Crawfish Boil Variations
- October 10, 2020
Springtime here in Louisiana is crawfish season. While preparing this freshwater staple of our local cuisine might look easy, many Cajun cooks have their own special crawfish boil variations using a complex combination of different seasonings and sides. All of the methods, however, have something in common. They serve up an authentic taste of Cajun Country in every bite.
The Common Elements of Cooking Crawfish
Despite the differences in how some cooks prepare crawfish, there are a few important essentials upon which all agree. The first and foremost of these is using live crawfish. It's the only way to get the true, fresh taste Louisianans prize from this delicacy. If you happen to be driving through the state in Spring or Summer, especially in the parishes down south, you'll see plenty of places selling live crawfish by the sack or by the pound. Wait until the day of your boil before you buy. No matter how you prepare them, it takes a lot of crawfish for a single person. Those of us who are veterans can eat 1 to 5 pounds at a sitting. Just remember, there is a little bit of a learning curve for the first-time eater. Cooking also requires a big pot. It takes about two quarts of water per pound of crawfish to boil successfully. There has to be sufficient heat, and that typically requires a gas burner. This is why crawfish are always cooked outside in Louisiana. It was how our ancestors did it, and it's how we continue to do it today.
Spicing Things Up
Typically, cooking crawfish involves using a "boil" or packet of seasonings which are added to the pot of water. Most of the boils we use in Louisiana can be classified as hot, hotter or something that approaches the heat of molten lava, but the truth is that preferred boils are moderately spicy and flavorful. They have a definite kick but aren't too uncomfortable on the palette. Sometimes, though, Cajun cooks like to soak their crawfish in boil seasonings before the actual cooking begins. This can add quite a bit of heat. Some cooks also like to mix their own boils instead of using one that is packaged. You'll even come across some Cajuns who guard a boil recipe as though it were a stash of gold. Their recipe might be one that has been passed down through several generations. Standard boils can include a combination of salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and many other spices. If you ask any Louisiana cook, they'll tell you that spices are the key to a tasty crawfish boil.
Vegetables and Add-Ins for the Crawfish Boil
If you stumble upon a crawfish boil and observe only crawfish in the pot, that's not the typical Louisiana way. A great boil will feature lots of add-ins that are cooked right alongside the main dish. The most common add-ins are red potatoes and corn on the cob. Other variations call for mushrooms, onions and cloves of garlic—sometimes even links of sausage! The important thing is, whatever add-ins you use, that your vegetables cook in the same pot right along with the crawfish to benefit from the seasonings in the boil.
Serving up the Crawfish
Traditionally, crawfish are served up on newspaper that has been spread out over picnic tables. Eating crawfish creates some waste material, and being able to simply scoop up the soiled newspaper makes cleaning up after easy. If you're going to eat inside, consider large serving on plates or roasting pans. You can even put sauce for dipping in the middle. A crawfish boil is one of our favorite social rituals, and while we hope you make it down south to experience your own Louisiana crawfish boil firsthand, Cajun Grocer offers a premier selection of fresh, live crawfish that can be shipped right to your own front door. Not ready to try boiling some mudbugs yourself? We can ship perfectly seasoned boiled crawfish as well! Remember that no matter which specifics you prefer for your own crawfish boil, the main thing is to enjoy the experience with friends and family and a whole lot of laughter and joy.