I spent this last weekend visiting Bobes at his home in New Orleans, Louisiana – one of my favorite food and drink cities! The last time I visited NOLA in June 2010 we went to several famed restaurants and bars, such as Bistro Daisy, Lilette, Cochon Butcher, Delachaise, Columns Hotel and Bar Tonique. The weather was hot and humid in June, and there were thunder storms every afternoon. But Bobes was living in the French Quarter, which made for some really fun and convenient outings.
He now owns a beautiful home in Bywater, a Bohemiam-esque up-and-coming district in the Ninth Ward. His quiet street is decorated with colorfully painted homes and beautiful gardens, and is only a 30 minute walk to the French Quarter. Although we did manage to get in one extravagant dinner at R’evolution on my first night in the city, most of the trip was centered around an Easter weekend crawfish boil that Bobes hosted on Saturday. Lucky for him, I not only love preparing for daytime parties, but I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself.
A Crawfish Boil is about two things: beer and crawfish. It’s a pretty big deal in New Orleans, and just about everybody at the party knew what they were doing except for me. It’s a casual event, and everyone does their boil differently; whether they use celery or pineapple, potatoes or corn, it’s a big, fun mess of a party. Bobes had ordered nearly 80 pounds of crawfish from Today’s Ketch in Chalmette, which we transported in two huge coolers. You can keep them cold and alive by putting a bag of ice in them, but you don’t want to submerge them in salt water like you do with crabs. The crawfish can have some mud under their tails, so you want to do a couple rounds of rinsing before you begin to cook them. And you will also need an enormous pot fit with a strainer for the boil itself, as well as a large propane burner. Once you have everything set up, you’re ready to start the boil.
First he prepared the boiling liquid, which is made up of water, Zatarain’s Pro-Boil seasoning, some of the liquid seasoning from Zatarain’s, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, dried oregano, and some other spices. Once boiling, he added peeled onions, halved lemons, whole garlic bulbs, russet potatoes, and smoked Andouille sausage links and cooked, covered, for about 20 minutes. Then the crawfish get added and cooked for a bit before lowering the heat. Frozen corn ears go in to cool down the water, and some button mushrooms to soak up the juices. Bobes also threw in some chopped pineapple for a touch of sweetness. The crawfish take about 40 minutes to cook, and once they’re tested and done, one or two very strong men lay out all the crawfish on two long tables; people swarm around the tables to twist off the tails, suck the juice out of the head, then eat the tail meat. It’s certainly a process, but well worth the fun.
Since I couldn’t really contribute to the boil itself, I helped out with preparing the side salads and appetizers:
- Homemade Hummus with Crudite
- Parlsey Pesto Crostini
- Crab Dip with French Bread
- Kale Salad with Avocado, Roasted Pepitas and Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- Three-Bean Salad with Zucchini and Lemon Vinaigrette
Everything was pretty collaborative, but Bobes was responsible for the pesto, hummus, crab dip and three-bean salad while I took on the vinaigrettes, the kale salad, and the pasta salad. Everything we made included fresh herbs from his garden: oregano, mint, parsley, basil, fennel, and chives. My kale salad was quite simple, but everyone was happy to have some healthy greens around, and the pasta salad was nearly polished off before the second round of crawfish were served!
Kale Salad (Serves 15-20 as a side dish)
- 16 oz pre-washed, chopped kale
- 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 3 ripe avocados, diced
- 1/2 shallot, diced
- juice of 2 lemons
- 3 TB rice vinegar
- 3 TB olive oil, plus 1 tsp
- salt and pepper
In a small jar, combine shallots, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and shake to combine. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium flame. Once hot, add pepitas and stir often for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Two hours before serving, add half of the kale to the salad bowl and massage with half of the dressing. Add the rest of the kale and dressing and massage again. Let sit, covered, at room temperature. Just before serving, add the pepitas and avocado and toss to combine.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad (serves 15-20 as a side dish)
- 16 oz small shell dried pasta
- zest and juice of two lemons
- 2 TB chopped fennel
- 2 TB chopped mint
- 1 TB chopped basil
- 1 TB olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 pints of cherry tomatoes (we used red and yellow)
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- 12 oz crumbled feta cheese
Set a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add a touch of salt and pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes. Once done, drain and rinse with cold water to cool down. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine lemon zest and juice, fennel, mint, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add pasta and stir to combine. Add tomatoes, olives, feta and stir to combine. Refrigerate until serving.
The whole day was a spectacular event, and moved well into the night. All of Bobes’ friends, Southern or not, were so kind and fun to talk to. And even though I think the dissecting of a crawfish is a lot of work for the little amount of protein you get, it’s tons of fun and I can’t wait to do it again some day! In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming about Strawberry Abita.