How to Host a Crawfish Boil
Above: The perfect setting for a summer party, this Shingle-style cottage on Lake Minnetonka features a lovely lakeside yard and balcony.
The afternoon is sultry, a warm breeze wafts across the lake, and you have the urge to gather friends for food and drink. How about a spicy alternative to the default backyard barbecue? Throw a crawfish boil and let the good times roll—“Laissez les bons temps rouler,” as they say in Cajun country.
A boil is a fun and unexpected outdoor party. At least in this part of the country—in Louisiana, it’s a standard spring shindig. It can be hosted down-home, bayou-style with crawfish dumped onto newspapers spread over a picnic table or as a casual-but-stylish dinner party with themed décor. We opted for the latter, adding clever crawfish accoutrements and creating a festive seafood table courtesy of RedStamp, Mardi Gras Outlet, and Grace Hill of Wayzata.
Above: The charming entry welcomes guests.
While few Minnesotans possess the ardent love of the boil that Louisiana natives harbor, local boils thrown by the likes of Smack Shack, at its annual block party, and Cajun 2 Geaux, at the Butcher and The Boar, encourage us to discover our inner Cajuns. The boil itself is simple: water, seasoning, vegetables, and lots of live crawfish. Seriously. Plan on one to three pounds of crawfish per person, unless you’re entertaining Louisianians—reportedly, they put away more like five pounds at a sitting.
You can find the tasty little crustaceans themselves for roughly $8 per pound at Coastal Seafoods from June through September. Availability is weather-dependent, so it’s wise to order ahead. Coastal also stocks Zatarain’s seafood boil seasoning if you aren’t inspired to make your own. You’ll also need an enormous pot (a turkey fryer works nicely), with a strainer, a propane tank and gas, and gloves suitable for loading the live critters (they pinch) and remaining ingredients into the boiling water.
Above: Platters heaped with crawfish and veggies, bowls for shells, and disposable runners encourage guests to dig in.
You can find the tasty little crustaceans themselves for roughly $8 per pound at Coastal Seafoods from June through September. Availability is weather-dependent, so it’s wise to order ahead. Coastal also stocks Zatarain’s seafood boil seasoning if you aren’t inspired to make your own (see recipe, page 30) You’ll also need an enormous pot (a turkey fryer works nicely), with a strainer, a propane tank and gas, and gloves suitable for loading the live critters (they pinch) and remaining ingredients into the boiling water.
After you spread the goodies on platters, give your guests a quick lesson in crawfish eating (fingers only and messy):
- Grab the head with one hand and the tail with the other.
- Twist and pull the tail from the head.
- Peel off the first two or three rings of shell.
- Pinch the end of the tail and pull meat from the shell.
- Suck the head for a little extra Cajun flavor (optional).
Crank up some Queen Ida or the zydeco tunes of your choice and get the party started.
Above: The guests toast New Orleans and their inner Cajun.
¾ cup Old Bay seasoning or Zatarain’s crawfish boil seasoning or an equal amount of spice mix
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
4 tbsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dry mustard
2 tbsp. ground cloves
5 gallons water
1 pound kosher salt
6 bay leaves, crumbled
10 pounds live crawfish
3 pounds small red potatoes, halved
8 ears corn, halved
2 bulbs garlic, unpeeled and separated
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
Fill a 40-quart pot with 5 gallons of water. Add spice mix, salt, and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, approximately 40 minutes.
Crawfish prep: If crawfish are prewashed, you’ll still want rinse them in cool water. If not, rinse thoroughly by placing in a large container and filling with cool water. Stir to remove dirt. Transfer small batches of crawfish to a colander and rinse under cool running water. Pick out debris or dead crawfish. Once all crawfish have been rinsed, return to the container. Repeat this process 6 to 8 times or until the water is clear.
Once the seasoned water comes to a boil, add the potatoes, corn, garlic, and sausage. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the crawfish, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
Drain well and serve immediately.
Above: Red Stamp customizes napkins, table runners, and more for a festive tabletop.
By Chris Lee
Photographs by Erica Loeks
Styling by Tim Creagan, Style-Architects