Crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs… whatever y’all call ’em, they are in season here in Louisiana, and they are delicious. Rob and I have had crawfish, often frozen, in effoutees and fish pies, but have never been in the south when they are fresh in season. Roadfood’s Foodfest Crawfish boil was the main reason for this trip to New Orleans. Last night’s real-deal Cajun “Fait Dos-Dos” crawfish boil at Bayou Barn did not disappoint.
We lined up for the 30 minute bus trip to the bayou. As we waited we discovered all of our fellow nearby patrons were not just from Canada, but from various towns in Ontario. We also lucked out and had Michael Stern riding shotgun on our bus and chatting over the PA system. Michael Stern is the Founder of Roadfood.com and author of many books and magazine articles on road food and special food finds along America’s highways and byways.
Disembarking at the Barn, we hear the strains of a zydeco band pumping out some lively tunes and head inside to the rustic, wood-hewn, open-air space. White strings of Christmas lights lend a festive party atmosphere. We immediately find a table with two other St. Louis-based roadfood festers that we had met earlier in the day at the street fair. They invite us to sit and shortly a Canadian couple we met on the bus joins us. It was like being with old friends so far from home and made the evening really enjoyable.
Abita Amber beer and light beers are flowing freely. The band is in full swing. We are being called to join the line. Crawfish is in the house! Actually its in a canoe. Hundreds of pounds of steamed, bright red crustaceans are being dumped into a canoe along with steam trays of corn on the cob. Boiled red-skinned potatoes occupy one end of the boat. Large cardboard containers are on hand to scoop up as many mudbugs as you can carry. A second container was needed for corn and potatoes. We stuffed plastic forks and napkins into pockets.
Back at our table, we were all anxious to dive in. But how? Rob gave us an impromptu demonstration on how to deal with a crawfish that he had seen on a video. “Twist the tail off, remove first section of carapace, straighten tail, gently tug meat out with teeth, suck on head.” I was a little leery about the head part but it turns out that there is really nothing inside except a little of the boil liquid which offers a nice hit of spice. Our table continued to plow through what must have been thirty pounds of the little guys. It’s a lot of effort for a little piece of sweet meat, but the beer, music and company make it a party.
The Cajun “Fait Dos-Dos” is not complete without a whole pig barbequing out back and pounds of shrimp on a boil. Wow. The pork was moist, succulent. Some of the meat had been mixed with a sweet, dark bbq sauce. Other meat had been set aside naked with a sweet honey mustard on the side.
Later in the evening the shrimp finally arrived. Sweet, Gulf peel-and-eat shrimp boiled in spice. Dessert was a lovely, hot, steamed bread pudding with a sweet, sticky, warm bourbon whole pecan topping.