The Accidental Crawfish Boil
You can sum up the entire post below with a statement uttered between bites of sausage, crawfish and corn. “THIS is adventuring eating.”
Exiting a weekend in Lake Tahoe without getting in the water is criminal. Late last Sunday afternoon, Cameron, Paige and I motivated ourselves to get outta the hammock and head to the beach for some quality lake time.
“I can show you where the hot spring is on the map but you’ll never find it” said our talkative boat rental man, a dead ringer for Weird Al.
We took out two kayaks and the idea that we were absolutely going to prove this dude wrong. Following his directions, we looked for the old wall, and then the covering over the hot spring. We parked the kayaks on some rocks and monkeyed our way up the old wall to try and spot where the hot spring was meeting with the lake. We spotted it and again monkeyed over the rocks towards it. Carefully steadying ourselves over the mossy rocks, we dipped our toes in. HOT! We found it. Take that rental man! Victory.
After getting over the initial thrill of WARM WATER, we noticed some bright red little bodies upstream. Turns out some crawfish had themselves in hot water (baDUM chh!) and boiled themselves alive in the hot spring. Mmmm crawfish.
When we got back, Weird Al rental guy was talkative yet again. “Are there any good places to get crawfish around here?” Paige asked. “No, not really but you can catch ’em yourself.” BINGO!
A dozen questions later, we set off with the idea that we might wrangle up some crawfish. But we’re supposed to be heading back to San Francisco! A few calls later, we made a new plan and would stay the night but get up at the crack of dawn to head home.
Official! We’re catching our dinner tonight! Please allow me to share with you the wisdom of Lake Tahoe’s Weird Al on crawfish fishing.
How to catch a crawfish in Lake Tahoe:
- Go to Speedboat beach around sundown
- Cut thyself up some bacon bait
- Use a fishing pole or make yourself a fishing line, bobbin and hook concoction
- Find a bucket or cooler for the catch, put a little bit of lake water in the bottom
- Scramble over the first set of boulders connected to the beach by the sandbar on the far right
- Spot yourself some crawfish in the bottom
- Drop a baconhook into the water, setting it in front of a crawfish
- Watch for them to attach it with their pincers and…
- PULL EM UP
- Drop your catch in the bucket, you can boink them off the line
- Repeat til its too dark to see the little guys in the water
Technically we should’ve had a fishing license, but since we were next to the Nevada border, we could have jumped the state line where apparently the law is different about such things.
Marching back to the car victorious, we suddenly realized none of us knew how to do crawfish prep or cooking. Once home, google saved us and we figured out how to clean and boil the crawfish.
How to Prepare Crawfish:
- In a bucket or deep bowl, barely cover the crawfish with water
- Toss in 1/3 cup salt
(in retrospect, we’d seen other directions that said to let them soak for 15-30 minutes but Cameron found directions that had said stir around for three minutes, which is what we had decided since we we quite nervous about killing any crawfish. They ended up being pretty poopy, and since this is the part where the crawfish are supposed to become less so, we probably didn’t do it long enough. NOTED)
- Stir gently around for 3 minutes and drain, rinse
- Crawfish need air to survive, so put them in a colander until you’re ready for cookin’
- Right before boiling time, put them in a bowl and fill it again with water. If any died, they’d float, RIP Crawfish! Take it out. Lucky for us, no dice, all alive and kicking. But apparently you DO NOT want any pre-dead crawfish in your boil.
Crawfish Boil Recipe
preps for 3ish dozen crawfish, feed two ladies and a man
I believe that the What’s Cooking America dude was our inspiration, adapted to fit our needs
- Fill a 12 quart pot of water with strainer (looks below for the type of pot I’m talking about)
- Add a buttload (or two-three good plamfuls) cajun seasoning, the juice of a lemon and the remaining rind
- Bring to a boil
- Add 5-6 cloves of garlic to the pot
- Add 6 small whole new potatoes
- Add a quartered onion
- Cook until the veggies soften up
- Add three ears of corn (snapped in half) to the pot
- Add 4 mild sausages and 4 spicy sausages, quartered
- Add the crawfish, making sure all are submerged
- Simmer for 5 minutes
- Put a lid on the top, turn the heat off and let sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.
- Lift the strainer and drain the pot contents
- Normally you’d lay that shit out on a big table covered in newspaper but since we didn’t have any newspaper we used a big tray with a few layers of paper towels and pour out the feast. Looks purtier anyways.
I learned all sorts of things about crawfish with this one experience, like how to eat the little guys. You pinch the head away from the tail and twist. Remove a few scales from the tail and pull the meat out. If yours are poopy like ours were, you’ll want to pull back a piece of the meat and remove the poo track.
The grey stuff? that’s tomalley. It’s the liver and tastes a lot like pate. Which means I wasn’t a fan. If you get one filled with little orange balls in the abdomen, it’s a female! And she was pregnant! If you’re like me, scrape the roe out and give them to someone who enjoys it.
Now for the best part: tilt the head up (gravity is your friend on this one) and suck on that little head. You aren’t supposed to get any meat but the juices you get from the head are DEEElicious. Obviously eat the tail meat too. And if you’ve got a bigguns, there is meat in the claw you can eat and some juice you can suck from the knuckles.
From the seat of our pants, we did it! All thanks to the spirit of advenutre that compelled us and the ever informative Lake Tahoe Weird Al, our crawfish boil was tasty and exciting and a great experience. It’s been over 8 hours, so I dare say, this experience was safe for my digestive track. It was the first time in my life that I’d said “Man, I”m glad I”m not allergic to shelfish.”
Not for the faint of heart, I’d recommend doing this with at least one person who doesn’t mind picking the crawfish up off the rocks if they don’t make it into the cooler. And at least one person with the culinary vision. And definitely three people with healty appetities. Like appetites from kayacking.