It’s an old Louisiana adage: “Pinch the tail, suck the head.”
Though it sounds salacious, it’s actually quite delicious. “Pinch the tail, suck the head” offers simple advice about how to eat boiled crawfish.
Central New Yorkers will make a meal of the marvelous mudbugs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday May 3, when Operation Southern/Northern Comfort presents its seventh annual Crawfish Festival & Clambake in downtown Syracuse’s Clinton Square.
Live music, legal beverages, sweet treats, kids’ games, crafts and raffles will create a festive atmosphere while benefiting Operation Southern/Northern Comfort’s efforts to rebuild Louisiana homes ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and New York and New Jersey homes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It’s a project of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Liverpool, which affords it non-profit status and the ability to receive tax-deductible.
Operation Southern Comfort was started in 2006 by Liverpool resident Norm Andrzejewski (pronounced AN-dru-juski), a Tulane graduate who’d spent time on the Gulf Coast in the 1960s. He can be contacted at 559-9413 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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 tiny shelled creatures sometimes burrow up to ten 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 étouffée (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 perhaps best way to eat crawfish, however, is boiled, and that’s how they’ll do it here. Operation Southern/Northern Comfort is flying in thousands of pounds of live crawfish for Saturday’s she-bang.
The crusty critters will be boiled live in large pots of heavily seasoned water. Festival goers will feast on half-pound servings of steaming 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.” 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.
There will be hundreds of pounds of boiled mudbugs at Saturday’s crawfish fest, but other vittles will also be available, including fried catfish from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Bob’s Barkers hot dogs, pizza and brownies from the Last Stop Bakery, java from the Coffee Pavilion and wine, beer and soft drinks.
Tasty tunes too
Festival goers will also munch on clams, shrimp, gumbo, jambalaya and salt potatoes. Cooks will fry beignets, those famous New Orleans dough-nuts sprinkled liberally with confectionary sugar.
Sweet music will also be served for free. Bands include Los Blancos, the Fabulous Ripcords, Soul Risin,’ and C’est Bon.
And remember, if anyone says something about pinching your tail, they’re not being fresh, they’re just offering some gastronomic guidance.