May 06, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
It’s an old Louisiana adage: “Pinch the tail, suck the head.”
It sounds salacious, but it’s actually delicious.
“Pinch the tail, suck the head” is the simple, best advice about how to eat boiled crawfish.
Central New Yorkers can make a meal of the marvelous mudbugs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday May 7, when Operation Southern Comfort presents its 4th annual Crawfish Festival. This year, the big boil takes place at Chevy Court at the State Fairgrounds in Geddes. In case of rain, it’ll move inside the center or Progress Building. Admission is free and there’s plenty of free parking.
Crayfish, also known as crawfish or crawdads, are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. Found in slow-moving bodies of water, mostly brooks and streams, they breathe through gills. The thumb-sized shelled creatures sometimes burrow up to 10 feet into the ground earning their nickname, mudbugs.
Louisiana’s rural Cajuns first harvested crawfish for their families, but in the 1940s commercial enterprises started farming crawdaddies and packaging the peeled tails, their most succulent meat. Over the years, chefs have adapted crawfish into all sorts of dishes, from crawfish touff e with rice, crawfish monica with pasta, crawfish pie, crawfish bisque or crawfish au gratin. On the simpler side, there are crawfish breads, fried crawfish po’boys and even crawfish beignets.
The simplest and best way to eat crawfish, however, is boiled, and that’s how they’ll do it here. Operation Southern Comfort is flying in a few thousand pounds of live crawfish for Saturday’s she-bang.
The crusty critters will be boiled live in a large pot with heavy seasoning (salt, cayenne pepper, lemon, garlic, bay leaves, etc.). Festival-goers will feast on steamed crawfish with sides of boiled potatoes and corn.
It only takes a minute or so to cook the crawfish, and after they’ve been removed from the pot and cooled, they’re ready to eat.
New Orleans food critic Pableaux Johnson tells you what to do:
“Pick up a steaming crawfish and rip it into two pieces – cephalothorax and tail. Strip shell from tail end, bite off exposed meat, and inhale deeply through the head cavity. Take long quaff of fizzy beer, then throw shell onto towering mountain of empties. Repeat as needed.”
All of which is another way of saying, “Pinch the tail, suck the head.”
Most crawdads weigh less than four ounces, but with larger ones, you’ll want to crack open their claws because there’s meat in there too.
“From a culinary perspective, the tasty crawfish easily rivals its saltwater cousin – the hefty Atlantic lobster,” Johnson said. “The crawfish’s strong tail, its primary swimming muscle, is coveted for its sweet flavor (somewhere between lobster and shrimp) and melt-in-your mouth texture.”
Some people dip the tail meat into cocktail sauce or melted butter, but the preferred condiment in Cajun country is Tabasco.
On Saturday, the hungriest festival-goers can buy two pounds of crawfish for $16, while less adventurous eaters can buy a pound for $10. If crawfish scare you, order a pound of steamed spiced shrimp for $20, or grab a hot dog and chips for $3. Other vittles will also be available, including pulled pork from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and fried beignets, those famous Caf du Monde doughnuts covered with confectionary sugar.
Tasty tunes, too
Local rock bands such as Kane and the Fab 570 will keep festival goers on their feet as will country combo Custom Taylor Band and the All Night Ramblers, a Cajun-style band based in Rochester and featuring fiddler Bill Henrie. For festival info, call 637-0116.
Live music, legal beverages and raffles will create a festive atmosphere at Satuirday’s Crawfish Fest while benefiting Operation Southern Comfort’s efforts to rebuild Louisiana homes ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To learn about those efforts, contact Norm Andrzejewski (pronounced AN-dru-juski), at 559-9413, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember, if anyone at the festival says anything about pinching your tail, they’re not being fresh, they’re just offering some gastronomic guidance.
Rohde Trio at Pasta’s
The John Rohde Trio featuring keyboardist Rick Montalbano, vibist Jimmy Johns and the saxophonist-leader, performs at 7 p.m. every Wednesday at Pastabilities, 311 S. Franklin St. in downtown Syracuse’s Armory Square. Admission is free; 474-1153.
‘Don’t drop it!’
Joygerm Joan is on a crusade.
Now that the snow has finally melted, Onondaga County’s dirty litter is showing.
To encourage people to clean up their acts, Joan White has manufactured buttons, which proclaim “Litter – To Stop It, Don’t Drop It.” Makes sense, plus it rhymes!
If you’re willing to wear a button, call Joygerm Joan at 472-2779 or e-mail her at email@example.com.