Crawfish Time

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Story by Chef Robert Medina- Fire It Up Foods, LLC

Ah yes, crawfish season is here! From time to time we get invited to some really cool events and festivals. One of our favorites is the crawfish boil. Recently, the team at spent some time with Chef Robert Medina of Fire It Up Foods, LLC. Add in an old favorite and a new twist on a popular dish, and it is a recipe for a great time with friends and family! Enjoy the sights, sounds and the recipes below.

Crawfish Boil- Serves approximately 20 guests

40 pounds of fresh crawfish (cleaned and rinsed)
36 quarts of water
1 sixteen ounce bottle of Zatarain’s liquid crab boil (approximate, you may want more)
32 ounces of sea salt (approximate, you may want more salt or less)
1 sixteen ounce bottle of cayenne pepper
3 pounds of onions (cut in half)
15 whole heads of garlic (cut in half)
1 large bag of lemons (cut in half)
1 five ounce bottle of Tabasco
2 sticks of butter (one half pound)
5 pounds of red creamer potatoes
20 ears of frozen corn on the cob
4 pound of smoked sausage or andouille (cut into three inch lengths)

Recipe prepared in a 60-quart pot (outdoor propane cooker)

Crawfish boils are a way of life in Louisiana. Having a “boil” has now moved into other states. It wouldn’t surprise me to find folks as far away as Texas cooking crawfish!!!
As far as the ingredients are concerned, they will vary. This recipe is just a guideline. Some people may want to have their crawfish a little saltier than others. Some would add more pepper spice. Some more or even less lemons. It all depends on your individual taste. The basics are usually the same. Potatoes, onions, garlic, sausage, corn and of course the crawfish are the norm.
If adding all of the spice ingredients seems a bit overwhelming, Zatarain’s does sell something called Pro-Boil. It comes in a fifty three ounce plastic bottle. It contains enough of everything to cook forty pounds of crawfish all by itself (the usual amount of crawfish in a sack). No measuring. I like to use it as a base and then add more lemons and spices at my own discretion.

The first thing we need to do is to dispel an old myth about crawfish boiling. When I was growing up we would “purge” them with salt water to clean them. That was supposed to make them expel any contents inside of them. Well, it’s not true. All it really does is kill any small ones and it doesn’t make them excrete anything. All you need to do to purge them is to rinse them in cool water until the water runs clear. That’s it. They are freshwater creatures and saltwater is not good for them.

Now get out your boiling pot, set it on the burner and fill it up a little past halfway. If you fill it up too much, you will have a boil over. Not good. I use a sixty-quart pot so I would put thirty-six quarts of water into it. If you have a smaller pot you would naturally use less water. A bigger pot, more water. Put in your basket/strainer at this point. Once the water is in you add the salt, cayenne, lemons (squeeze them into the water and then toss them in), crab boil and the Tabasco. Mix it all in well and then taste the water. You want it to have a nice salty and lemony taste to it with a little zip on the side. Turn on your propane tank and light your burner. Crank it up to high and cover the pot. That will make it come to a boil faster than if it was uncovered. When you see steam coming out from around the lid, that means the water is boiling and it’s ready.

I have two mesh nylon laundry bags. I usually will fill one with the sausage, and potatoes. In the other I usually put the onions and garlic. That way, when the boil is done I can find all of the items I put in and separate them into piles for whoever wants each item. You can throw them all in (the traditional way) without separating them. I just find it easier with the bags.
Once the water is boiling, put in the onions, garlic, sausage, butter and potatoes. Boil these and check the potatoes after a while. They are your gauges. Once they are right at fork tender it is time to add the crawfish. Adding them will make the water stop boiling. When the water comes back up to a boil, cook for three minutes uncovered. Now turn off the fire. Put the still frozen corn into the pot and stir it around. This will help to stop the boiling process and the water will still be hot enough to cook the corn.

Now comes the soaking time. The longer you let them soak, the spicier they will get. I usually let them soak for about twenty to twenty five minutes. If you let them soak too long they will be hard to peel so watch it.
If you happen to be the one who is cooking the crawfish, that job comes with an added bonus. You are the one who gets to check them and pronounce them “ready to eat.” So… that means that you have to check them by eating several during the soaking time. Poor you. You should continue to sample them until they are spicy enough to eat without being overcooked to the point that the peelings are sticking. Be sure to stir them up so you get to taste some of the ones that are on the bottom.

NOTE: Be creative! The ingredients listed above are traditional. You can add ingredients such as whole mushrooms, artichokes, and hams to the boil pot. My wife likes to soak a batch of boudin sausage in the final process (be sure to to put in a strainer should the casing break) and my sister drops in green olives.

Once you have taste tested to your satisfaction, strain then pour them out on a table and tell everybody to “suck some heads and pinch some tails!” You probably won’t have to say anything. I think they’ll know.

ANOTHER NOTE: Adding the two sticks of butter is something that not everyone does. I was told many many years ago that adding butter to the pot helps them peel easier. Something about the butter getting under the shells. I’m not really sure if that actually works but I always do it anyway. When grandma says put in the butter, you had better put in the butter.

The traditional dish, Jambalaya, took on a new twist with Chef Bob and his crew. Enjoy the “Pastalaya” courtesy of Darren Walker.

Darren’s Hunting Camp Pastalaya- Serves approximately 20 guests

Enjoy some pastalaya!
Enjoy some pastalaya!

2 pounds of bacon
4 pounds of yellow onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2.5 pounds of cajun-smoked or andouille sausage
4 green bell peppers, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of celery, chopped
3 bundles of green onions, chopped
2 bunches of parsley, chopped
1 ounce garlic, minced
2.5 pounds of chicken (chopped both white and dark meat)
1 32-ounce box of chicken broth
2 10-ounce cans of Rotel tomatoes
2 tablespoons of New Orleans Original Firehouse Flashover Creole Seasoning (or your favorite low-sodium Creole Seasoning)
3 splashes of Tabasco
2.5 boxes (40 ounces) dried penne or rotini pasta

Recipe prepared in a 5 gallon cast iron pot (outdoor propane cooker)

In a 5 gallon cast iron pot, cook down the bacon for approximately fifteen minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot. The drippings rendered from the bacon will be used to cook the onions. (Enjoy the bacon as an appetizer while the Pastalaya cooks!) Add the onions along with the olive oil, stirring all of the ingredients together with a large paddle. Sautee for fifteen minutes with pot covered.
After the onions have cooked, add the sausage and brown over high heat for fifteen minutes. Afterwards, stir in the bell peppers, celery, green onions, parsley, garlic and simmer covered over low heat for twenty minutes. Then add the chicken, stir and cook over covered high heat for fifteen minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, bring to a boil and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the Rotel tomatoes, Creole Seasoning, and Tabasco mixing all of the ingredients together and simmer covered for 5 minutes.
Add the pasta, stir and simmer covered for thirty minutes. (Add additional chicken broth as needed if the mixture looks too dry.) Turn the fire off and leave covered for thirty minutes.