The Bugs We Love to Eat
- by Lisa Monti
For something so small, crawfish sure are a big deal around here. From the time the mudbugs start appearing (this season it was back in November), fans of the delicacy start talking about where to buy them, how to cook them, how big they are, and how much by the pound or sack?
You can buy live or boiled crawfish at seafood markets, supermarkets and in select restaurants. Watch for the signs and flags out front of those establishments that come out at the arrival of crawfish season. And don’t forget social media if you’re searching for seafood.
Seafood Etc. in Bay St. Louis announced on Facebook in early November that crawfish were back: “HOT BOILED CRAWFISH RIGHT OUT THE POT!!! Come get em while they're hot n before they're all gone!!”
Crawfish just bring out the all caps and exclamation points, don’t they?
Cost is all about supply and demand, and everything depends on temperature and rainfall. As more crawfish hit the market, the price, of course, goes down. But when you have a craving for crawfish, price really isn’t a serious consideration for something less than $5 a pound.
The answer to the question of how to cook crawfish comes in many variations, like gumbo, and some experts like to hold back on revealing their secret ingredients or techniques. Basically, crawfish are boiled in a large pot with liquid and dry seasonings plus accompaniments like corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, garlic and sausage. Sometimes people throw in unorthodox sides like a whole pineapple, but purists stick with the basics.
Melvin “Cuz” Barnes has a special spice mix that he says makes his boiled crawfish popular with customers at Cuz’s seafood restaurant on Mississippi 603. “I cook them like you do at home with all the seasonings, garlic, celery, onions, lemons, corn and potatoes. I just keep it very basic,” he said.
Customers often ask him how they can boil crawfish at home. “I do tell a lot of people how to do it but the only way they’ll taste like mine is with the seasoning. Sometimes I’ll sell a little bit of it.”
By a happy coincidence for seafood lovers and sellers, the Lenten season falls within crawfish season, which runs to midsummer.
Seafood Etc.’s Facebook posting shows the alignment:
“ASH WEDNESDAY SPECIAL: Live crawfish ... $2.50 lb. (only today till we run out)! Call to reserve a sack for supper.”
“Lent’s a good time of the year for all of us in the seafood business,” Barnes said.
Rouse’s seafood department boils crawfish every day, and on Saturdays it’s not unusual for the Diamondhead store to sell 200 to 300 pounds to customers who line up to purchase their share.
Sheri Hale at Claiborne Hill in Waveland said the store’s seafood department boils crawfish every day and they typically boil 25 sacks on Saturday and on Sunday. She recommends customers call ahead to place their orders to avoid disappointment.
So far, things are looking good for those craving crawfish. Some observers are predicting the best season in several years, thanks to a mild winter. “The sizes are really nice and it looks like it will be a good season,” said Barnes.