Crawdad Sliders with Hot Sauce and Fennel Frond Mayo

…or, ZOMG! Crawfish Boil 2008!

Now! With updated soundtrack!

Our good friends Jeremy and Alicia have an annual crawfish boil, since Jeremy is from New Orleans and they have what might actually be a full acre in North Portland. Okay, this wasn’t really my food event to post, but you know how it is: you walk into a party and you own it. You just have to. Besides, Alicia always upstages me in the tits department (her ass is pretty stellar too), so it’s only fair that I try and cook at her party.

This year it was 100 degrees out (no joke), so instead of baking cornbread and making my famous skillet beans™, Scott and I spent the day at the beach and just brought a sack of soft potato rolls, a jar of dill pickle slices and a bottle of mayo so people could make crawdad sliders.

Let them eat sliders!

When I was a kid of about 5 or 6, my brother and I would hop the fence at the edge of the apartment’s parking lot and catch crawdads in Johnson Creek. My mother was wise to not ever let us eat our catch, as Johnson Creek is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 303(d) list for just about every pollutant, including, but not limited to, benzene and fecal coliform (E. coli). These lovely little freshwater crustaceans on the table, however, were farm-raised and overnighted from Nawlins: safe and delightful to eat.

To eat a crawfish (aka crawdads, crayfish, or mudbugs), simply break off the tail, gently flex and break off the uropod and telson (the tail flap thingy at the end) and slowly pull out the intestine in one long string (it may be full of crawdad poo). Doesn’t this just sound delicious? If you can’t get the intestine out in this step, just pry the meat out of the shell as you would a tiny lobster, but then you’ll have to devein the tail meat with your thumbnail before popping the meat in your mouth, or you’ll get muddy grit in your teeth.

Crawfish meat tastes like a rich, buttery prawn, but with a slightly meatier texture (less “bouncy” in the mouth, if that makes any sense). If you’re keepin’ it real, suck the good stuff out of the head. I was not drunk enough to suck orange goo out of the head of a bottom feeder in 100-degree heat.

While Jones and Gordo plucked succulent meat from the tails, I hoarded all of the heads in a ziplock so they wouldn’t get flies. The following day I simmered two gallon-sized bags of heads in two bottles of Two-Buck Chuck Chardonnay for a couple hours, then strained and simmered again until I had only a few cups of sticky-rich crawfish stock for later étouffée.

This went on for three batches or so. In other words, an asston of crawfish.

People weren’t really catching on to the whole slider thing, so I mixed some hot sauce and mayo, and picked some of the fronds off the giant shrub of fennel (then picked into little bits) in the yard to make a zesty, herbed mayo. I mixed this with some of the tail meat that I painstakingly harvested, and loaded the mixture onto split potato rolls with a couple slices of pickle. Young bamboo twigs made excellent picks to hold the little sammies together. Enjoy with an ice-cold Abita Turbodog (but not the Purple Haze, it tastes like bong water).

I changed the widget on my sidebar to showcase some of my favorite Nawlins funk. I did this just for you! You can’t say I don’t care. Thanks to Alicia and Jeremy for a great party (as always)!

Happy summer, y’all!