Thursday, April 07, 2011

Pinch The Tail, Suck The Head: The Simplest Guide To How To Eat Crawfish On The Web

Every year around the Memorial Day weekend my in-laws have a block party in their neighborhood and throw a crawfish boil. I haven't always been able to make it, but each year that I have has been hella fun. There's always plenty beer, plenty music, and plenty crawfish.

Aside from the possibility of seeing one female giving another one a drunken lapdance, the highlight is the food. And there's always tons of it: chicken, corn, sausage, some kind of spicy cauliflower last year that was so hot it left many of the guests crying. But the main event this year, as in every year past, will be the crawfish.

Crayfish, Mudbugs, Crawfish, Crawdads

I plan to make it out next month, so it's time to bone up on my crawdaddy eating skills. As I get back in practice, I figured I'd share the basics of enjoying crawfish with you. Some people find it a little daunting, so here's all you need to know to have a good time.

Do Crawfish Have A Season?

Yes, it's usually from March through May. An easy to remember indicator of when it's time to start eating crawfish is that crawfish season kicks off after Mardi Gras. But in this "get anything you want anytime you want" modern world in which we live, the crawfish season time frame is really more of a suggestion than a rule. If you go anywhere along the Gulf Coast during the late spring/early summer, you're likely to come across a crawfish boil being held somewhere.

They go by many names: crawdads, crayfish, mudbugs. Whatever you call them, if you grow up in Houston you're going to encounter crawfish. It's as inevitable as lobster in Maine, beans in Boston, or potatoes in Idaho.

Yet, a lot of people don't eat them. They claim it's because it's too much work — true, you don't get a lot of meat per crawfish. Or they claim they just don't like them. That's fair. To each his own.

But many of you probably shy away from them because you just don't know how to eat them and you don't want to embarrass yourself. That's understandable. After all, look at the thing. What are you supposed to do with it? Smaller than a lobster. Tougher than a shrimp. How does it work?

Well, to save you from shame and allow you to enjoy Mother Nature's most misunderstood crustacean, I've put together a simple guide for you. Get cracking and next time you're invited to a crawfish boil you'll be ready to put ‘em away.

I know if you're a grownup, especially if you're a man, it can be awkward sitting next to a 10 year-old who's leaving you in the dust. He's got an ever-growing pile of discarded shells while you're mincing around still trying to figure out how to get into your first one. Don't fret. If that kid's from the Gulf Coast, he was probably shucking shells before he learned to read — or instead of learning to read in certain parts.

Bagging Crawfish, Leftover Crawfish
If you're going to make a meal of the suckers, that's fine. But after you put away a few dozen, they start to fill you up. Fortunately, crawfish are great in recipes.

Got more crawfish than you can put away? Just peel them, bag them, and store them to use in other dishes. There are a bunch of great crawfish recipes. But this article ain't about how to cook ‘em. It's about how to eat ‘em. So here you go.

How To Eat Crawfish

  1. It's best to drain the crawfish and pour them out on a table first. If you're in a restaurant, you'll usually be served by the bucket. If you're at a boil, they're probably already laid out on a table. Either way, if you've got newspaper around, get it ready for your discard pile. Yeah, you're going to be throwing away more than you're eating.
  2. Grab the head with one hand and hold it tight. By head, I mean the entire top half of the body with the claws. The grip that works best for me is to put the little sucker in a headlock between your thumb and a knuckle. With the other hand, pinch the tail right behind the head close to where the two parts of the body meet. Then twist and pull the tail and head apart. You should have a tail with a little bit of crawfish meat hanging out. This is what you're after.
  3. You know what comes next. Stick the head in your mouth and suck it for all it's worth! That's where the extra spicy flavor is, and, yeah, if you're really gonna' get down on some crawfish, you've got to do this step BEFORE you finish it off. It's like doing tequila cruda. You have to get the order right: lick-shoot-suck.
  4. Finally, you've got to peel off the tail to expose the rest of the meat. So peel off the first couple rings of the tail to loosen it up. Then, holding the exposed meat between the fingers of one hand, pinch the very tip of the tail with the other and give it a swift yank to separate it from the meat. There ya' go. (Now once you get really good at it, you'll be able to pinch the tail at just the right spot to loosen up the meat, which you then clench between your teeth and just slide the tail right off. Saves you time and gets you more eating done while everybody else is still peeling. But you're a beginner. Leave that to the natives and the pros.) You got any sauce, dip it. Otherwise, bon appétit.
  5. Repeat until full.

Crawfish, Beer, Shiner Bock
Bon appétit


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John David said...

I got hungry reading this! :) I am ready to eat some bugs! And drink some beer of course. Nice blog post!

"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roulet"

Sherrod Henderson said...

Thanks, John.

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