Crawfish season will be coming to an end soon. You can tell because the shells are starting to get harder. In about another month it will be all over at least for the boiled version. The frozen tails, best used for stews will still be around. Only in Louisiana is the conversation shift from “sucking heads” to “frozen tails” not a vulgarity but a culinary signpost. The seasons are changing.
Before the last head is sucked for the 2014 season I wanted to acknowledge the sides that are now cooked in the pot with the crawfish. It used to be just potatoes and corn, now there is more stuff in the mx. Sides are a quick and easy way to fully utilize the flavor burst of the crawfish boil. Last Saturday I got to be a Judge at UNO’s annual Crawfish Mambo. We five of the judiciary had to sample from thirty preparations. What really distinguished the servings were the accouterments. Here were some of my favorites:
Pineapple. Several competitors served this. The fruit, when cooked in seafood boil works out the taste buds by introducing its inherent sweetness with the tanginess of the boil. It is a counterpoint to the crawfish saltiness yet it complements the flavor.
Brussels sprouts. I remain on what has been a life long mission of trying to like this vegetable. We are getting to appreciate each other better, but slowly. Cooked in seafood boil does give Brussels sprouts a taste that lessens the raw cabbage flavor. Anyway, when oozed with crawfish boil they taste much better.
Tortellini. One cook tossed some pasta in with the boil. This is an idea that is long overdue. The only problem is that the time for boiling the pasta is different than from the crawfish. It runs the danger of being too soft or too hard. A few minutes at the end is best. A little olive oil on the side never hurts.
Sausage. There is nothing new to this ingredient it is just the variety that increases. There is the simple hot dog, andouille or some sophisticated German link. My tip is that the milder the sausage the better, because it doesn’t override the crawfish boil flavor. The simple wiener stands out well.
And now for my first choice:
Sweet potato. I am surprised that more people don’t serve this. Sweet potatoes and crawfish are like the Boudreauxs and the Thibodauxs, they practically grew up in the same neighborhood. It is the perfect food to just plop into the pot and then to provide a counterbalancing flavor just as it does when served with gumbo. (Not that this is always important when planning crawfish boils, but sweet potatoes are also very healthy.)
There are more choices, of course, including garlic and carrot. (One competitor even provided a side serving of popcorn.) As for the crawfish themselves they remain the star of the boil though, just as in theater, experiences are often enriched by the supporting cast.