How To Have A Proper Crawfish Boil by Guest Writer Nora Hahn
We're rejoined by the hilarious and genuine, Nora Hahn.
We were there to celebrate a friend's daughter graduating from high school and being accepted into The University of Texas. Not a bad deal, in my book. Especially considering this young lady is the product of a broken home, her single mother struggling to support three children on her own. And even more exciting considering how difficult it is to even make it into UT in this day in age: you must be in the TOP TEN PERCENT of your high school class to even be considered.
You go girl. I couldn't do it today if my life depended on it.
Unable to afford a shin-dig at the country club or the Junior League, this resourceful mother asked a friend-of-a-friend to help her put together a crawfish boil for the daughter's going-away party. Enter JAGNEAUX (pronounced "Jog-No"). Jagneaux is a born & bred coon-ass, father of five sons, and by day a contract negotiator for a major oilfield services company. Think he knows a thing or two about how to make people get along? I'd say yes.
He knocks at the front door and announces: "The crawfish man is here - where do I set up?" He's got four coolers, a propane burner and stand, one hell of an aluminum soup pot with a fitted lid and colander, a wooden paddle (to lift the lid), and at least ten pounds of salt, crawfish spices, vinegar, lemon juice and a ginormous soup ladle. The mother of the grad has supplied fresh new potatoes, corn on the cob, mushrooms, onions, canned green beans (more on this later), ketchup and mayonnaise, boudin sausage, and of course, the crawfish. Not to mention donated wine and beer, a garden hose, and ice.
Now pay attention:
First, get twenty pounds of live crawfish and put them in a giant igloo full of ice. This slows 'em down. When you're ready to go, hose them down with the garden hose to bring them back to life. [NOTE: The cooler will be full of mud, if they’re really fresh.] All the while, you've fired up the propane and placed the soup pot on top, filled it with water from the garden hose, and floated a couple of containers of crawfish boiling spices and halved-lemons in the pot.
It's time to transfer the crawfish to the second giant cooler and fill it with fresh water.
At this point, a couple of kids have wandered out into the yard, complaining that they're bored. Put 'em to work, Jagneaux! "Hose down these crawfish. They're getting active, so put on these thick gloves so you don't get bit. Then move them to the clean cooler." Each kid complies, screeching from the grossness of it all, yelping as they each get a friendly pinch now and then, shivering from the freezing cold water.
"Now that they're looking lively, why don't a couple of you have a crawfish race?"
"Whazzup?" they say. Neophytes.
"OK, pick your winner, and line 'em up behind this line. NOT face-front; crawfish walk BACKWARDS. Draw two lines on the ground, one for the start and one for the finish, and let 'em rip." One of the kids chooses a crawfish with over-sized pincers and dubs him "Clawzilla." NOTE: A crawfish with large claws may not necessarily be the fastest crawfish in the cooler. [SECOND NOTE: Any girls in the crowd will probably name the crawfish things like "Ariel" and "Giselle."]
While the kids are busy picking their racehorses, it's time to make the rest of the crawfish vomit. That's right. Pour about three canisters of salt into the clean cooler, on top of the live crawfish. Cover 'em up completely with salt. This causes a gag reflex, making them upchuck all the mud in their tummies. Makes the crawfish less gritty when you’re ready to eat them. Sounds reasonable to me. Except...now the cooler is grody again. Time to get the kids back over for a transfer! [NOTE: Pick your crawfish racer BEFORE the crawfish throw up. They'll be better racers when they don't feel nauseous.]
Move the crawfish back to the first container, which has now been hosed out with the garden hose. As the crawfish prep has been taking place, you're boiling the veggies in hot water. Throw in a couple of sticks of real butter. Start with the new potatoes, then mushrooms, then the corn and onions. Finally, throw in the green beans.
But wait - here's the secret: remove the labels from the large cans of green beans and start poking holes in the cans with an ice pick. DO NOT OPEN THE CANS OR DRAIN THE BEANS. The holes become a strainer. Toss each of the cans into the soup pot. Trust me, it's worth it and makes all the sense in the world.
When all the veggies are done cooking, just throw 'em into a clean, empty cooler. (Now you can take the green beans out of the cans.) Have a set of tongs handy and you're good to go. Keep the cooler closed to keep them hot while you're cooking the crawfish.
Next, it's time for the boudin. Follow same procedures as above for the vegetables.
OK, crawfish, after all the abuse you've taken, you're ready to throw in the towel. Just boil me and get it over with.
[NOTE: By this time, you've had several (pick one) beers/glasses of wine/wine coolers/mixed drinks. Things are starting to taste bland. Throw in a couple more bags of crawfish spice. You’ll never know what hit you.]
Bring on the crawfish. The children should have all gathered by the pot at this point. It isn't often you get to see something die, is it? Put the gloves on, grab handfuls of crawfish and start loading them in. BUT FIRST, tell the children they can hear them screaming as they are lowered into the water. Then stand behind a little girl and clasp her by the shoulders as you scream "STOP!" Gets 'em every time.
Once you've boiled the heck out of the crawfish, place them in one of the empty, clean coolers. Pour a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice on top of them. This separates the meat from the shell and preserves them. When you're ready to serve, place them in empty box tops you got from the local grocery store.
Mix four cups of ketchup with four cups of mayo and you've got yourself a gourmet dipping sauce. Keep several large garbage cans around for the shells. Clean-up is minimal -- just use the garden hose.
FYI: Mary, the mother of the graduate, tells me that she timidly called Jagneaux to ask him if he would help her with the crawfish boil. She really didn't know him, after all. Before the words were even out of her mouth, he said "I'll do it. " That's class, in my book. You don't need a degree from UT to be a good man.
And Samantha, the graduate, tells me she wants to major in Psychology. I'd say she knows a thing or two about how to handle pain, personal struggles and family issues, not to mention being short on money most of your life. Sign me up to be your first customer, Samantha. You've got your head on straight. I'm all yours.
Written by Nora Hahn. 2019.