What is a Crawfish?

crawfish lent recipeWe eat a lot of different types of food in New Orleans, but one of our staples is crawfish. Crawfish are fresh water crustaceans that look a lot like small lobsters. They breathe through gills and are found in streams, swamps, ditches and ponds, and average about 2 to 6 inches in length. They feed on just about anything they can find on the bottom of their habitat. They come baked, boiled, fried and literally everything in-between. If you have never had Crawfish Etouffee,  definitely add it to your list of must haves in New Orleans. We really do not call them Crayfish in New Orleans…we prefer crawfish or even mudbugs.

How are they prepared?

Crawfish are prepared in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular is boiled crawfish. When crawfish season starts, families and friends get together and have crawfish boils. Heck, we even have crawfish festivals. Everyone has their own unique tricks to make the perfect boiled crawfish, but they all begin with a sack of crawfish, big boiling pot, Cajun seasoning, and a lot of sides. In general, all crawfish boiling chefs will begin with adding onions, garlic, lemons and Cajun seasoning to the boiling water in the big pot.  Once all of the seasonings are in the water, the crawfish are added and cooked. Then, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, sausage and other vegetables are added to the pot. Once everything is cooked in the pot, many crawfish boilers will let everything soak in the spicy seasoning until the desired taste is achieved. Don’t worry there are a lot of seasoned tasters that will linger around the pot able and willing to give an opinion about the taste.

How to I peel a crawfish?

cajun crawfish etuffeeIf you have never had a crawfish, it is time to get adventurous. Don’t limit yourself to nibbling on the corn and potatoes just because you do not know how to peel them. They may look funny, but they truly taste wonderful. If you are lucky, you may get someone to peel a couple of crawfish for you to try, but after that you will most likely be on your own. There is definitely an art to peeling crawfish. The first step is to find a nice big crawfish, they are actually easier to peel than the smaller ones. Once you have selected your first crawfish, grab the head of the crawfish and twist and pull the tail from the head. At this point, you can suck the head for a small taste of the Cajun flavor but this is optional. Next, many people will eat the pull the meat out of the claws and even suck the spicy juice out of them. The best part is still the meat in the tail ,but it is a little tricky to get it out your first time.  If you have ever peeled shrimp, peeling the tail of the crawfish is similar. You will first peel off the first two or three rings of the tail. Then, you will pinch the end of the tail and pull the meat from the shell either with your teeth or fingers. Like shrimp, crawfish have vein in the tail, many people eat this but you can remove it if you want. Peeling them may seem like a little bit of a hassle at first, but once you get good at it, you will be amazed at how quickly you can fill your tray up with discarded crawfish shells. 

Now you are ready to go to your first crawfish boil and enjoy boiled crawfish.