Mike Cosse is the Director of Food & Beverage at the Hilton Gulf Front Hotel on Pensacola Beach.
How to Boil a Crawfish on Pensacola Beach
Crawfish boil at Riptides Beachfront Tiki Bar at the Holiday Inn Resort on Pensacola Beach Florida Saturdays and Sundays all summer -1:00pm until we run out.
Crawfish boils are a valued tradition in my Cajun family. Cajun cooks started boiling this tiny shellfish a century ago to prepare them for stews or etouffees.
The crawfish boil, as a meal in itself, was popularized in the forties. Since this time it’s become a cherished cultural tradition passed down from fathers to sons; sometimes celebrating milestones such as a significant birthday or graduation.
Crawfish boils are almost always a messy informal outdoor celebration of friends and family. Usually the contents of the pot are strewn over a paper covered picnic table to be eaten communally and served with cold beer.
The crawfish season typically starts on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, and thus marks the beginning of Lent.
The methods and recipes are simple. You need a very large stock pot, outdoor flame, crawfish, spice and herbs. Traditionally corn cobs and new potatoes are also added and in recent years other ingredients have appeared such as peppers, celery, onions and Cajun sausages. You’ll also need a basket scoop to get the crawfish out of the pot while maintaining the broth.
Crawfish usually come in huge sacks and they must be alive when they go into the pot; dead crawfish are difficult to peel and taste bad.
First you must clean them by pouring them into an ice chest and then swirling them around. Sometimes people add salt because it helps purge the crawfish but note the salt will kill a few so make sure to throw these ones out. If you do you use salt drain the water and then repeat the process without salt. It is a good idea to have two ice chests on hand so you can do the initial salt purge in one and then keep the other for the ready to boil crawfish.
The next step is to get your broth boiling. I use a 80-quart stock pot filled about half way with water set up on a large outdoor burner. Add about four cups of seasoning; mainly salt and cayenne pepper and other herbs of your choice. Add lots of fresh garlic.
Bring the spiced broth to a boil. While the water is heating up cut Andouille sausage into bite sized pieces and prepare your veggies including potatoes, bell peppers, celery and quarters of fresh corn on the cob. When the water boils add the crawfish and cook them only until the water comes back to a boil. Then turn off the fire and stir in the vegetables and sausage.
I also add six halved lemons – squeeze the juice and then drop the lemons in. Leave the pot uncovered until let it sit until the crawfish sink and then pull them out.
You eat crawfish by pinching off the head, peeling the meat out of the tail and discarding the crust.
Boiling crawfish is a festive event and eating it is thirsty work so always make sure there lots cold beer on hand. I look forward to seeing you under the biggest palapa on Pensacola Beach this summer at Riptides!