“Here's the kind of writer I want to be: a better writer today than I was yesterday.
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

With a glass of dry sherry, because I cooked with it so why not.
in which we discover how far I can make seventeen crawfish stretch
Tue 2015-07-28 23:18:40 (in context)

OMG you guyz I win at dinner like I have never won before. Crawfish bisque and crawfish Monica, starring crawfish that I caught myself in the creek next door and boiled in my own kitchen. How could it be possible for this not to make me win? I win.

Granted, the bisque was very simplified. I didn't serve it over rice, because there was already going to be pasta. And, more to the point, I didn't bother with stuffed crawfish heads, because for one, I didn't want to take the time (although this article and recipe makes it sound like no big deal, totally spontaneous "hey, come on down and we'll have dinner," none of this 2-day prep nonsense)... and for two, when I only have 17 whole crawfish tails, I'm not going to chop them up and coat them in breadcrumbs. I'm going to put them whole in the pasta. When I eat them, I want to know that I'm eating them. And OMG it was a very, very good thing to know.

(Remember writing? This is a blog about writing.)

Right, but who wants to hear about that? Another session of panicking over the short story that must be finished and submitted by Thursday, who needs to know? Another period of pulling up submission guidelines and figuring out where to submit some rejected-and-overnighting manuscripts anew--that's administrivia, that's boring, what's to blog about? Some days you just put in your hours and pat yourself on the head, you know? This was one of those days.

Now can I talk about crawfish?

(Oh, all right. If you must.)


This morning I went back out to the creek for another round. I went back to yesterday's fishing hole (I'm afraid "Boondocks" will never again not be stuck in my head), and I took my writing with me, so that was kind of virtuous, right? Only kind of not, because I got up from the writing every two paragraphs to check the lines. But since I started my morning at 7:00 because John got up at 7:00 because today was one of those thankfully rare days when his job required him to actually be in the office. In way-the-hell-South Denver. At 8:00 AM. So we were both up stupid-early. But these things were not to be compared. While he was up at "sucks to be me" o' clock (but thankfully with Gen Con tomorrow to look forward to), I was up at "oh boy, fishing trip!" o' clock. I haven't been up at fishing trip o'clock since my pre-teen days, y'all. So I took my writing with me, and I figured, what the heck, if fishing makes my first writing task take extra-long, that's OK, I started it extra-early.

I learned a few more things about this pastime. For instance, when tying your bait to your line, you must give the crawfish something to grip or they'll slip off before you get them on the bank. Didn't successfully land a one while the bacon was tied directly to the sinker rock. Went back to the arrangement of separating the bacon from the rock by at least a couple inches of twine, and the persistent things hung on a lot more reliably.

When the nibbles slowed down, I began working my way upstream until I was back at the bridge. I still felt exposed as hell, a curiosity for everyone and their dogs walking Wonderland Creek Greenway to stare at, but it was worth it--the bridge was like a crawfish vending machine. Put the bait in the water, wait a minute, pull out a crawfish. And it was shallow enough to see the crawfish approaching the bait, too--or to spot the crawfish and attempt to approach it with the bait.

Another thing I learned: You get greedy, you fall in and get your shoes wet. (Why did I bother wearing shoes today?) I had seven and probably could have caught another ten, but I took the slip-up as a sign that it was time to get on home, cook and process the crawfish, and then maybe actually get to the day's writing work? Maybe?

The ten crawfish left overnight in a plastic pin in the fridge with a moist cloth and some ice cubes for company, they were fine. All ten of them torpid from the cool but entirely alive. These joined this morning's catch in the cookpot with...

  • 1 oz Cajun Land Crab Boil (dry)
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun Land Crab Boil (liquid)
  • 1 quarter of a large onion
  • 4 split garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • couple good glugs hot sauce

Pot hits a rolling boil, crawfish go in. Three minutes later, take it off the heat and add ice to stop the cook. Soak until sufficiently flavorful, about 20 minutes. These proportions weren't going to send anyone screaming with fiery breath for a glass of milk or beer, but then that wasn't the goal.

Crawfish meat got extracted and put in one bowl, crawfish "fat" (which might more accurately be called "crawfish sweetbreads") in another bowl, and shells in a third. First two bowls got saved for the bisque and the pasta, respectively. Shells were sweated in a couple tablespoons butter, then boiled in a few quarts water to make stock for the bisque.

By the way, I can't find any warnings online about that organ at the tip of the crawfish head (seems to be connected to the so-called dorsal vein or "poop line" that many prefer to remove) that explodes in icky black gunk if you squish it--which you might accidentally do while scraping out the "fat." I am happy to provide that warning at no extra charge, like so: Don't squish it! And it might be best to remove it before boiling the shells for stock. You're welcome!

At this point I stuck a big TO BE CONTINUED on the whole process and went about the rest of my day until dinner time, when I cooked myself these marvelous things to eat, all in me-sized portions because that's about as far as you can make 17 crawfish stretch. Still, it was a respectable far distance to stretch 'em. I'm full and happy.

And I'm weirdly, irrationally, and entirely contralogically looking forward to doing it again. There's this semi-subconscious part of the brain (quasiconscious?) that just knows something fun is going to happen tomorrow, and it's looking forward to it, so I keep wondering "Why am I so happy all of a sudden?" And then I realize why, and I feel all disappointed and duped, because I don't actually have any plans to go crawfishing again to look forward to.

Well, I suppose I could go catch and cook more crawfish tomorrow. The pasta dish was pretty easy and quick. So's a plain old boil, though if done with enough frequency it might require me to shore up my supplies of Cajun Land Crab Boil. But I don't actually have time tomorrow for fishing and boiling and peeling and cooking. I have to get John to the airport for an early flight to Gen Con, and that's in addition to my usual Wednesday occupations of volunteer reading, roller derby team practice, and a full working day of writing. (That short story must get finished!) Also, if I'm going to make a habit of this, I should probably be a good citizen and get a fishing license. My online research indicates that one is expected to do that, even for just crawfishing.

But regardless of the impossibility of it happening, that Calvin-and-Hobbes part of my brain is gleeful at the process of running down to the creek to catch more crawfish tomorrow morning wheeeeeee! It is going to be so disappointed. I'll have to make things up to it by taking it back to the creek later on.

Maybe Friday.