For this huge celebratory feast, invite a dozen or more of your best friends. Stock up a supply of your favorite beverages, including iced tea, lemonade and some adult drinks, and get ready to party!
We set up with a 20-gallon boil pot with strainer basket on a propane burner. After filling the pot to a little less than the halfway mark with the water hose, cover the pot and wait. It takes nearly 2 hours for the pot to come to a boil, so start it up in plenty of time. These huge pots are available at Bayou Classics. Obviously, a boil doesn’t have to be this huge, and you can certainly do a very successful boil on the stovetop in your kitchen. A pasta pot complete with the strainer basket will be ideal. My pasta pot is 8-quart and would do a nice meal for a family of four.
Set up your table — a picnic table is good. Cover the table with a cheap plastic drop cloth and layers of paper, taped down on the corners. Doing this lets you just roll up the whole mess of empty shells and dump it all into a trash bag in one fell swoop. Set out some bowls for shells and a couple rolls of paper towels for messy hands.
• Cajun Land Crab Shrimp Crawfish Boil seasoning
• crawfish and/or shrimp, unpeeled, preferably heads on
• vegetables of your choice (see below)
Note: If the boil spice is not available at your local store, it is available at Amazon.com as well as other utensils you may need.
1. When the water finally comes to a full boil, add in the spices. When you use the spice mix from Cajun Land or Zatarains, do not try to add to it! As they say in Louisiana, “I guarantee” you will mess it up! Just follow the directions that are clearly written on the package. Use the right amount for the size of your boil: It’s all right on the label of the package.
2. With water to a full boil with spices, add the crawfish and whole, unpeeled heads of garlic and small chunks (about 2-inch square) of sweet potatoes.
3. If you are also cooking shrimp, add it when 2 to 5 minutes are left on the crawfish time, depending on size of the shrimps. We like them pretty big — 20 to 25 count.
4. Stir the pot gently, cover and return to a boil. Stir gently every few minutes. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the fire and stir another time.
Now, add in as many of these below as you’d like:
• small red potatoes
• sausage, usually smoked (some people even toss in hot dogs)
• whole mushrooms
• whole stalks of celery
• small whole onions, unpeeled
• frozen little ears of corn
• whole artichokes, fully cooked by steaming or boiling and chilled or frozen
Let the whole bountiful mix “soak” for anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on how spicy you want your food. We left it for 45 minutes and most of our group was very happy. If there are non-spicy guests, you might scoop some out earlier.
Now — and this took two strong men — lift the strainer from the pot, and set it on top of two sturdy boards or paddles on the pot. Let it drain for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until it stops dripping.
Again, with two strong men, dump the whole meal right down the center of the table and everybody can dig in. In our group, some just stood at the table, others pulled up chairs.
Optional: butter for the corn. This meal is not for fancy people — I just put a stick of butter on a plate and tell folks to twirl their corn right on the stick.
A Cajun-style crab dinner is made much the same way. To a hamper (bushel) of crabs, use the same amount of water and seasoning as for the crawfish. When the water comes to a boil, put in the seasoning, then the crabs and as many whole heads of garlic and small sweet potatoes as you want. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, and then turn off the fire. Add in your choices of:
• oranges, quartered
• lemons, halved
• smoked sausages
• artichokes, fully cooked and frozen
• little ears of corn
Soak and drain as above. Grab the claw crackers and dig in!
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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