Thursday, 20 April 2006

Louisiana Typified: The Crawfish Boil

A picture of Louisiana.

You know, were I to write a dissertation on Louisiana for some reason, I think that would be my title.  I'd get to eat crawfish across the state, which would be a pretty sweet benefit, as well.

We were lucky enough to make it to Natchitoches, Louisiana (home of large chunks of the Husbear's family) for Easter this year.  As part of the Easter festivities, Husbear's aunt and uncle, Jod-I and Keiff, organized and threw a raucous crawfish boil. 

Realizing that this would probably be our last crawfish boil for a couple of years, we had to bring our little camera and do some documenting!

Live crawfish contemplating their doom

There's a fair amount of preparation that goes into creating a good crawfish boil.  The crawfish have to be bought alive, for one thing - in giant mesh sacks holding 35-40 pounds each, usually. They have to be kept alive until it's time to cook them, or they're nasty - hence, the saying "don't eat the dead ones" as you pick through your pile of cooked crawfish trying to decide which ones to munch on.  (It's easy to tell which ones were dead before they were cooked - they're the ones with the straight tails.)

The crawfish have to be purged in a succession of salty and fresh water - skip this step, and you're eating lots of mud and crawfish innards. I know that sounds delicious but it's not as good as you'd think.

Then, fill your enormous boiling pot with water (of course!), margarine or butter, throw in a heap of Zatarain's crawfish boil seasoning along with various proprietary herbs and spices and get to it!  Zatarain's even publishes their tips on creating a great crawfish boil on their website. (No they're not paying us.  Yet.  Although any Zatarain's rep can easily and conveniently reach us through our on-site email.  Get in early while we still work cheap.)

Now, Husbear, being a vegetarian, likes to gussy things up a little.

Boiling Veggies

Potatoes, corn, onions, and lemon are normally included to represent the vegetable spectrum; each time Husbear and I get to a boil, he likes to add a few different vegetables - partly for experimentation, partly for sustenance.  This time, he broke out a lively medley of asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, and artichokes to add to the pot.

Speaking of pots, Keiff just got a new one, which is ginormous! Brandog helped him out by filling it up.

Filling the giant pot

He used it to supplement Old Reliable Crawfish Pot (in the hood the ORCP).

So - veggies cut, crawfish purged, time to cook!

The ORCP showed the new pot the ropes.

The New & Old School Methods

People circulated into and out of the house, checking on crawfish and grabbing beers from the ice chest.  (Husbear took this time to whip up dippin' sauces - a basil aioli and lemon butter.  A nice addition to the requisite and delicious horseradishy cocktail sauce.)

The crawfish, they are finished.

Soon enough, the crawfish and veg were done.  They all went into an ice chest to keep them warm.  Some people take the opportunity at this juncture to sprinkle some more of the spicy crawfish boil mix over the cooked critters, just to up the heat level.

Get everyone gathered around tables/plywood on sawhorses covered in newspaper, make sure everyone has a cold drink, and dump!

Pile of crawfish on newspapers

Make sure you get some veggies in there, too, while you're at it.

The table

Now, eat.  There's a bit of a trick to getting the tail meat out, but once you go through a few pounds or five practicing and eating, it's pretty easy.  And be sure to suck the heads, like you're a real cajun!  That's where all the fat and flavor are!  (I say this like I participate in that part of the ritual.  I usually don't, but I remember at my first boil at Jod-I and Keiff's during college, Tiffany totally took to it like an old pro.)

GQ goes to town

If you're having trouble, just ask GQ - he'll walk you through it! 

Soon, you'll end up with a pile of little crawfish carcasses in front of you, like a tiny trophy hunter.

Picking through the pile

After an hour, or two, stagger backwards from the table - and you're done.  Of course, there's still cleaning to do - but the best way to take care of that is with a large garbage bag.  This is why crawfish boils are really an outside only sort of affair.  (Unless you're a sissy -L. Pants)

Cleaning up afterwards

The carnage can be quite extensive, depending on who you're eating with.  This little guy tried to make a break for it, but forgot that it's difficult to dash away once you've been boiled.

The ultimate indignity

Since this was not only an Easter crawfish boil, but also a birthday crawfish boil (happy birthday to... lots of people!) there was also Jod-I's wonderful apple cake for dessert.  Oh, was this GOOD.

Apple Cake

And there you are - you can totally say you've been to a crawfish boil now - you're a seasoned old hand at this.

Thank you of course to Jod-I and Keiff for their hospitality - and for the great birthday bag they got Husbear for our upcoming travels - and for the spiffy arm band and case for my new iPod!

Oh - did I not mention my new iPod?  (Like how I worked that in?) I have joined the ranks of the cool and suave, thanks to Husbear's folks!  I am now the proud mama of a black iPod nano - which is something I thought I would never be slick enough to own.  Unfortunately, now I have to get a whole new wardrobe to live up to the coolness of my new toy.  Oh, is it sweet!

That's all you'll hear about the iPod - for now!

-girlie

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Ice + The South = Clustermess (ahem)

We're back from our weekend trip to Arkansas.  It was wonderful to see everyone, though I hate the reason that brought us there.  It's going to take a long, long time to adjust to Carol not being around - she was such a wonderful, warm, caring, no-nonsense personality. 

well.

We ended up leaving Austin quite late on Friday - about 9:30 or so.  After five hours or so of driving through pretty uneventful weather (the freezing rain was going to jump up and bite us later on in the weekend) we exited the highway exhausted in Longview, Texas.  Though there was a sign by the side of the road indicating a surfeit of nearby hotels and motels, we somehow ended up driving 20 miles or so through the darkened streets of Longview before finding a Days Inn. 

The hotel only ended up costing us $10 per hour for the 6 hours we were there, plus we got raisin bran, yay for that.

The pickup parked next to us in the lot had this bumper sticker:

Texas

Ah, Texas.

Luckily, we were only 2.5 hours from L-Dizzog (El Dorado, natch), and the rest of the drive was fine.

Our visit was short, but we did get to briefly see le bebe, who just wanted a freakin' nap.  Why won't you people leave him alone?

Rayne trying to sleep

What a cutie.

As it turned out, we only ended up staying in Arkansas until late afternoon on Sunday.  Husbear had to be at work today at 3:30, and he didn't want to drive all 8 hours back to Austin on Monday.  Though the trip was much shorter than we wanted it to be, we did make the most of the time we did have and spent as much of it as we could with the Husbear's folks and Carol's family.

We attempted to leave around 5 on Sunday, but the car, sensing the difficulties to come, refused to crank.  Great.  Perfect, we wanted to say.  GQ saved the day while simultaneously showing us to be very poor mechanics by cleaning the corrosion off of the battery terminals.  Cranked right up.  Oh well - I've learned a new trick now, which I can use to wow my neigbors.  (thanks, GQ!  We'd still be scratching our heads in your driveway if it weren't for you!)

We almost got all the way to Shreveport (in a bit of a drizzle, which froze on our windshield) before hitting any trouble.  I-20 heading west was closed before we got to town, so we turned around to head east back to the loop... but I-20 east had some problems on the entrance ramp, involving a fire truck, and ambulance, and a bunch of people scratching their heads in a ditch next to a truck with all doors open.  We picked our way around that, and got ready to exit onto the I-220 loop... but...

A line of headlights stretching up the exit ramp convinced us this maybe wasn't the best idea.  So, around again and back to the closed I-20 west.  We exited and managed to take surface roads almost all the way downtown, where we went 3 blocks in an hour before hearing that all of the bridges from Bossier City into Shreveport were closed, leaving us stranded in Bossier (That's boah-zher, to you yanks) and unable to continue any further on our journey to Austin.  Dangit.

(This is just fascinating, isn't it?)

We found a hotel room and went out for some Mexican food, arriving at La Posadas (?) just as they closed - which we learned when an over-gelled idiot met us at the door and asked us "Whatchall NYEEEED?" upon our arrival.  After stabbing him in the eye (in my mind) we found another Mexican restaurant, where we each had a giant plate of melted rubbery cheese accompanied with margaritas that were syrupy sweet and bitingly nasty, at the same time.

Yikes.

The next morning, we discovered that the La Quinta has a make-your-own waffle bar!  Callou callay!  We ate our fill of waffles and hard-boiled eggs and full fat yogurt and honey-nut cheerios and headed out to the car.

Ice on our antenna this morning, 2/20/06

Though we didn't have any choice, I'm glad we stopped when we did on Sunday night.

Of course, there was another accident on 20 west, so we sat in traffic for three hours trying to make it out of town.

I-20 West through Shreveport, 2/20/06

As it turned out, the reason traffic was so bad was because the interstate was closed... again... (though we did see one guy pick his way through the barricades - wonder what happened to him?) so we wandered aimlessly through the ghetto.  It really would have been nice to have a cop or two directing traffic.

Sad sack

We did eventually make it back to the interstate.  Heading west, it was completely clear, since we entered right after the closure... heading east, though, it looked like they were going through the same problems we had been shortly before.

Traffic heading east into Shreveport

Finally, we were through.

We drove and drove and drove and drove and stopped for gas

Long day's journey into midday

and drove and drove and drove and saw a truck with a giant snake head wearing a bow (or perhaps a steak with a leafy garnish - you tell us) advertising cheap meat (but is it tasty?  Or disease-free?)

Ugh.

And then we drove and drove and drove and drove and napped a little and drove

This is what road-tripping is all about.

And made it to Corsicana, which has its very own synagogue!  (I had no idea until I got home that this building with a star of david rose window was an actual synagogue.  Huh.)

Interesting building in Corsicana

We ate at a Mexican restaurant we've been wanting to try since the first time we drove through Corsicana.

Restaurant in Corsicana, Texas

I wanted to know if this sign was on purpose.  After perusing the menu and having a burrito with tomatillo sauce and a side of "mexicant" rice and seeing that this restaurant is part of a chain in small towns in east Texas, I'm reasonably certain that this isn't an accident.  Or, if it was, it isn't any more. 

But you think they'd explain something like that on the menu, wouldn't you?

So concludes the fascinating story of our drive from El Dorado to Austin.  Things went steadily down crap hill after we got home... the folks at work are being... difficult.  And that's all I'll say, since I don't want to get dooced.

girlie

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Union Oyster House

outside of restaurant

While I was in Boston over Labor Day weekend, I absolutely had to find me some good clam chowder.  That is definitely something missing here in Texas... I've found good places for oysters, fried seafood, and Mexican seafood, but for some reason (hmmm...) we're missing good clam chowder.

So, on Labor Day itself, while we were walking the Freedom Trail, we stopped at the Union Oyster House.  It's been there for an awfully long time (since 1826, apparently) and I hoped that this might mean that they know what they're doing. 

I was a little worried, as I am really prejudiced against "ye olde" anything; my family used to call all of them "ye oulde touristte trappes".  Well, whatever - I had to suck it up and squash my worries.  Maybe if I lived in Boston, I'd have a better handle on where the locals go for their clam chowder, but to my untrained eye, this looked pretty promising.

The ambience was perfect - again, the kind of place we don't really have here in Austin.

Ambience

So, after deliberation et cetera, I'm pretty sure these guys do know what they're doing... I only had a couple of things off of their menu, but it did seem like I was surrounded by happy eaters, and there were certainly many things on the menu that I wanted to come back and try.

Union Oyster House Menu

Suprise - we all got clam chowder.  My friend k-dog and I split the luxurious - sounding "Cold Seafood Sampler" - as you can see on the menu above (under On the Half Shell) this was a combination of oysters, cherrystone clams, and cocktail shrimp.

Luxurious my foot!

our eleven dollar seafood platter

OK, yes, really tasty (though I'm pretty sure it's not oyster season right now - correct me if I'm wrong?), but 6 things for 10.50?  Either I'm getting old or I've been in Texas too long, because that seemed like a bit much to me.

Here's everything we ordered.

Our chowdahs and seafood

It was all very good; the beer really hit the spot after a morning walking around the Freedom Trail.  I felt like it was a great Boston day. 

So, the clam chowder was awesome as advertised; I think it would have been even better if it had been really cold outside.  (Not that I'm going back in February to test that!)  The cornbread was all right; a little dry, and a little too sweet for my taste, but it was nice with the salty chowder.  I was really pleased overall, and I'd definitely go back for their lobster ravioli!

Clam chowder and oyster crackers yum

Union Oyster House

41 Union Street

Boston, Mass

(617) 227-2750

-girlie

Wednesday, 07 September 2005

Bwahston


20 heh, originally uploaded by bootsintheoven.

The husbear didn't get the joke until it was explained to him.  Please tell me you do.

I was going to spend some time tonight putting together a lovely post about what a wonderful time I had this weekend in Boston visiting meg, but since it took me 4 hours to edit, save, upload, and tag all my photos, that's going to have to wait. So, for today, I'm leaving you with this one. hah!
Girlie

(If you'd like to check out my boston photos, to hold you until I get a chance to blog them, check out the flickr page.)

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Lavenderoni, the Hill Country Treat

Well, we had an eventful weekend around the Pants household, what with lavender farming, attending a tribute to a comedian taken before his time, and getting into a high-speed highway crash from which nobody even contracted a case of the whiplash.  (Yet.  And maybe more on these later.)  Plus, we rented and watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (HORRIBLE!!!!  HATE GWYNETH!! HATE!) and Troy (Pretty good!).
As you are probably unaware (we definitely were until recently), the Hill Country plays host to a bunch of lavender farms.  There was a festival this past weekend in Blanco, a town of about 1500 west of Austin.  We decided to head out, and had a great time.

L_pants_pickin_2 

Mr. Pants Pickin'

Girlie_in_action_1

Moi in action

We first went to Blanco's Market Days, which was basically a bunch of vendors sitting around the courthouse, and poked around some.  It was mostly cheap jewelry -- a couple of neat vendors, but nothing much.  We did buy for-real kettle corn, which was being prepared in a giant hot black kettle (in 97-degree heat!), and we bought some fig preserves and apricot/jalapeno jelly from a nice lady who was pretty hard of hearing.  As we were paying, some guy all in khaki, with a long ponytail, came up and began questioning the lady as to what ingredients she put in her preserves.  So not the point, when you're buying hand-labeled preserves from a woman sitting behind a folding card table!  He asked what was in the peach and cranberry jam (sounds yummy) and she looked at him and said "You want to know what jam is?"  "No, what's in it?"  Eventually (and it did take a while) she told him "Peaches, cranberries, and sugar."  (DUH.)  He looked at her, said "Sugar... hmmmm" and turned around and left.  Meanie.  What does he think goes in a jam, anyway?  Must be from Austin.
After Market Days, we went to a very packed lavender farm where they sold products shipped in from out of state (huh?) like lavender pillows, cooking lavender, lavender soap, and so on.  Then we went to a newer farm where we were given a pair of scissors and a basket and sent out into the fields to cut little bunches of the sweet purple flowers, so now we have a little bunch of lavender buds drying in our guest bathroom.
Unfortunately for the organizers of the first annual lavender festival, our spring has been unusually cool (coulda fooled me) and humid, and those conditions coupled with our annual spring smoke from Mexico have made for a late blooming cycle this year.  So, there were almost no blooming lavender plants for the lavender festival.  Oops!  At least it was 97 degrees outside.  With the clear skies and heat we've been enjoying the last few days, we should have lovely fields of purple sometime soon.
We'll definitely have to go back.

Girlie