these things fall under the "duh" category for seasoned veterans of The Boil, but for a virginal yankee like me, these are some things to remember:
1. A 36-quart pot full of water takes a long time to come to a boil ... might want to start a bit earlier so guests are not sitting around for an hour and a half.
2. The sun sets. Invest in some proper lighting for the courtyard.
3. Invite more people. Some of the people you invite will inevitably not come and therefore not eat all of the crawfish that you estimated for them ... and you get to either peel all that extra crawfish later yourself or feel totally horrible when you throw the poor little guys out. (Of course we peeled all of our extras ... promise.)
4. Hide fiancé's iPod. I swear I'd have a good playlist going and then all of a sudden I'd hear something that I knew he'd put on. The boy can't NOT be in control of the music. I'd play the Stones; he'd put on the Beatles. I'd play the White Stripes and he'd play the Dead Weather. AHHH!
5. Have someone at the party that knows what they're doing. All I've gotta say is God bless my fiancé's sister Kelli for the guidance, and God bless our friend Aaron who attended and just so happened to be an expert at the fine art of crawfish boiling. (He knew how to "regulate.")
6. Write down a solid list of things you need. We had to go back to the store a few times to get stuff we'd forgotten (like a paddle). I hate going to the Walmart on Saturdays, much less three times on a Saturday. It might as well be the ninth ring of hell as far as I'm concerned.
7. If you drink enough Abita Strawberry, you will kill your appetite and therefore render the crawfish boil kind of pointless for yourself ... since you're not really all that hungry.
8. I'm still not brave enough to eat the whole tail ... vein and all. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to not think about what that "vein" is, but that time has not yet come.
9. Leftovers can be awesome (even though it's a chore to peel all those suckers). It's a great time for a foodie like me to experiment with some new stuff. I tried out some crawfish mac & cheese, which turned out pretty good. I adapted my dish from Emeril's recipe, substituting leftover sausage for the pancetta and a package of "Italian cheese blend" instead of spending $30 on Gruyère and Fontina cheese ... I mean, I love me some expensive cheese, but not when I'm experimenting with leftover crawfish.
10. The second leftover recipe I tried was "crawfish bread." I kept hearing about this but wasn't sure what it was. Do you bake crawfish into the bread? Do you grind crawfish up into a paste and spread it on bread like paté? I found a recipe from the brilliantly named crawfish.com, and it seemed pretty easy. Put some yummy crawfish stuff between halved french bread pieces and bake ... but in the tradition of Walmart being a horrible disappointment, they were totally out of french bread (sacrilege!) when I went to the store. So instead I bought a loaf of something vagely Italian looking. I don't think the bread was sturdy enough, so everything just ended up falling apart when it came out of the oven. Though I gotta say, even though it didn't look all that pretty, it tasted really quite good. Next time, I'll def get the french bread. Thanks a lot, Walmart.
As far as the experience goes ... after all was said and done and the boil and the evening was winding down, I thought of that Kurt Vonnegut quote: "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"
Yep. If that wasn't nice I don't know what the hell is. I've miraculously managed to make some amazing friends in my short time here in New Orleans and to fall in love with one of the most amazing dudes I've come across in this lifetime. It's gatherings like these – crawfish boils – that brings everyone together for the communal experience. Eating, drinking, being merry. Chillaxin'. Boilin' some crawfish.
Annie Drummond is a production designer at Renaissance Publishing. She is an artist/graphic designer extraordinaire by day and food lover/blogger by night. Read more of her musings on life, love, New Orleans, food, art and more at www.anniedeladolce.com.