Cooking Live Crayfish
First, a few tips:
Never eat raw crayfish in any form!
Do not cook dead crayfish (remove all dead crayfish before cooking)
Rinse off crayfish before cooking
If you are going to cook more than one pot of crayfish you will need a pot with a strainer basket to hold your crayfish.
Crayfish can be cooked on a kitchen stove, but it's easier if you have one of the outdoor gas cookers.
These units can bring a big pot of water to boil in a hurry. They can be purchased at many large department or building supply stores for under $50.00.
Basic Salted Crayfish
Crayfish can be cooked without salt if you are on a low sodium diet, but they won't taste as good.
Salted crayfish may be a good way to start for people who are not used to eating a lot of cajun spices. I've tasted swamp crayfish from some suppliers that were so muddy tasting they needed to be smothered in cajun spice.
Eating salted crayfish is a good way to tell what your crayfish really taste like.
Bring a pot (2 - 3 gallons) of water to a boil. Stir in one pound of non-iodized salt and return to boil. This may seem like an excessive amount of salt, but crayfish are not in the water very long and it's not easy for the salt/seasoning to seep around the shell into the meat.Boil crayfish for 3 or 4 minutes. They will float to the surface and turn bright orangish-red.
( Do Not boil for 8 to 10 or 15 minutes - This is Way Too Long!)
Drain crayfish and let cool slightly before eating.
|Crayfish are boiled the same as salted crayfish except much less salt is used. Crayfish or crab seasoning is added to the water to taste. If you look at the ingredients, you'll see that salt is the main ingredient in most of these packages.|
Boil crayfish in salted water using only about 1/4 to 1/3 the salt you would've used for straight salted crayfish. Place a layer of the still hot crayfish about 2-3" deep in the bottom of a clean Coleman-type plastic cooler, making sure the plug is in. Sprinkle some cajun seasoning on top. Take a stick of butter and cut several pats on top.
Now add another 2-3" layer of just cooked crayfish. Again add a sprinkle of seasoning and several pats of butter. Create layers in this manner until the cooler is up to 3/4 full and then shut the lid. After a couple of minutes you can shake the cooler to distribute the butter/seasonings.
They are now ready to eat or they will stay warm for some time if the lid is kept on. Some people like to make them this way for a party because some of the crayfish can be made ahead of time in this manner.
One drawback to buttered crayfish is that you are taking a basically fat-free food and smothering it with fat, but it sure tastes great! You'll seldom get a complaint when serving these unless you forget to provide enough napkins.
Traditional Cajun Crayfish Boil
In Louisiana crayfish are often cooked with vegetables in spicy water.
When done the vegetables and crayfish are drained and then dumped on a picnic table covered with clean paper.
This is most often a social outdoor affair where people take their plate to the table and scoop up what they want.
The following is a basic recipe which can be adjusted to your taste. Some may choose to add some of their favorite cajun seasoning.
In a large pot bring to a boil 4-5 gallons of water. Add one lb. salt, 2 ounces red pepper, 2 TBSP minced garlic, one large onion in chunks, 2 sliced lemons, 2 or 3 chopped celery stalks, and 15-20 small red potatoes.
Boil until potatoes start to get tender. Then add 6-8 ears of sweet corn and 8-10 lbs. of live crayfish. Boil again for several minutes until corn and crayfish are cooked.
Don't boil crayfish for more than 4 or 5 minutes.
Some like to put their live crayfish in a strainer basket or cooking bag so they can be easily removed if they get done before the vegetables are ready. Many like to let the vegetables and crayfish sit in the water for a few minutes after the heat is off to allow more of the seasoning to soak in.
Cooking with crayfish meat
A variety of dishes can be made with crayfish tail and claw meat. If you use claw meat be sure to remove any cartilage you may find.
Frozen crayfish meat consists entirely of tail meat because it comes from Louisiana or Chinese swamp crayfish which normally don't have large enough claw meat to save.
Peeling your own crayfish meat is a lot of work, but fresh peeled crayfish meat is far superior to frozen. This is why I do not and will not handle frozen crayfish.
Many large restaurants in Louisiana will quit serving crayfish rather than use frozen. Crayfish meat is an excellent addition to many types of seafood chowders and shrimp type recipes.
This is one of my favorite ways to use crayfish meat. There are alot of variations of this recipe so feel free to adjust to your preference. In a traditional Crayfish Etoufee the first step is to nake a "roux". This is made with two parts flour to one part cooking oil. The oil is put in a cast iron pan and the flour gradually stirred in over low heat. With constant stirring the thick mixture gradually turns brown. This is later used as a creamy base for the recipe. Take 8 oz. of Morel, Shitake, or Portabella mushrooms and sauté in a fry pan with a little butter or oil. Iv'e found regular commercial mushrooms are a little too watery for the Etoufee. Chop fine a bunch of green onions/scallions and add to your sauté. Regular onions can be a little bitter and overpowering for this recipe.
Along with the onion add about one cup of chopped sweet peppers. I like to use a mix of green, red and yellow for color and flavor.Stir in one lb. of fresh crayfish meat. Add a tablespoon or two of minced garlic. I like to use the minced garlic which comes in a jar. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of Cajun seasoning. No need to go overboard with the Cajun seasoning or you will overpower the real ingredients. As your vegetables just start to get tender mix in some "roux" to taste.You might need to add a little water. Serve this over a bed of noodles or rice. Normally, I like brown rice, but in this case white rice is far better. A bottle of your favorite hot sauce should be available so each diner can add as they prefer.
The "roux" is a bit rich for some tastes (not to mention fattening). I've found the "roux" really just acts as a creamy sauce to carry your ingredients over the rice/noodle base. Another way to accomplish this is as follows:
As you are sautéing the ingredients together add some extra liquid such as water, wine, or beer (don't knock it till you've tried it). Immediately after adding the liquid stir in a thickening agent such as white flour until sauce is creamy. When using extra liquid be careful not to over cook vegetables. Instead of flour, there are many powdered saucesand even dry soup mixes that will work.