For those who love the long-held tradition of crawfish boils, experts are offering tips to help pull off a true extravaganza.
Miami chef and restaurant owner, Cesar Zapata at Phuc Yea, Pho Mo and Arepitas Bar spoke with FOX News ahead of the holiday weekend explaining how a good old-fashioned boil is more than just a combo of potato, corn, sausage and live crawfish.
“I love cooking crawfish boils because it’s an event and a way to gather with friends and family, and a fine excuse to throw back a few beers, catch up, and have fun — Big Easy style,” Zapata said.
Top Miami chef Cesar Zapata shares his recipe for grilled Viet-Cajun crawfish “boil.” (Isaac Toups)
Zapata said he grills his boil to add a smokier, more complex flavor to the crawfish.
“This is a perfect recipe for a pool party or any outdoor gathering — it’s messy and hands-on, and sure to provide some lasting memories with family and friends,” he added. “Once your crawfish are tossed in Cajun garlic butter, dump them right on the table, it’s time to eat.”
Zapata reminds home chefs to line their table with newspaper, have empty buckets on the table for shells and a couple rolls of paper towels in each corner.
Isaac Toups, chef and owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans and author of award-winning book Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking, advised that all home crawfish cooks invest in a huge stainless steel stockpot.
“Bayou Classic makes them in all sizes, and even has some with the burner. This recipe calls for cooking it outside on a propane burner. You can cook it inside on your stovetop, but you better be ok with coughing up spice for a few days,” he says. Before cooking your crawfish, Toups also cautions folks to remember to purge the crawfish to rinse off the grit. “Nothing worse than gritty crawfish.”
Then, there’s the fun. “The other key element to a crawfish boil is beer and music – find a Cajun playlist or put on your favorite backyard tunes and stock up on beer. Crawfish are spicy, so you need some liquid (I mean beer) to cool you down,” Toups adds.
Another pro-tip from Zapata once you’re seated at the table and ready to dig in: “Don’t forget to suck the juices from the crawfish head. After you have separated the head from the tail, suck the juices from the head,” he says. “It seems counterintuitive and totally gross, but trust me, that’s where a lot of the spiced-up cooking juices will pool up and offer a burst of flavor. There’s also a bit of fat in there you can scrape up — it’s good stuff, don’t miss out.”
Grilled Viet-Cajun Crawfish “Boil”
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cool time: 20 minutes
-½ lb. butter (cut into large dices)
-6 garlic cloves (minced)
-2 kaffir lime leaves
-¼ cup Thai bird Chilis (chopped)
-2 tablespoons lemongrass (chopped, only the green part)
-2 tablespoons shallots (minced)
-3 tablespoons Cajun Seasoning
-4 limes cut into halves
-¼ cup fish sauce
-4 ears corn, cut into two-inch pieces
-3 lbs. fingerling potatoes (cut in halves) New potatoes work also
-4 lbs. jumbo crawfish
-4 links of andouille sausage (cut into one-inch pieces)
-Salt and pepper to taste
- Fill a large pan with water. Add kosher salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add live crawfish, and cook for about one minute. Transfer crawfish to a large ice bath.
- Heat butter with garlic, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, chilies, and shallots in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Simmer one minute. Stir in Cajun seasoning. Squeeze juice of halved lime and fish sauce into butter mixture (reserve other halves). Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.
- Cover potatoes with cold water in a large pot; bring to a boil. Add two tablespoons of salt, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes. Add corn and cook until corn is tender.
- Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grates with oil. Toss potatoes, corn, crawfish, andouille sausage and sliced limes with three tablespoons of butter mixture in a large bowl. Grill, turning occasionally, until crawfish are cooked through and potatoes, sausage, limes, and corn are marked in spots, about three minutes for crawfish, five-to-10 minute for vegetables, sausage and limes. Transfer to a large bowl, toss with remaining butter mixture and sprinkle more Cajun spice.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, Thai basil, and scallions. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top and serve.