My brother/guest blogger Craig hosted a crawfish boil not too long ago. This is something I've never considered, let alone executed, so I've taken a few tips for myself. Thanks Craig!
This is time-consuming, expensive, and totally friggin' worth it. One day someone at work suggested we do a traditional crawfish boil but we took it a step further by adding shrimp and crab, turning it into a seafood boil. This is a bayou-southern-gulf kinda meal, a meal that takes an entire day to prepare, a few minutes to cook, and a long time to eat. It's really fun and not too high on costs if people throw in money or donate some things. There is a lot involved but again, totally worth it.
You will need:
A 32-60 quart cooking pot – usually from a turkey fryer. Make sure it has a strainer with it.
The turkey fryer cooking stand
A propane tank, full
At least two big picnic tables or similar
Butcher or freezer paper
A 4-5 quart cooking pot
A large large spoon or small shovel (no joke, a clean one)
Towels, lots and lots of small hand towels
A large group of people
Large cooler with drain
Platters for different foods, at least 4 or 5
A knife, sharp
About 7 lemons, cut three in half and the rest in small slices
One head of garlic
6 pounds of sausage, andouille if spelled right or available, chopped into 3-inch pieces
Ten ears of corn, cut into thirds
Three to four pounds new potatoes
7 pounds live feisty crawfish
9 pounds crab legs
12 pounds raw shrimp, can be headless but preferably not alive
Two or three medium sized packages of shrimp boil seasoning
Salt for purging the crawfish (more on that later)
Cocktail sauce (recipe below)
2 pounds stick butter
Baguette bread, 4 loaves more or less
Okay, what a list. I'll break it down for easy ingestion.
The night before, make the cocktail sauce, or buy it. Whatever. If you make it, get some chili sauce (it's right next to the ketchup), a couple cloves of garlic, horseradish, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Don't buy horseradish sauce, it's nowhere near the same. Mix it up until it tastes right, with the horseradish going in as your danger ingredient. Too much will put all but the most dedicated off, too little and folk will think you're a pansy.
Set up the pot and the burner, do not ignite just yet.
Go to the store and buy or ask people for the things you don't have. At the store, go to the seafood area and find out when your store gets fresh shipments in, that's the best time to do one of these. Ours comes in every Friday so we lucked out on that. The crawfish are the highest-maintenance of all the foods, so make sure you bring a cooler with an ice pack and a wet towel in it to the store. Try to pick that stuff up last, even if you have to reserve the critters first and wander/shop. Once home, pour the crawfish out of the bag into the cooler and fill up the cooler and cooking pot with cool water. You'll notice it gets really nasty really fast.
You need to change out the water every 15-20 minutes until its clear. Heating up the water to a boil will take about 40 minutes, so start purging the crawfish an hour or so before you turn on the heat. Purging the crawfish is what gets rid of all the mud and poo in their system, and on the last purge when the water is ready, add a bunch of salt to make them puke out the leftovers. The cool thing is when they meet their demise they'll suck in some of the flavored boiling water, making the insides even tastier. But don't add them yet.
Prepare the lemons, sausage, corn and hose down the potatoes. Cut the onion in half and peel all the paper off the garlic and lightly crush. You can put all but the potatoes and corn on one platter.
Start to clarify the butter. If you don't know how, it's easy. Put all the butter in a big pot and let it sit on medium low for about thirty minutes. Strain with the strainer and the cheesecloth into another bowl. You may need to do that a couple times, so be ready to sacrifice a few sheets of cheesecloths. If you know someone who works at a hospital ask them to get some laprascopic sponges for you, they're great for cleaning or cooking with. Do not throw away the fat free butter like someone at our party did.
Once the waters' a boilin' you can add a few tablespoons of the vinegar and one package of the seasoning mix along with the potatoes, garlic, onion and corn. After a couple minutes of boiling, add the crawfish. This can also be considered batch number one if your pot isn't big enough. Allow the water to return to a boil before adding anything else. After a few more minutes, add the ¾ of the second package of the seasoning mix, sausage, crab and shrimp. The crab is most likely precooked as that's how its usually done so they're just getting reheated. That can also be batch two for those lacking in pot stature.
Set up your eating table. There are no individual plates needed, people should be content with standing around the table with bowls of cocktail sauce, vinegar and salt, and butter at both ends of the table.
After a few minutes of cooking at a boil, you have a couple options; you can kill the heat and let it sit to allow the seasoning continue to make the food spicier or you can pull it off and strain. Shake it around to get rid of as much water as you can. Cover the table in the butcher/freezer paper and tape it to the underside of the table. Pour out the cooked sea animals onto the table and sprinkle on the leftover seasoning mix and don't be shy about it. Consume. Drink beer. Enjoy. Hire someone to clean up.