A Crawdad by any other name…

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My friend Tami Lipsey Linde, and her husband Peter hosted a crawfish boil for ten over the weekend.

(Tami in overalls)
Tami in overalls.

Tami and I used to work together at Chronicle, way back in the days when I was just starting on cookbooks.  A Jewish girl from Louisiana, Tami can make a great raunchy joke and mean cocktail while maintaining a delicate Southern charm.  I found myself inebriated after the first batch of her signature pink Hurricanes and into the festive spirit of the boil.

When I asked her the difference between a crawdad and a crawfish, she explained,

“There is no difference between a crawfish, a crawdad, or a crayfish. Different places call it different things. In Louisiana, we call it crawfish. It’s clear that someone is not a Louisiana local if they call it crayfish or crawdad. It’s like the difference between y’all and you guys.”

Tami’s husband Peter added that some people somewhere call them “mudbugs”.

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A couple of mudbugs.

Whatever you want to call them, a pot of crawdads is a great thing to make for a crowd—an extravaganza of shellfish, vegetables, and spice!

How to Cook Crawdads

The first thing you need is a pot. Tami and Peter’s looked like this Bayou Classic Stock Pot and Steamer which they set up over a gas flame in the backyard.  The longest part of the process is waiting for the water to come to a boil.

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And of course you need crawdads! When Tami and Peter plan in advance, they order their crawdads from a source in Louisiana but for our spontaneous Saturday gathering they bought the last 10 pounds from Ranch 99, a Chinese market in El Cerrito.

To make the crawdads, you boil the water with classic seasonings, add corn and potatoes, and boil some more,  then add the crawdads for 2 minutes before turning off the heat and letting the crawdads soak in the spicy broth.  After 20 minutes, you pull up the strainer, pour the mess of steaming shellfish and vegetables on to a newspaper-lined table, and serve with hot sauce and cold beer.

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Now comes the hard part: Eating crawdads is more work that than cooking them! Tami demonstrated the best way to eat crawdads. First you pull off the heads and suck the “brain fat”…

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Then you squeeze the body until the shells crack and you can pull out the meat.

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This often takes a long time, encouraging good conversation, drinking, and raunchy jokes if you are lucky!

Tips and Notes

How many crawdads?

It is normal in Louisiana for someone to eat 3 pounds per person, but if you have lots of corn and other accompaniments 1 pound per person is very satisfying.

How to clean them?

The crawdads are often dirty when you buy them so make sure to rinse them a few times.

Where to cook them?

You will need a good sturdy place to set up your boil. An outdoor set up is best.

Do they go into the pot alive?

Nope. They don’t survive long out of water so they will not be alive or “screaming” in the pot.


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