One of the favorite past times of New Orleans natives and Louisiana folks is to throw a crawfish or seafood boil. And this typically means that you are inviting a few close friends and family over to share in the occasion, a seafood boil is more than just eating some crawfish, crabs, or shrimp, and it’s a happening or event in and of itself! Live crawfish can be bought at local Louisiana seafood purveyors in sacks that average about 40 lbs. each; gulf blue crabs are typically sold by the dozen and shrimp by the pound.
Seafood boils also include a variety of accompaniments such as new potatoes, corn on the cob and garlic in the more traditional boils. On occasion and for those who venture in their culinary tastes I have been known to throw in some whole artichokes, whole cabbage, sausages, or even boudin (pronounced BOO-dan), which is a pork sausage originated in France and the Cajun version is made with rice. The Cajun style boudin really soaks up the seafood boil spices and makes for a great spread on crackers, just like the whole garlic cloves on some crusty French bread.
Seafood or crawfish boil recipes vary by just about anyone who makes up a batch of the stuff, just like a gumbo it seems for every one there is a different recipe. This recipe for seafood boil was used at the Hyatt Regency Hotel New Orleans in the early 1980’s when I was the Saucier in the main kitchen we used to boil at least one batch of crawfish a week during the height of the season. Crawfish can be had year round, but the time when they are plentiful is the early spring to mid summer months, and typically the price usually drops just after Easter when lent is over and most Catholics are not eating as much seafood.
The original recipe at the Hyatt was prepared in a large 60 gallon steam jacketed kettle and was big enough to boil up to 2 sacks, or 80 pounds of crawfish in one batch. I have cut the recipe in half; most seafood boiling pots for home use are large enough hold up to one sack of crawfish at a time and are usually a 20 gallon (80 quart) capacity and use an outdoor propane burner for heat.
The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival typically is held the first weekend in May and features a full weekend of crawfish cuisine either fried, boiled, in an étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie or jambalaya, and crawdogs, along with other Cajun favorites. They also have a crawfish cook-off contest, a crawfish eating contest, dance contests, arts and crafts, and Cajun and Zydeco music too!
1 sack Live crawfish, 40 lb. approximate
15 gal Water
15 each Lemons, sliced in half
10 bulbs Garlic, sliced in half
6 bags Zatarain’s Brand Crab boil seasoning, 3 oz each
10 ounces Zatarain’s Brand Crab boil liquid
6 ounces Crystal hot sauce
6 ounces Cayenne pepper
1 ½ lb Salt
2 large Onions, quartered
1 stalk Celery, coarse chopped
1 bunch Parsley, whole
5 ounces Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces Lemon juice
5 lb New red Potatoes
10 ears Corn on the cob, cut in half
2 lb Boudin sausage, links wrapped in foil
1. Make sure you have plenty of beer chilled on ice before you start.
2. Fill boil pot with the water and turn on the propane burner to a medium flame. Place the insert basket into the pot.
3. While the water is starting to get warm and add the lemons, garlic, crab boil bags and crab boil liquid, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, salt, onions, celery, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.
4. Once the seafood boil liquid starts to simmer add the potatoes and corn.
5. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until the potatoes are almost done.
6. Add the foil wrapped boudin and then bring the propane burner to a full high flame and bring the boil liquid to a full rolling boil.
7. Add the live crawfish and stir well to ensure all of them are covered in the liquid.
8. Cover and allow the liquid to return to a full boil, then turn off the propane flame and keep covered for 30 minutes, or about 2 beers later. This allows the crawfish to absorb the flavors.
9. Carefully remove the insert basket from the liquid and drain excess liquid into the pot. Transfer the crawfish and boil contents onto newspaper lined tables where folks can start to eat immediately.
10. Have plenty of ice cold beer, crusty French bread, and paper towels available.
11. Repeat if you have more than one bag of crawfish, but you might have to add more salt and spice to the liquid for each successive crawfish batch.