Monday, May 30, 2011

Crawfish Boil in Lancaster!

Do you know why I always preach diversity diversity diversity?  Because of this, my friends.  Because of this.

My coworker and friend, Joe, hails from the great southern state of Louisiana.  For the past 4 years, he and his fellow Louisianan Will have hosted a real, down home, authentic Crawfish Boil, right here in Lancaster County.  Ever since I have had the privilege of being on his invite list, we hadn't been able to make it.  The crappy thing about it is that we can't quite remember WHY we haven't been able to go.  Obviously the alternative events weren't very memorable.  So only today have we realized what we have been missing.

They started the cooking festivities at 10AM for a 4PM eating time.  By the time I showed up a little past 4PM, most of the crawfish and shrimp were marinating amongst themselves and keeping each other smokin' hot in the plastic coolers.  But they still had one last batch, and I'm glad to have seen it all go down.

Just as deliciously fun as the food is the process itself.  Joe and Will order the crawfish live from LA and pick it up from the airport.  So this is the real deal, not some sickly crawfish that might have been farmed upstate.  These suckers are big and strappin'.  Like the Andre the Giants of the Crawfish World.

Start with washing off the crawfish.  Apparently they can come rustically in its own habitat, so mud and any other stuff that I don't want to know about hitch along for the ride.  Brilliant use of the kiddie pool, guys.  Apparently some of these little doo-dads don't make it all the way to their culinary destination.  Some get crushed and others meet their demise.  How can you tell?  They should be curved and if they don't curve back up, but stay stretched out, then... they're dead.  I love how all seafood has their little way of telling us humans that they're not to be consumed.  

Will put this entire batch into a colander large enough to house them all.  And that's a big a** colander.  But look at the pot it fits into below.  Enormous.  It looks like Joe could fit into that if he really wanted to.  So big only a paddle will do.  

Simmering in that big pot is gallons and gallons of water seasoned with all sorts of wonderful cajun spices.  They used pouches of ready-made seasoning that made itself into a broth that was rich and flavorful.  Tastefully pungent with the cajun kick you would expect, and then the complex layering that comes from boiling fresh seafood in it all day long.  I asked what they would do with all that goodness at the end of the day.  Criminally, they said they would pour it out.  Understandably, it was all hard work; they were soaked in sweat and once the event crested from its gastronomic climax, they wanted little to do with it all anymore.  Shame, really.  Next year, I shall bring plenty of plastic containers in which to fill with the rich stock that have the makings for some really excellent stews and soups during the winter months. Why not revisit the Summer Boil event months later?
At the very end, the vegetables go in.  Red potatoes first, then followed by corn, mushrooms, whole onions and Kielbasa.  
 And then they get chucked on top of the crawfish and shrimp.  What a great system - Craft paper are wrapped atop the tables and it's all splayed out for folks to share and grab at.  

Of course, the first question is - how does one really eat a crawfish?  A quick lesson given by Will and Joe, and I shall combine and condense this to pick out what I deemed to be the best method.  Twist the crawfish to separate the head from the tail, do a quick suck on the head to imbibe on the tasty juices.  Pinch the tail longitudinally to compromise the tail's structure.  Peel off the top two sections of the tail, pinch the tail at the very end to separate the flesh from its bottom attachment, and pull the tail out.  Voila!  Tasty little tiny lobster-like tails.  I thought I was groovin' it pretty well until Joe came by and he showed me how an expert does it.  He jammed through those crawfish like they were potato chips.  It was truly a sight to see.

The shrimp were especially flavorful after having been boiled in that wondrous concoction.  But do you want to know what the scene stealer was?   The corn.

The corn had the most amazing ability to soak up all the juices.  The natural sweetness of the corn juxtaposing against the saltiness of the broth, the spiciness of the cajun spices, and truly, it should win the Supporting Actress role of the event.  As we all Mmmmed our way through the corn, Eric said, "The corn is so good it makes me weep."  True that.  In fact, screw the winter stews and soups.  I would keep the broth just to boil the corn in it all summer.  There isn't another way I'd like to eat it from now on.

Ah, Joe and Will.  These Louisiana Dudes really know how to throw a party.  The Lancaster County Start of the Summer Crawfish Boil is already marked off on my calendar for 2012...


Life in the Garden said...

These pictures are so vibrant and mouth-watering! We have to have a crawfish boil in West Milford right now!!!!

Lina Bierker said...

I'm in!! Let me know when you're flying those crawdaddies into town!