Every Thursday at 3:30 on the Food Show we get a crawfish report from Will, the manager at Mandeville Seafood on the north shore. He is a knowledgeable young man who has educated us on the trajectory of crawfish season. His instruction on the evolution of the season as evidenced by the crustaceans themselves is fascinating. According to Will, the end of the season is signaled by the amount of time it takes for the little critters to absorb the seasonings from the boil. Slower absorption means the meat is tougher, and tougher meat means the season is about to wrap. Will reads the boiling water each week and keeps us abreast of nature’s progress.
All of these milestones are subject to the vagaries of nature, mostly weather. Historically, crawfish season comes to a close in mid-June because the weather gets hotter. The pond crawfish, or the farm-raised variety, finish up sooner than the wild ones. I hope I made Will proud by getting this all right.
Knowing the end of crawfish season is fast approaching, I decided to get some, because, in the spirit of the Food Show, talking about crawfish made me want to eat some crawfish.
We had to get some from Mandeville Seafood, because I love their spice level and because we think they’re the best at all things seafood. We are never disappointed here.
But mostly, I’m intrigued by the drive-thru phenom. It’s not really a phenom except in the Lafayette area. But a few years ago someone put up a sign on the highway near us, instructing people to drive through and place an order for boiled crawfish at a window for pick up at another window on the other side of the narrow building. It’s cleverly called Crawfish-To-Geaux, and I gave it almost zero chance of survival. But why? Obviously, I underestimated the seemingly insatiable desire for crawfish in these parts.
Four years later Crawfish-To-Geaux is still thriving, with new items added to the posted menu. And now they are adding another location south in Mandeville. I asked the owner as I drove through what prompted them to do this. She replied that driving through for crawfish is the main way it is done in Cajun country. That’s why I did a double-take the first time I saw it. There was nothing like it around here.
Last year a favorite caller to the radio show called about $2 Tuesdays at Drive-Thru Crawfish, a business whose name says it all. Lines for Drive Thru crawfish rivaled the chicken sandwich lines on the highway, though they were likely more dangerous without the obvious fast food signs ahead. Drive Thru Crawfish keeps a low profile at the edge of a nondescript strip mall on busy Hwy 190. It is operated by a couple and a lot of high school kids do the rest.
A few days later we went to pick up from Rouse’s and Acquistapace’s. A caller to the radio show and Patty our producer are very enthusiastic about Rouse’s. I am skeptical but open to trying them, and I thought I would include Acquistapace’s too.
Acquistapace’s crawfish are sold in front of the store, and you can pay there too, making it so easy there is no reason not to buy some crawfish. At Rouse’s I had to go to the back of the store and buy three pounds, since it was the last bag.
That was unfortunate because I liked the Rouse’s crawfish least of all. There was a wide discrepancy between these, (which tended to be really bland to my taste.) and all the others.
There was little difference in the crawfish on the first run. Mandeville Seafood has a great spice level (these have a kick), followed closely by both drive through places, though I prefer the basic-named Drive Thru to the clever one.To-Geaux. To-Geaux also has a two pound minimum, which matters if you are just trying them.
Acquistipace was also excellent, on par with the others, but they have high standards of excellence here. Good kick to these as well.
It is hard to not become an eating machine when a pile of crawfish is in front of you. And even the not-so-good ones like Rouse’s work just fine for a crawfish dish. Tom and I went through four pounds before the show, and saved a bowl of meat. I boiled the shells, both spicy and not, and the stock made a great basis for a creamy crawfish pasta with peas and mushrooms.
So you have a month left before this annual craze goes away for the year. But we know just six months from now it will be back. That’s one of the great blessings of living in Louisiana.
Some others are softshell crabs, oysters, king cake, sugar cane, Pontchatoula strawberries….you get the idea.