Cooking Louisiana - Crawfish Facts

Crawfish or "Crayfish" are well known here in South Louisiana and their popularity is growing throughout the world. Given that I've put together some facts on the mudbug that are pretty  interesting.

We'll start with the general definition:

Any of various freshwater crustaceans of the genera Cambarus and Astacus, resembling a lobster but considerably smaller.

There are more than 500 different species and sub-species throughout the world with most being right here in the U.S. Most crawfish live in areas with a moderate temperature and fresh water. 

Crawfish here in the U.S. are usually 2 - 4 inches when mature. Australian crawfish can get as big as 15.5 inches and weigh 8 lbs and "No, they are not Lobsters". The most generally fished crawfish in Australia is called the "Yabby".

Most farm raised crawfish are a brownish/red color with a few oddities like white and blue.
Here's couple of blue crawfish found recently.

 

 

Production

In general some 60 to 100 million pounds of crawfish are harvested annually from about 130,000 farmed acres in Louisiana and The Atchafalaya Basin. Retail price per whole pound is about $1.50 and 70% of the consumption is right here in the State. Processed and packaged crawfish tails go for an average $7.00 a pound. 

About 10 years ago the U.S. was exporting about 14 million lbs. of crawfish to European nations. Today it's only about 1 million lbs. with imports of around 9 million pounds.

Are you eating Louisiana or imported crawfish? With packaged crawfish tails it's easy to tell... just read the package. Did you know that whole frozen crawfish are also imported? Hmmm...

Is there a difference in the taste of imported and Louisiana crawfish? Some say "no", most say "yes" as do I. Even if they did taste exactly the same I buy Louisiana crawfish to support the industry here. I do the same thing when I buy rice and sugar. 

A short video clip about crawfish in Louisiana ...Click Here 
From www.louisianafolklife.org

Softshell Crawfish are produced in Louisiana but numbers are low; the reasons being popularity and production difficulties. Don't be afraid to try these at the restaurant as they are very tasty.  If you look for these softies to cook at home you'll have a hard time finding them.

Tasty treat...

Down here you'll see the boiling pots roaring on the weekends during the peak of the crawfish season. The season runs from around November through the winter and ends when Summer begins. Price and size depend on weather conditions such as proper rain amounts and moderate temperatures. Those "best times" usually occur from March to May but, as you know, the weather can be almost summer-like here during the winter months.

When buying fresh whole crawfish to boil pay attention what what you get. If you pour the crawfish in an ice chest, fill it with water and 1/4 of the bugs are floating (dead) there was a problem somewhere down the line. If this happens to me, and, the business that sells the fresh crawfish also boils them to sell cooked, I figure they just "don't care" about what you get. Don't go back there to buy your live crawfish. Why? Because they're boiling the same live ones you do and know good and well what you  are getting.

If you deal with the same place, usually get good crawfish, and, you encounter a problem, be sure to notify the business... they may not realize that they bought a bad batch from the fisherman.

When buying crawfish already boiled, and, you discover a bunch of mushy or noticeably flakey crawfish meat, those crawfish were dead before they were boiled. Are they dangerous? I ain't dead yet. Do they taste different? A little... Do I like mush in my mouth?... No! 

Ordering boiled crawfish in a restaurant or from a seafood dealer for the first time can be a disappointing surprise if you're not careful. Ordering crawfish should be no different from ordering a steak the way YOU want it! But, you have to ask for what you want. For instance... I like my crawfish boiled with the seasoning in the water, not sprinkled on the outside. I also like them a little spicy but not so hot my lips fall off when I eat them. Ask the waitress or dealer to boil them like you want them. If they won't do it... move on!

Boil your own...

If you're going to boil your own crawfish I have a good recipe that everyone here is satisfied with. It applies to boiling crawfish in a big pot with 10 gallons of water. You can cut the recipe according to the number of gallons of water you use.. not by how many crawfish you cook.

Here's the recipe...

If you do boil your own crawfish you should purge them. Purging means to soak them in water in order to clean them internally and externally. I use plain old fresh water, some folks add salt. The salt supposedly makes the crawfish regurgitate which is supposed to clean them out. If I were a freshwater crawfish and someone put me in a tank of salt water I think I'd just close my mouth... how about you?  I've been purging with fresh water for years and it works just fine. 

When purging crawfish in an ice chest I put the entire still sealed sack in the chest and fill it up with water. Then I'll move the sack around making the water flow through it, pull the sack out and dump the water. If the water is super dirty I do it again, if not, I'll open the sack and dump the crawfish in so they can run around. This allows me to pick out grass and bait fish sometimes left in the sack. If you move fast enough they won't pinch you... if not... ?

Change the water every 15 minutes or so until it is relatively clean. Don't let your mudbugs sit in the same purge water very long. The oxygen begins to deplete and they'll start to die.

Other cooking things...

You can use crawfish as you would shrimp and crab in most any dish. In some instances crawfish work better in a dish than the other two. It's just about your taste. Below are a few recipes we enjoy...

Crawfish Recipes

I'll also make crawfish stew and, come to think of it, I never made a crawfish gumbo! Hmmm.. sounds like a new cooking adventure to me.

Replace shrimp in a salad with crawfish...!

Preserving crawfish meat...

If you choose to save left over crawfish meat simply put it in a zipper bag, add a little water, get all the air out and freeze, that's it. When preserving crawfish remember to freeze some in small quantities for omelets... mmmm!

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If you go to any one of the Search Engines you can choose to search for Images of the crawfish.  You'll get to see a vast quantity of different types.

Here is an Australian crayfish website... there are some interesting pictures there.
http://www.crayfishworld.com/

Eat more bugs.....

Check out the Food Talk forum to discuss... Food Talk

 

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