Crawfish are available nearly year-round. Buy them fresh (alive) and keep them in a cool dry place until you are ready to cook. We prefer to purge our crawfish before we cook them. To do this, just before you turn on the stove top, place your crawfish in a sink full of cold water and about 1 cup (270 g) of salt. Don’t purge them for too long (3–5 minutes). You want the crawfish alive when you toss them in the pot.
When cooking crawfish (to get the shells), bring the water to a boil and drop in a bag of Zatarain’s Shrimp Boil. Add a few tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and boil for 3–5 minutes to allow the spices to mix well with the water. Drain and rinse your crawfish one last time before dropping them into the pot. You will boil them for about 4 minutes and then turn off the heat. Allow them to sit for another 5 minutes and then strain. Once the crawfish have cooled enough to handle with your bare hands, break the tails off and pull the meat out. Using a delicate touch, you can usually pull the tail fins off and the vein will come with it (think deveining shrimp). Place tail meat in a ziplock bag, reserve, and start to pull together your stock ingredients.
2 quarts (250 g) crawfish shells
1½ quarts (1½ L) cold water
3 ribs celery
1 large onion
1 head garlic, halved
2 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Cover crawfish shells with cold water in stockpot. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes periodically skimming off any impurities that float to the top.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring back to low boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40–50 minutes.
- You will want to cool the liquid quickly once done. Strain out any solids, and pour into a container or two and place in a cooler with plenty of ice. Allow to cool for an hour or two before storing. Do not place in your refrigerator until cooled.
Tips & Tricks—Freeze filled water bottles (labels removed) ahead of time. You can then submerge these directly into the stock when ready to cool. This helps the stock to cool faster. We have Alton Brown to thank for this genius idea. Once cooled, you can freeze the stock in 2-cup (500 mL) measurements to have ready for your next étouffée or gumbo.