Swedish Crawfish

I boiled Swedish crawfish this weekend. With my two kids in the backseat of the car, doors open and the engine running, I pulled up to a roadside garden (on Baronne in Central City) and attacked a loving gardener’s towering dill plants with my hedge clippers. Did anyone ever go to jail for dill theft? Didn’t think so.

Swedish crawfish are a major deal in Sweden. At the prospect of eating even just five or six crawfish, we Swedes run out and purchase funny hats and blow-whistles. We even procure colored lanterns to hang over our heads while we eat a half-dozen crustaceans. We don’t have a lot of crawfish in Sweden, you see. But we love them dearly. When I moved to New Orleans in 2002, the last plant that processed crawfish for the Swedish market just outside Lafayette was shutting down. The dollar was high then, and Swedes were getting more and more crawfish from China and Turkey. Sweden is the biggest per capita importer of crawfish in the world, so it’s a valuable market considering that we’re willing to pay almost a dollar per crawfish. Growing up, the most I ever ate in one sitting was a dozen. But it was enough, considering that we drink a glass of vodka and sing a raunchy song with every crawfish we eat. We take our time too. Those itty bitty legs? We suck and chew on those as well; and yes—we suck the heads.

I didn’t expect my friends here to “get” Swedish crawfish. They do seem rather bland compared to the Louisiana way of cooking them. But many liked the super-dilly flavor. We eat them cold, after they’ve soaked in the brine overnight, and they’re plenty salty. I froze a batch and am going to bring it to my friend’s DVR Treme party tomorrow.

This is my recipe, if you’d like to try:

10 pounds live crawfish

4 inches water in a 16-inch (diameter) pot

a bushel of fresh dill, including many flowers/crowns (enough to hug)

2 cups salt

1/4 cup sugar

6-pack of beer

2 tablespoons coriander seed

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

1 tablespoon dill weed

Hose the crawfish off. Bring water to a boil, adding all ingredients but the crawfish. When water is at a roaring boil, insert the basket and pour the crawfish into the basket. Cover. When the water comes back to a roaring boil, turn the heat off but leave the lid on. Let sit for 15 minutes. Lift basket with crawfish out of the brine, let sit for a few minutes and then pour into containers. When the brine has cooled (it should be bath temperature or cooler), pour enough brine into containers to cover crawfish. Seal and refrigerate or freeze.

Buy vodka. Invite friends. Wear a funny hat. It’s on.