Because if you wanted crawfish in the spring, that’s easy. You call up my buddy Brian Brewster at NoNo’s Cafe (that’s a map and review site; official website is currently unavailable) and you reserve yourself a spot for the next weekend boil. The Metairie native has ’em flown in from the Gulf Coast and serves ’em boiled hot-n-spicy along with potatoes, corn, and sausage at his Littleton restaurant, which is decorated with memorabilia from every southern Louisiana sports and educational institution you can think of: the New Orleans Saints, the LSU Tigers, the Bonnabel Bruins, Brian’s own Rummel Raiders, you name it.
Which experience we’ll explore in more detail at a later time. Right now I’m talking about summer crawfish. Or “crayfish” as I’m told y’all Colorado natives say.
Apparently crawfish season along the Front Range runs exactly opposite the time of year as the Gulf Coast: April to Octoberish, if I remember correctly. During that time, Golden-located Cowboy Crawfish, harvests All Natural Wild-Caught Crawfish and sells ’em throughout the region. I bought four pounds of live mudbugs from him Saturday morning ($20 @ $5/lb, feeds 2) at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, followed his advice to keep them alive overnight, and cooked ’em Sunday in time to pull the tails and suck the heads during the Saints game (what you’d probably call the Broncos game, right? Congrats on your win, by the way. Sweating a bit during the 4th quarter, weren’t you?). The crawdads wuz delish.
You gotta keep ’em alive because you gotta boil ’em live. Sorry. It’s not that we’re in favor of excess cruelty; it’s that, as with most other shellfish, the meat becomes inedible very quickly after the critter’s demise. So here’s the advice I followed:
- Put crawfish in large, smooth-sided container; I used a soup pot. Why smooth-sided? Because the crawfish will find any irregularities in the surface and use ’em as a staircase out of captivity, and then they’ll be crawling all over your fridge.
- Cover this container with a damp (not soaking) cloth.
- Place shards of crushed ice on top this cloth.
- Stretch plastic wrap over the whole thing. Perforate for breathing holes.
- Place container in the back of your refrigerator, wherever the temperature is coldest and most stable.
The point is to try to keep the crawfish at around 34 degrees F, just above freezing, so that they go sorta dormant. Supposedly it’s possible to keep ’em alive for up to two weeks like this. I can vouch for the efficacy of this overnight, in any case; out of those 4 pounds, only 3 of the critters died.
So Sunday morning I put the drain trap in the sink and poured the bugs in. (If you haven’t had your sink full of live, crawling crustaceans, you haven’t lived.) Then I used the sink’s spray extension on them to wake ’em up so I could cull the dead ones out. Meanwhile the soup pot, freshly rinsed, was being brought to a boil with about a third of a can of Cajun Land Complete Seafood Boil in it. A full can should season 12 lbs, so I thought a third can could season 4. It was a tad mild, as it turned out; next time I’ll use half.
Here’s what I’d do about timing next time; I got this a little wrong yesterday:
- Once water comes to a rolling boil, dump in your little red potatoes. Let cook 5 minutes.
- Add corn cobs cut in halves or thirds. Let cook another 5 minutes.
- Dump in live crawfish. (Sorry, little dudes.) Let cook another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add a tray of ice. Let entire pot sit for 30 minutes to soak up flavor.
During the soaking time, set the table thusly: Stretch a paint tarp over your eating surface and cover with a good layer of newspaper. Put out one roll of paper towels per 4 or 5 guests. Have cans of soda and beer ice cold and ready to pop open. Put out some butter and spreading knives if you like that on your veggies.
Sample the crawfish periodically to see if they’re seasoned enough yet. When they are, drain ’em and bring ’em to the table. Enjoy.
And that’s how to have a crawfish boil in the Denver area in September. If you wanna try it, you can call Cowboy Crawfish at (303) 948-4993. Or, if you want all the yummy and none of the work, check out Highland Pacific Restaurant & Oyster Bar, 3934 W 32nd Ave. in Denver, who buy Cowboy Crawfish and host crawfish boils in much the same way Nono’s Cafe does. Or so I’m told. Call them at (303) 477-6644.