Baton Rouge hasn’t had the easiest 2016. The Alton Sterling shooting, followed by the shooting of three law enforcement officers, followed by an epic flood. The somber mood has made us cleave to what really matters – friends and family. Weekends have many of us huddled up watching football (another letdown lately if you’re an LSU fan) stuffing our faces with gameday eats. That part isn’t so bad.
Anyone who has ever boiled crawfish knows that events, after the boil, fall one of three ways:
- You ordered the exact amount of crawfish, everyone is satisfied and there’s nothing left to peel.
- There’s enough left to peel to justify dirtying up your hands again. You and some really nice friends or family get to work.
- There’s no way you’re peeling another tail because you’re fingers are stained and sore, and you really just need to go lie down.
We found ourselves facing #2 this weekend after boiling more than 100 pounds for my husband’s family, so three of us sat down and took on the remainder. It yielded about four cups of tails, plenty for a crawfish-centric main course for 4 to 6, and definitely worth the trouble.
There have been plenty of times when I’ve peeled leftover tails and the haul wasn’t so generous, but I do it anyway. No matter how many tails you’re left with, you can find something fun to do with them, from frittatas and savory pies, to cold salads to classic entrées.
Here are two ways to enjoy crawfish tails after the boil.
Easter signals ham, lamb and casseroles in other parts of the South, but in Louisiana, boiled crawfish is front and center. In recent years in the state, Holy Week has become the pinnacle of the crawfish harvest, with farmers working double time to meet demand and consumers often having to plunk down deposits to reserve sacks.
My Easter weekend routine likely resembles many of my fellow Bayou State residents: immediate and extended family gathered outside on a (hopefully) warm and clear spring day while sacks of live crawfish wait to be poured into roaring, spiked water.
Boiling crawfish, like so many native dishes, is highly personal — and those who boil have strong opinions on how it should be done…
Television writer and novelist Ellen Byron is a Louisiana junkie.
The New York native and Tulane University graduate, who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter, can’t get the Bayou State out of her system, admitting that she sheds tears of joy when she visits New Orleans and tears of sadness when she leaves. In 2015, Byron sunk all that residual Louisiana passion into a new mystery novel, Plantation Shudders, a fun and breezy jaunt with nods to classic inn murders (which guest is really the baddie?), except told in modern day Cajun Country. The second in the series, Body on the Bayou, will be released in September 2016.
I especially appreciated the heroine’s name, Maggie, short for Magnolia, bringing back memories of me trying to buffalo college friends in Washington, DC, that my real name was a southern flower and not the truer, dowdier Margaret.
Ellen and I discovered each other recently, and had a great time connecting and sharing notes as writers inspired by Louisiana. I picked up her book and read it over one weekend, relishing her depictions of my zany adopted home. Here’s some of what we discussed.
Here it is early September in South Louisiana, and crawfish season seems like a thing of the past. Backyard boils, Sunday etouffée and rural crawfish festivals are fixtures of spring, not fall. But let’s not be too hasty. One-pound packages of Louisiana crawfish tails are still available in many independent grocery stores in South Louisiana, and they should be around for another few weeks, says my friend Blaise Calandro III of Calandro’s Supermarkets here in Baton Rouge. In fact, it’s only between November and February when local tails are not commercially available.
So stock up for yourself Louisiana peeps, and freeze some for your out-of-state friends, because in addition to being full of flavor, crawfish tails are one of easiest and most convenient ingredients around, especially if you’re a working parent. I can attest. Earlier this week, I found myself trying to pull together dinner at the absolute last minute, and a pound of frozen crawfish tails saved me.
Earlier this month, the LSU Houston Alumni Association held an event that speaks volumes about the long arm of Louisiana’s culinary culture. The group met at the Firehouse Saloon to savor 3,100 pounds of boiled crawfish provided by the Boil House at what has become a major fundraiser for LSU. It’s the chapter’s biggest gathering of the year, says President Lisa Bunch, a Slidell native (BS, Psychology) who moved to Houston for work in 1998.
With about 650 members, LSU Houston is one of the most active alumni chapters across the country. As part of my interview series with Louisiana expats, I checked in with Lisa about the Bayou State’s gravitational pull — a theme in my book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. We talked about what it means when members of Tiger Nation get together to carry out the rituals of home, whether it’s to watch a game or belly up to a pile of crawfish.