There’s nothing more New Orleans than a great crawfish dish. When they’re in season, you can find classic recipes and innovative new culinary creations across the city. February to May, there’s nothing better than a traditional crawfish boil with friends. While everyone relies on their family’s secret recipe for the specifics, there are three essentials that every chef needs to make the best crawfish dish.
#1. Fresh crawfish.
The source of your crawfish is the single most important thing for creating the best crawfish dish possible. If your seasoning isn’t going on fresh, sustainably harvested shellfish, your boil will always fall flat. Here are a few questions to ask your distributor if you’re wondering if you’re getting the freshest crawfish possible:
Are they sustainably harvested? When crawfish are sustainably farmed in ponds, they’re free from pesticides and antibiotics, so you’re tasting pure crawfish, not chemicals.
Are they locally sourced? There’s no way that imported crawfish will be as fresh as those sourced right from the Gulf Coast.
Working with a distributor you trust, such as Tommy’s Seafood, takes the guesswork out of the quality of ingredients you’re buying. You can cook with confidence, knowing you’ve got the freshest crawfish available.
#2. Give yourself time for purging.
The best crawfish are clean, free from grit or dirty flavor. After all, mudbugs spend their lives in the silt in swamps and ponds. When you buy live crawfish, you want to give them plenty of time to soak in freshwater. It provides the crawfish with time to clear the mud out of their intestines and gills. You’ll get a purer flavor in the boil. Some tips for the most effective purge:
Let the crawfish soak for 12 hours: it’s the perfect balance between enough time to clear out the intestines and not so long that the crawfish will die before the boil.
Don’t add salt to the water: if you don’t have time for a 12-hour purge, you can encourage crawfish to clear mud from their gills with a short salt water soak, but it will eventually kill the shellfish.
Change water often to keep it oxygenated: by flushing the crawfish with oxygen-rich water, you’ll end up with a cleaner, healthier fish going into the boil.
Next to using the best crawfish that are locally sourced, taking plenty of time to clean and purge is essential.
#3. Develop your secret spice mix.
Every restaurant in New Orleans has its way of doing a crawfish boil. Most can agree that the crawfish’s flavor changes from year to year and even throughout the season. You can’t mix up a single batch of spice mix for the boil and hope that it’ll work for every batch. Try experimenting with these techniques:
Combine lemons with lemon extract: when you use both, you’ll be able to fine-tune the amount of acidity and lemon flavoring.
Use a spice mix without salt: the most challenging part about cooking well-seasoned crawfish is making them not too spicy and not too salty. Separating salt and spices gives you more control.
After the mudbugs boil for two to three minutes, throw ice into the pot and let everything soak for up to 20 minutes to blend all the flavors.
Get in touch if you’re interested in partnering with Tommy’s Seafood in New Orleans for crawfish and more.
We provide restaurants and distributors in New Orleans with wild-caught, sustainable shellfish and bivalves. Tommy’s Seafood is proud to be one of NOLA’s most trusted seafood suppliers, from crawfish to shrimp and oysters.