A New Orleans Crawfish Boil on Chesapeake Bay
It’s not often that I’ve had a loved one away for six months in a war zone. It was hopefully the only time my wife will be that person. What’s a New Orleans native to do to welcome her home? Throw a beachside crawfish boil!
Now it’s true, something like this isn’t really done on a sailboat. And unless you live in Louisiana and already have friends who know how to do this, throwing a boil isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. But when the occasion merits and just about all of your friends are sailors, I’d have to say it’s worth considering your throwing them a crawfish boil.
Start with figuring out how many crawfish to order. Back home, the rule of thumb is 4 or 5 lbs per hungry cajun. On the east coast, we went with about 1.5 lbs per person, plus burgers and vegetables. We had about 80 people RSVP for our boil, and 120 lbs of crawfish were flown in live the day before from New Orleans. Southwest airlines. Baltimore-Washington airport isn’t far from where we sail. (I also had another 80 or so burgers and hotdogs to be sure everyone had their fill. Friends brought sides, drinks, desserts … it’s fair game to have your most reliable friends get involved in the preparations.)
After you’ve decided the scope of your boil, you’ll need a pot. I have a 65 quart pot with a basket and a strong propane burner. Galley Pirate Caroline and her husband Doug also have a pot and burner that they use for crabs. For this boil, we used both to keep the food moving.
This can be a full day affair. Prep for us started a couple of hours before we wanted to serve. First, fill the pot about half-full of water and bring to a boil. Get this started in plenty of time; it can take a little while. Before adding your ingredients, and this should sound obvious, remember to put the steamer basket in the pot! For my recipe, I use Zataran’s crab boil and put in a full 4.5 lb jar for the first batch. Then cayenne pepper. A quarter pound to an half pound, depending on how hearty your guests are. Then a bit of salt and pour in a full table-sized (5 oz.) bottle of tabasco.
When you have a roiling boil, add vegetables. I like to add new potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, onions, quartered, artichokes, and a couple of lemons, halved. Believe it or not, the garlic is delicious to eat by itself when it comes out. The corn is always a favorite. Potatoes are a staple. Some folks throw in a few chicken breasts. I tried adding edamame this time and they came out great!
Boil the veggies for ten minutes and then fill the pot with LIVE crawfish.** Let the pot come back to a boil, turn off the fire, and let sit for 20-30 minutes (If they’ve cooked long enough, the heads should be relatively juicy.)
** Depending on your source of crawfish, you may want to purge them once or twice with fresh or salted water. Our shipper, the Louisiana Crawfish Company, send critters that were ready to boil.
You use the same water, so it’s basically the same as above, except I’d recommend only adding another pound of the boil, a bit less cayanne and a single lemon. You can never have too much tabasco.
Don’t try to get too scientific … the more you dump in the better it tastes. Remember that the best way to wash up after crawfish is just to bust up saltine crackers in your hands!
Have fun, y’all!