This crawfish boil is our best recipe for this Southern classic. Made in Louisiana style, it’s easy to make and perfect for a backyard party.
A boil is a real event, so make this meal when you have ample time and lots of friends to share it with. Traditionally, guests peel the leftover uneaten crawfish so the hosts can save the meaty tails to turn into other delicious crawfish dishes, like étouffées, salads, and pies. You can do the boil inside on the stove or outdoors on a grill or on a propane-fueled burner.–John Besh
HOW MUCH CRAWFISH DO I REALLY NEED?
It’s true. Twenty pounds of crawfish, aka mudbugs, is what Chef Besh asks for in this recipe. Actually, what he says is that it’s customary to allow for 5 pounds per person—that’s double what’s called for in this recipe. Here, however, he feels pretty safe to assume that you’ll do just fine with only twenty pounds, given the plethora of other ingredients—potatoes, sweet corn, sausage, and artichokes—that this recipe will easily satisfy eight voracious eaters. As to how to eat the slippery little suckers, it’s quite the hands-on affair. Have at the ready a roll of paper towels and some Wet-Naps you snagged from a local fast-food joint. And even more paper towels.
- A very large pot
- 2 cups kosher salt
- One packet Zatarain's Crab Boil spices or 2 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning homemade or store-bought
- 5 lemons halved crosswise
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 5 whole heads garlic halved crosswise
- 5 small onions halved
- 3 stalks celery cut into large pieces (optional)
- 3 green bell peppers seeded and diced (optional)
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 3 pounds smoked sausage cut into 4-inch (10-cm) pieces
- 20 small red bliss potatoes scrubbed
- 8 ears corn shucked and halved
- 8 whole artichokes untrimmed (optional)
- 20 pounds whole shell-on crawfish (fresh or frozen or already boiled), rinsed with fresh water or frozen if defrosted
- 1 pound button mushrooms stems removed, caps halved if large (optional)
- Fill a very, very large pot with 10 gallons water, leaving plenty of room for all the other ingredients. (Or you can use 2 or even 3 large pots, divvying all the ingredients evenly among them.) Bring the water to a boil with the kosher salt, boiling spices, lemons, cayenne, garlic, onions, celery, and bell peppers if using, and the oil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the smoked sausage, potatoes, corn, and artichokes, if using, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
- If using fresh crawfish, add the crawfish now along with the mushrooms, if using. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. If using frozen or already boiled crawfish, add the crawfish now along with the mushrooms, if using. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Strain everything from the boiling liquid, preferably using a large colander, which will make it easier to fish out all the good parts (that is, the crawfish and vegetables) from the rest. Dump the good parts that you strained onto a picnic table covered with newspaper (preferably the Times-Picayune). Then feast while drinking an Abita Amber beer.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Having made “frogmore stew” or, as this recipe calls it, “crawfish boil” for years, I was excited to try a new recipe. You could tell this recipe was written by a true New Orleans chef, as it was much spicier than my usual version, but I loved the added depth of flavor.
All the main ingredients are the same, although we used shrimp instead of crawfish. I did use a lot less shrimp per person than the recipe calls for, as 20 pounds for eight people seemed like a lot. I didn’t cook this as long as is stated since I was using shrimp; when after about 6 minutes they tested done I turned the heat off. It’s still one of my all-time favorite meals. Next time I may just have to cut down on the cayenne for a few of us, although my parents and husband loved the level of spice.
This is a fun and totally satisfying experience. The seasonings and aromatics came together perfectly. I halved the ingredients since I only had four to feed, and instead of the 20 pounds of crawfish, I used 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, which worked well in proportion to the halved ingredients. I pretty much stayed within the cooking steps and times stated in the recipe, which worked perfectly.
I used andouille sausage, in keeping with the origins of this recipe—chef John Besh is from New Orleans—and the heat it provided was just enough to make the dish interesting. I used a 12-quart stockpot, which was a bit large for the number of ingredients I had, and cooked the boil right on the stovetop. I used all of the ingredients except for the artichokes and mushrooms. I added a diced red pepper in addition to the green pepper, which gave the dish a bit more color.
Originally published August 28, 2012