For all of the seemingly brutish appeal of a true crawfish boil – hulking pots, untempered flame, the steaming pile of crustaceans poured over newspaper – there is something elegant about the whole thing. A largely Louisianan tradition meant to feed a few dozen people at once, a boil requires many small things in order to succeed, not least of which is timing.
Chef Brandon Boudet of Dominick's has harnessed his Louisiana roots before, boiling up pounds and pounds of crayfish (the terms are interchangeable) at his West Hollywood eatery for half a decade. This year's event takes place over two weekends, on Saturday, May 17 and the following 24th, and to get the rest of the city as pumped as we are for this massive seafood party, we asked chef Boudet to share some of his secrets to a successful Louisiana crawfish boil. Here are his necessary ingredients.
Family and Friends
True crawfish boils rely on scale. There's little point in tossing a few of the freshwater crustaceans into a pot for a mid-week dinner; instead, invite two dozen of your closest friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and strangers out to help you feast. “I would start with at least ten people, but twenty is even better!” says Boudet. Time to prep that Evite.
The Right Crawfish
“There's actually only a three to five month season for crawfish, depending on the weather,” says Boudet. Depending on the species and their natural location, the fluctuating crawfish population can start as early as December or as late as February, but never lasts long once the time is right. The version favored by Boudet are caught in the wild from the Atchafalaya basin, and tend to be at peak plumpness this time of year.
Says Boudet: “You'll need enough equipment for 50 lbs. of crayfish, which will feed about 25 people. That means a large 80-qt. to 100-pt. pot with strainer basket inside, lid and a paddle to stir. Plus, a jet propane burner.” What's better than making so much food at once, you need a paddle to stir it all around?
This is, after all, a party. Abita is the drink of choice for many Louisiana die-hards, and Boudet recommends their SOS Pilsner, but is quick to point out a preference for local craft beer, wherever “local” happens to be. Or, if you're really intrepid, try seeking out Louisiana-based craft breweries, for a seriously authentic feel. But above all: “The most important thing is that the beer is nice and cold!”
At the end of the day, each chef's preferences for spices, serving style and crawfish species will be their own. And in many ways the same is true for those just looking to eat; you'll find as many variations as there are partyf guests. “I have a cousin that likes to add lemon oil, and swears by Chinese red pepper” says Boudet. “Me personally, I like eating them cold the next day just as much. You really get the intense flavor.”