Crawfish are sometimes referred to as "mudbugs." As a teenager in Gonzales, Louisiana, I accompanied a high school friend on a crawfish-trapping expedition deep in a cypress tree shrouded swamp.
We waded through knee-deep water to set out the baited traps, while on the lookout for snakes and alligators (even for a Cajun, the swamp is dangerous territory). A short while later we circled back to pluck dozens of claw-snapping crustaceans from the traps, carefully scooping them into gunny sacks. It was hard work, sloshing around while swatting at dive-bombing mosquitoes, but the reward was so tasty - a freshwater crawdad has the same texture as a shrimp, with a lesser, but still delicate seafood flavor.
Crawfish are prepared in a spicy crab boil. The meat is peeled from the tail, and is tiny like bay shrimp. At the height of the season (May and June) you can easily buy whole crawfish for close to 99 cents per pound, uncooked (add a couple of dollars for cooked.) For a typical amount of whole crawfish per person, you want to start with five pounds.
Locals buy them by the bagful from gas stations, which often have a deli in the back of their convenience stores stocked with locally caught shrimp and crawfish. This is where you get it the cheapest and freshest. Usually around 4 p.m. (when refinery workers are just getting off their shifts) fresh boiled crawfish are ready to eat there, or take home. Just watch my video to see for yourself -- I even take you into the back to see the cooking setup.
In towns everywhere, from New Orleans to Shreveport, crawfish season is celebrated with backyard parties, centered around crawfish boiling over a large butane-fired kettle. Along with the crawfish, potatoes and fresh corn are boiled together in a spicy broth, then heaped onto newspaper-lined picnic tables. With a keg in the corner and music in the background -- these parties are a great Spring and Summer outdoor tradition.
In this video, I've included a tutorial on how to eat a crawfish. When you're at a picnic table and a kettle of hot steaming crawfish is dumped in a pile in front of you, you better know how to quickly peel and eat, or you'll be picking through discarded empty shells. A hungry Cajun can go through a pile before finishing an Abita beer!
Click on the video below to see how it's done: in Cajun country, rather than eat 'head to tail,' as they say in foodie circles, we eat "tail to head" -- literally. A real Cajun will finish off each crawfish with a head-sucking flourish. The spicy/sweet roe is addicting, once you get over typical tourist apprehension. Warning: the squeamish may have to avert their eyes because The Cajun 99 Cent Chef goes all the way!
How To Eat A Crawfish - Video
Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes, 25 seconds.
View or embed from youtube, click here.
99 thanks to Rich and Brenda.