May 2016
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Crawfish Cuisine

 

You can find crawfish by locating its chimney, mud mounds that are 4-10 inches tall. It is a home for one or two crawfish that are burrowed 3 feet or more into the ground.

Trapped or farmed, it seems there’s no wrong way to serve these freshwater crustaceans.

Crawfish chimneys are all around the pond at the farm in Tuskegee. The crustaceans’ sculptures are anywhere from 4 inches to about 10 inches tall. Each chimney is home to just one or two crawfish that have burrowed three feet or more into the ground. Catching one crawfish at a time can be a fun activity to do with Rolley Len and Cason, but, if we want to catch enough for our family to eat, we would have to look to the pond itself. 

It is hard to believe that there are more than 600 species of crawfish worldwide. With 83 different species, Alabama actually has the biggest variety in the United States. The kind you catch will depend on where you live; and the size you find will depend on the time of year you trap. 

Hand lines, traps and trotlines are all good ways to catch enough crawfish for your next meal. According to multiple sources, both pyramid traps and tubular traps are among the best choices for catching the most crawfish. You can use one trap alone or multiple traps on a trotline. 

Of course, some people simply tie a chicken leg to a line and see what turns up. Speaking of chicken legs, there are many options for bait. There are people who swear that chicken and hotdogs are the best. But fresh fish is most recommended and is also convenient since you can freeze the fish to keep it ready. 

To find a place to set your crawfish traps, look for areas with rocks or roots where they might hide for cover. Crawfish can and will eat fish that happen by, but they also eat algae. That means crawfish can thrive in a lake or creek bed with no fish at all. They also live in tall grass, but not in large populations. Trial and error will help you find your best spot. 

You should be able to put your traps out in some of the same spots you might put limb lines for catfish – close to shore in rocky areas. Crawfish are nocturnal and feed their huge appetites through the night, so you can leave the traps overnight for the best results. 

Once you pull your traps, you need to remove any leftover bait and debris like leaves and sticks. Onion sacks are good for moving crawfish. About 50 crawfish will fit in a bag, so you can determine how many bags you need to fill depending on how many people you want to feed. The crawfish should be packed compactly to limit their movement because, if they are not, they may kill each other. 

Many people believe crawfish that are dead before they are cooked should not be eaten. The reasoning is that if they are dead before boiling there is no guarantee of when they were harvested or how they were stored. Typically, crawfish that were dead before boiling will have straightened tails instead of curled. However, there appears to be no evidence that only eating curled tails versus straight is 100 percent guaranteed to keep you from harm. Catching your own requires more work, but an added benefit is that you will know how fresh the crawfish are. 

Sometimes, I think there is no wrong way to serve crawfish. Whether they are in soups, salads, battered and fried, or in etouffee, to me they are delicious without fail. The recipes for this month are a few of my summer favorites. Whether you trap your crawfish, farm them or buy them locally, the soup, cakes and salad you can create are sure to please your family.

Crawfish can also be farm-raised. Production takes a lot of time and patience, but the results can be just as rewarding as other aquaculture. To find out more about local crawfish, including aquaculture farming, contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or your local Extension agent.

EASY CRAWFISH CAKES

1 pound crawfish tails, cooked and peeled
3 cups soft breadcrumbs, divided
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup  green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine crawfish, 2 cups breadcrumbs and remaining ingredients except oil. Shape into 12 patties. Coat with remaining breadcrumbs.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Cook patties, in batches, 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve with a remoulade or other sauce.

CRAWFISH SALAD

2 cups crawfish tails, chopped
1 green onion, minced
6 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1½ Tablespoons Creole mustard
½ Tablespoon prepared horseradish

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Serve with crackers, slaw and/or a green salad.

CORN CRAWFISH BISQUE

½ cup Tony Chachere’s White Gravy Mix
2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn
1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn
2 Tablespoons green onions, chopped
½ Tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
12 ounces crawfish tails

In a medium pot, whisk together gravy mix, milk, and half and half. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add butter, corns, onions, Creole seasoning and crawfish tails. Stir gently to mix together. Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.