Learn to cook like a Cajun and develop your own style with help from south Louisiana cook and humorist, Jacques Gaspard, who's been cooking great Cajun foods for nearly 50 years. Learn how to prepare the best gumbos, seafood, jambalaya, stews, salads and deserts – the way they were originally prepared – pure and simple. Besides great original recipes you will discover a hodgepodge of stories, recordings, music, videos and humorous anecdotes to entertain. So enjoy! ... Ahheee!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

How to Boil Shrimp, Crabs or Crawfish

Season the water in which the shrimp, crab or crawfish are to be boiled. The basic seasonings consist of salt, red pepper, and black pepper. This is the secret of bringing out the flavor of boiled seafood as served by Louisiana Acadians.

Bring seasoned water to a boil in a large pot then add the shrimp, crabs or crayfish. Bring to a boil again and cook rapidly for 5 minutes in an uncovered pot. Be sure to have enough water to cover the seafood. Remove from heat, cover the pot and let set in water for about 5 minutes. They are ready to be peeled. Enjoy them!

Tip: Remember to boil only live crayfish or crabs. Dead ones certainly won't taste good, and they might make you sick.

When boiling a large amount of crayfish or crabs (20 lbs. or more) you may want to add new potatoes, small to medium size onions, hot smoked pork sausage (hot Italian is the best) cut into 2 inch links, and even corn on the cob. Many Cajuns add dry or liquid crab or shrimp boil and a cup of oil to make the crustaceans more spicy and easier to peel.

It is a good idea to purge the crabs or crayfish before you boil them. This is done by pouring the live crabs or crayfish in a large container filled with fresh cool water and salt. This is the easiest way to clean them.

"I was seven years old when my grandfather had this crazy idea of flooding our rice fields after the harvest. Grandfather didn't even finish grade school back in the old days but it did not diminish the fact that he was an innovator.

The Gaspard Family has a claim of being the first commercial crayfish farmers in the State of Louisiana. The only challenge to that claim came from the Trahan Family who resided about 12 miles away. I think Mr. Trahan emulated my grandfather's success and began their own farming operation the following year.

Back then we were resigned to using rudimentary harvesting methods to catch crawfish; namely, pyramid type nets and blood bait placed in the center. Even then, each year we managed to harvest tons of the delicious crustaceans. Later we made and used wire traps. The traps were made of ¾ inch chicken wire formed into a cylindrical shape with a funnel opening at each end. We quadrupled our harvest.

We kept the crawfish farm going for a couple decades. Most of the money we earned from the farm was unreported cash. The windfall from the operations allowed me to purchase my first brand new car by the time I was 15 years old. Actually, my grandfather purchased the car for me before I obtained my driver's license.

As word spread, people would travel from miles around just to fish our ponds. Back then we would rent the nets by the dozen, sell bait and soda to anyone who did not have their own fishing equipment. I remember one time a business man came by to check out our farm. Before you knew it we equipped him with a pair of waders, a dozen nets, a number two wash tub, and a long cane pole. He fished a couple hours and walked away with about 100 pounds of crawfish.

Folks would place the nets at the very end of the pole and from the levee would strategically place them about 15 feet apart...never getting their feet wet. A dozen nets would do the trick. If you didn't walk away with about 100 pounds in an hour or so it meant you were just playing around. We sold our crawfish for 10 cents a pound if you caught your own, or 20 cents a pound if we caught them for you.

Later on, when I was in high school, my grandfather would give me all the proceeds from the fish farm just for managing it while he was away pursuing another hobby. Some weekends I would pocket around $300. Not bad for a pimple faced teenager back then.

Crawfish season would last only about 4 months until it was time to plow up the fields and prepare for the next rice harvest. This is when I would go down to the coast to catch shrimp and crab. I used a throw net to catch shrimp and string with chicken necks to catch crabs. We always had a freezer full of seafood. Those were the good old days."
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