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!!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to Boil Shrimp, Crabs or Crawfish

Boiled Shrimp
If you know how to boil shrimp, crabs or crayfish the way Cajuns do it, then you are in for a delicious treat. As we are heading into the 2015 harvest, get ready to impress your family and friends with this traditional method of preparing them. It's easy and fun.

To do an exemplary job we must include the right kind of seasoning to the water in which the shrimp, crab or crayfish are to be boiled, but not before purging them first using cool clean water and regular table salt, for a few minutes, in a different container. Our family and friends have regularly used a #2 galvanized washtub for that occasion.

Boiled Crab
The saline solution during the purging process causes the crustaceans to regurgitate any of the pond water from which they were harvested, and the thrashing around for a few minutes while in the salt water solution helps to clean the underpart of the crayfish and crab shells and tails which will sometimes collect tiny bits of muddy or sandy residue from the waters they were harvested from. You may want to stir them around a bit with a broom handle or long spoon to help them along if you would like to speed-up the cleaning process. This will agitate them and the water.


Boiled Crawfish
The basic seasonings for the boil consist of salt, ground red cayenne pepper, and black pepper (easy on the black pepper, tho). This is the secret of bringing out the flavor of boiled seafood as served by Louisiana Acadians (Cajuns). It is important to remember that these types of seafood will completely cook in a short period of time. Overcooking can cause problems with texture, taste and the ability to easily peel or clean them. So, take precautions.







Instructions


  1. bring your seasoned water to a boil in a large pot then add the shrimp, crabs or crayfish
  2. bring to a boil again and cook rapidly for 5 minutes in a large uncovered pot
  3. be sure to have enough water to cover the seafood
  4. remove from heat, cover the pot and let them set in the hot seasoned water for about 5 minutes
  5. the covered pot will retain the heat while the mud bugs, shrimp or crab cools. This allows them to absorb more of the seasoned water in which they were boiled 
  6. spread a few sheets of newspaper on a large table and evenly lay the seafood out within reach of your dinner guests
  7. don't forget to add containers around to collect the discarded shells after eating 

Tip: Remember to boil only live crayfish or crabs. Discard any dead ones before hand. They certainly won't taste good, and they could make you sick. So, get rid of the dead ones.

When boiling a large amount of crayfish or crabs (20 lbs. or more) you may want to add small new potatoes, small to medium size onions, hot smoked pork sausage (hot Italian sausages are the best) cut into 2 inch links, and you may even include corn on the cob. We've added eggs on occasion to add a little more stuff to the pot. Be sure to have plenty of cold beer on hand to tame the hot seasoning.

Many Cajuns will add dry or liquid crab or shrimp boil, and a cup of oil, to make the crustaceans spicer and easier to peel.

Our Family Crayfish Farm

 "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, or his ability to get things accomplished.

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 in a small one-horse town called Duson. I think Mr. Trahan copied my grandfather's successful operation, with his blessings, and they subsequently began their own crawfish farming operation.

Back in the day, we used rudimentary harvesting methods to catch crayfish, namely; pyramid shaped henged wire nets with baits affixed in the center of the net with clothespins. Even then, each year we managed to harvest tons of the delicious mud bugs. 
Later on, 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 and the 3/4" openings would allow the immature crayfish to escape the cages to live another day while the big ones remained trapped inside.

We operated our crayfish farm for nearly two decades. Most of the money earned from the farm operation was cold hard cash. This was a windfall for me because it allowed me to buy very first car (a brand new 1963 Chevrolet Super Sport) from the money I made and saved. I was 15 years old at the time.

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 he knew it, we equipped him with a pair of waders, a dozen nets, a number two washtub, and a long cane pole. He fished a couple hours and walked away with about 100 pounds of crayfish. I've never in my life seen a Yankee that excited before.

Folk 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 usually do the trick. If you didn't walk away with about 100 pounds in an hour, or so, it probably meant you were just playing around and not too serious about fishing.
Back in the day we sold our crayfish for 10 cents a pound when people would harvest their own. If we caught them for you it cost 20 cents a pound.

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 other interests. Some weekends I would pocket around $300 - $400. Not bad for a lanky pimple-faced teenage farm boy..

Crayfish 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 nylon string with chicken necks tied to the end of it to catch crabs. We always had a freezer full of seafood. Those were the good old days."

Bon Appetite!
KT 
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