Crawfish Season is Here!

What (and WHEN) Exactly Is The New Orleans Crawfish Season?

All you might know about the crawfish is that it resembles a mini-lobster. Or you might also know it as crayfish or mudbugs.

However, let’s just stick to calling it crawfish in this wonderful city of New Orleans, shall we?

So what is it about the crawfish that has people from all over the World clambering to get down to New Orleans for a bite?

You see, it’s all about the flavor.

The crawfish boil is a popular, seasonal, food-centric party. It is an event as much as it is a way of cooking, and it’s popular for good reason!

The crawfish is boiled and soaked in a variety of spices – cayenne pepper, celery and mustard seeds, along with other herbs, vegetables, and other proteins, including smoked sausage, shrimp, and crabs.

While the heat and spices can definitely get to you, making you sweat as you reach for a swig of your beer, it won’t stop you from tearing into the next crawfish. They’re addictive.

A Big Industry

Did you know that Louisiana supplies about 95% of the crawfish produced in the United States?

Rightfully so, since the state is all about the crawfish and the spices. A particularly delectable experience is sucking the head of the crawfish with the pooled juices that have you salivating for more – an experience many newcomers refuse to give in to.

But, why do people need to create travel plans to get to New Orleans during a few particular months for the crawfish?

While the city is most famous for the Mardi Gras celebration, it also has people flocking to it all during the Springtime for various festivals, awesome weather, and crawfish!

Now, deciding the exact dates for this delicious season really depends on a variety of unpredictable factors such as weather and water temperature.

Spring Time

However, Crawfish Season also means that it is spring time – March, April, and May are peak months for New Orleans when the harvested crawfish reaches its zenith in quality and price.

Now, if you can’t make it to a New Orleans crawfish boil during these months, it’s not a problem. Crawfish season can last from November all the way up to August – but you will find the crawfish to be small and expensive in the early months.

Fun AND Delicious

A crawfish boil is largely a social event, a particularly messy one, as people gather together in their backyards and sometimes at bars and restaurants.

Picture all of your friends and neighbors, plus a bunch of strangers (aka soon-to-be-friends), cold beer in hand, a roll of paper towels, and newspaper covered tables, piled high with boiled crawfish, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, sausage and more.

That is what springtime in New Orleans is all about! (Food, of course!) So, we recommend that you tie your hair into a ponytail and stick to dark colored clothing as you dig into the lip smacking experience!

Where to Eat in New Orleans on Thanksgiving

If you're traveling this holiday or just don't feel like cooking and want to find a restaurant to feast at this Thanksgiving, you're in luck! Some of the city's top restaurants will not only be open on Thanksgiving day, but they will also have special menu offerings to make you feel right at home with Cajun and Creole versions of Thanksgiving classics.  It's not too late to make your Turkey Day reservations at one of these fine establishments:

French Quarter:

Doris Metropolitan

Sylvain

Rib Room 

Galatoire's

Restaurant Revolution

CBD:

Compere Lapin

Josephine Estelle

Domenica

Uptown:

Cavan

Commanders Palace

Metairie:

Andreas

 

Red Beans and Rice Mondays

If you want to experience New Orleans like a local, eating red beans and rice on a Monday is a must! Red beans and rice is the traditional Monday meal in New Orleans, dating back for hundreds of years! Historically, Monday was always wash day for the family cook or the lady of the house, so she could put a pot of red beans on the stove to cook for hours with little to no attention while seeing to the laundry.  When the washing was done, the beans were ready to eat! The dish in New Orleans is seasoned with ham or smoked sausage (but usually both!) This version is considered a Creole dish, though the lines between Cajun and Creole food have blurred significantly. Cajun or Creole, they are delicious and an easy one pot meal to satisfy a crowd. You can even find FREE red beans on Mondays in some of the local bars. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Honduran Cuisine Seeps into NOLA’s Culinary Scene

New Orleans has a sizable Honduran population. It is now almost as large as the Vietnamese population. We already had a number of immigrants from Honduras thanks to the banana import business prior to Katrina, but since then it has increased tenfold. In 1888 we started to import bananas from Northern Honduras and sold them to trade centers for cheap.  This started the United Fruit company. Food trucks owned and operated by Honduran immigrants are now feeding construction workers in many parts of downtown New Orleans. These are definitely filling a need by providing workers with familiar foods. Tortillas made with mayonnaise, pineapple, watermelon and chicken are their specialty. From 6:30 AM to 5 PM these food trucks dispense the best Honduran specialties like 'baleadas' to the local construction workers and everyone who wishes for this delicious and unique fare.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provided numerous demolition, clean up and construction jobs for newly arrived Hispanic immigrants. After the Katrina workers came in, then the cooking started. Feeding day laborers was a way to establish starting capital for many Hispanic entrepreneurs. A lot of people in America tend to think all Hispanic food is Mexican, they don't realize some of the Honduran specialties are really unique to that country. Some NOLA Honduran restaurants like 'Casa Honduras', 'Telamar' and 'Norma's ' are starting to get such a good reputation that they are attracting many Anglo-American patrons as well, and they are here to stay!

 

The Real Deal on Crawfish

Spring in New Orleans is wonderful. Warm, sunny days without the searing heat and stifling humidity that arrives in the late summer, cool evenings to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and–best of all–crawfish season. Also answering to the name of mudbugs or crawdads, the little shellfish resemble miniature lobsters and are a classic symbol of Louisiana cooking. Although you can find crawfish year round in certain parts of Louisiana, you can only get them fresh mid-February through early June. An as ubiquitous as crawfish are to the local food scene, there are of course hundreds of ways to prepare them, from gumbo to etouffe to the plain old fashioned back yard boil. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of a crawfish boil; as many locals will tell you, it is really the only way to truly appreciate fresh crawfish and celebrate spring. If you aren’t toting crawfish home, you can always find great boils at any seafood shack in the city, but if you want to get the scoop on how to boil crawfish perfectly, check out this recipe from Frank Davis, a local seafood authority from our own WWL TV:

Frank’s Recipe for Perfectly Boiled Crawfish

For every 43 pound sack of crawfish, use:

1 whole stalk of celery (don’t trim the greens!)

4 heads of garlic

12 lemons, sliced or quarterred

6 large onions

10 bay leaves

3-4 boxes salt

1/2 cup cayenne pepper (yes, 1/2 CUP!)

8 oz. liquid crab boil, or 6 bags dry crab boil

10 ears of corn (cut in thirds)

30 medium red potatoes

3 lbs smoked sausage

The first thing you do is empty your crawfish in a No. 3 washtub and cover them completely with cold water. Makes no difference where your crawfish come from (farm pond or swamp), the only thing you must do is wash them. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PURGE CRAWFISH IN SALTWATER! That’s an old wives tale. It isn’t necessary and it doesn’t work! All it does is kill the little critters! But it is necessary to wash them several times. I recommend you do at least 4 or 5 washings, dumping the old water after each filling of the tub.In short, you should wash until the water comes out clean. Then drain off the last rinse completely and get your boiler ready. In a large pot – 90 to 102 quart is suggested if you plan to boil the entire sack at once – put in enough water to completely cover the crawfish when they are added, and bring it to a rapid boil. Then, toss in all the ingredients except the corn, potatoes & sausage and boil them for about 15 minutes – you want the flavors to mix and create a seasoned stock. Next, drop in the corn on the cob, potatoes and smoked sausage. You want to put them in before you put in the crawfish (because the crawfish cook quickly, and if you don’t pre-cook the lagniappe, the entire boil won’t be finished at the same time). Let the lagniappe cook for 8 to 10 minutes. When all the extras are three-quarters done, add your crawfish and cover the pot. The water will stop boiling immediately.So here’s how you figure cooking time.Just watch the pot, and when the water comes back to a full boil, time your crawfish for just about 2 minutes, shut off the fire, and remove it from the burner. Then drop some crushed ice on top of the crawfish, (which will make them sink), and soak the crawfish for about 25 minutes so that they pick up the seasonings.I do suggest you test the seasoning every 5 minutes or so to keep the crawfish from getting too spicy for your taste.

King Cake Customs in New Orleans

New Orleanians love their desserts (Bananas Foster, anyone?), and Mardi Gras is the perfect time to load up on one of our favorites, king cake! These ubiquitous pastries can be found all over the crescent city in the first few weeks of the year as they are a required part of any Mardi Gras celebration. The traditional king cake is a circular cinnamon roll topped with purple, gold, and green icing, the three colors of Mardi Gras–which represent justice, power, and faith, respectively–but there are many varieties that can be found around town, including cream cheese or fruit filled cakes, single serving cakes, like the one offered by La Louisiane, and even a peanut butter, marshmallow, and bacon concoction cooked up by Cochon! Some purveyors have gotten so creative as to liquify their cakes; local coffe house, PJ’s Coffee, offers a king cake coffee blend available through Mardi Gras, and you can even find king cake flavored vodka. But no matter how creative the bakers in New Orleans get, there is one thing that always remains the same: the baby. Every king cake comes with a plastic baby which must be inserted into the cake before serving. Whoever is lucky enough to get the slice with the baby is in charge of bringing the next cake!