• 61°

Chicken of the Ditch: an ode to the Crawfish

‘Tis the season once again. It’s probably the only time it’s socially acceptable to pinch a tail without consent, and it’s definitely the best time to watch your Yankee friends turn up their noses in disgust because, well, they just don’t get it, bless their hearts.

Crawfish season is here, and with it brings the perfect social gathering. There’s nothing I love more than sitting in a folding chair on the back porch, with tarp-covered card table full of crawfish and a few good friends.

There’s no such thing as a quick crawfish boil. When done properly, enjoying a few pounds of crawfish requires a little work. But there’s something satisfying about the process of pinching the tails, peeling back the shell and – if you’re brave – sucking the juice out of the head that makes it all worth the effort. When cooked properly, they should be spicy enough to have a hefty kick, but not so hot you can’t stand them. Personally, I don’t like my food to hurt me, but a good mess of crawfish is worth a couple days of chapped lips afterwards.

In today’s fast-paced world, there are very few moments when we’re not treating our phones like they’re an extra appendage. But when it’s crawfish time, you’re forced to unplug. It’s a two-handed deal. Besides, with prices rising above $6 a pound, chances are all the people you want to talk to are elbows-deep at the table with you, because you don’t pay those prices for acquaintances.

Once you’re sitting down, ready to enjoy a helping of the tiny crustaceans, it’s important to remember a couple things. For the love of God, don’t eat the straight ones, people. That’s a one-way ticket to a bad time. Also, don’t be the sad sap who gets suckered into peeling their friend’s crawfish, or worse, the sadder sap who won’t peel their own. Once you get past age 8, it’s no longer cute.

I’m blessed enough to have a fiancé who’s a certified crawdad fiend. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I’m marrying him. (Chris, if you’re reading this, don’t act surprised.) Over the course of several trials, he’s come up with a pretty much foolproof method for boiling the perfect crawfish, easy to peel, decent heat and delicious. I won’t give away all his secrets, but I will say he starts out by buying every ounce of Zatarain’s crab boil in town.

One of the tricks we’ve found is to add beer to the pot, after pouring in the crawfish and fixings. We usually use six regular cans, and almost always use the cheap stuff. It makes the mudbugs a little sweet, and balances out the spiciness.

To make them easier to peel, pour a bag of ice directly in the pot once the crawfish are done cooking. Cover until the ice melts. I’m not going to act like I know why, but this blanching process works every time.

The most important part of any self-respecting crawfish boil, however, is to enjoy them with the ones you love. You only have a few months to get in on the action, so get yours before it’s too late.

Anna Gibbs is a reporter at The Oxford EAGLE. You can reach her at anna.gibbs@oxfordeagle.com