Table for Stew

Hosting an authentic crawfish boil

May 19, 2009 Published in the July 2006 issue of Portland Monthly


If you’ve come into a fresh batch of crawfish or crab or shrimp, heed the seasoned advice of Keith Vidos, a member of March Fourth Marching Band and a Portland transplant from Morgan City, La., who for the past 10 years has thrown an annual crawfish boil in his backyard. “The easiest thing to do with your crawfish or crab or shrimp is to boil it in a big ol’ pot with a lot of spices.”

Vidos relies on a New Orleans-produced spice mixture called Zatarain’s; you can also use Old Bay or just make your own spice mixture by using equal parts cayenne, coriander, pepper, dill, mustard seed and salt. For his backyard boil, which this year fed over 150 mudbug fans, Vidos usually ships in around 200 pounds of crawfish from Louisiana, but you can purchase locally caught Oregon crawfish in Portland at seafood counters or Asian markets, or through seafood wholesalers. Vidos’ crawfish boil recipe works just as well with shrimp or crab. Here are the basic steps to a successful seafood boil, according to Vidos:

(1) Purge the crawfish, crab or shrimp, according to your fishmonger’s advice.
(2) Fill a deep pot (lined with a steamer basket) about 1/2-2/3 to the top with water, then add 5 halved lemons; 5 whole, peeled onions; 4-5 whole, peeled garlic cloves; 2-3 sausages (like andouille); 2-3 quartered potatoes; a few 2-inch pieces of corn on the cob; 2-3 whole artichokes; and 2 lbs Zatarain’s, Old Bay or other seafood spice mixture. Turn heat up to high.
(3) Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add crawfish, crab or shrimp (Vidos suggests buying 1-2 pounds of crawfish or other shellfish per person) and cover the pot. Once you see steam seeping from under the lid, set the timer for 7 minutes. When the time is up, turn the heat off and let the seafood sit in the hot water, still covered, for 12 minutes.
(4) Remove the steamer basket of seafood and vegetables from the pot and dump the grub onto a table wrapped with brown butcher’s paper or newspaper. Dinner is served.

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