showing up to a party with fresh bread and no butter would be a crime
garlic butter is a sin worth repenting for
ooh, fresh herb butter
the only herb in my garden big enough to sacrifice right now is sage
Aunt Rose bought me a little cookbook with nothing but flavored butters
Small battle ensues to emerge from comforter cocoon, find sweatshirt, and head to kitchen
no sage and garlic butter
I’ll just base my recipe on the garlic-dill butter
Found kitchen shears, flip-flops, and I’m off
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients until well blended. I use a stand mixer because it allows for multi-tasking, but a wooden spoon will do just fine.
Use within two days or the sage will brown and lose its fresh flavor. Besides lathering on bread, this butter is also good to cook with (think potatoes, roasted veggies, seafood, poultry, etc.)
Yes, I’m a little odd for getting up early on a Sunday morning with visions of compound butter dancing in my head. But in my defense, I was excited. I was going to my first ever crawfish boil!
Not one to show up to a party empty-handed, I offered to make fresh bread to go with the meal. In keeping with the French/Cajun origins of the crawfish boil, (some pronounce boil, “bowl”) baguettes were in order. Having only made them a few times mine still turn out a little lopsided, but the taste more than makes up for the aesthetics.
Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, how I love thee? Let me count the ways! My tip for baguettes making-the recipe suggests painting the dough with water before cutting the signature slashes. I love the idea of painting dough, but actually found that it was more effective to just dip the bread knife directly in the water between cuts.
There’s a charming little story of how when the French Acadians were forced from Canada down to Louisiana, soon to be Cajuns, lobsters followed them. Worn down by the journey, the lobsters shed pounds and shrunk down until they became crawfish. (I found a great article if you want more details: “Crayfish or crawfish? Whatever … westerners really know how to enjoy them”)
Crawfish boils are well known and appreciated in Louisiana, but are not as popular in Northern California as they should be. It took living in New Orleans for a couple of years for our lovely hostess, Sacramento native Irene Lugo, to fall in love with them.
Upon her return, she wanted to share this tradition with her friends and family. In her research for the party, she found that Sacramento and New Orleans actually have quite a bit in common. These sister cities were both built near a large delta, and where there’s a delta, there’s an abundance of crawfish.
My very first crawdad experience was on an ill-fated camping trip. I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. The flaming marshmallow and bike crashing incidents rather weakened my memory of the rest of the trip (I’ve forgiven marshmallows, but my downhill phobia persists). But I do remember going on a hike at one point, a hike with a mysterious purpose. The grown-ups wouldn’t tell us where we were going, or what we were going to do when we got there. The surprise at the end of the trail: fishing for crawdads with bologna tied to the end of a string. I remember seeing flashes of red under rocks in the creek bed, but couldn’t say if we actually caught any. So, I’m pretty sure that, up until last weekend, I had never eaten a crawdad.
So, how do crawdads compare to their more esteemed cousin, the lobster? To me, they are nearly identical in taste. The biggest difference is not the size, but how you eat them. Often, lobsters are eaten in nice restaurants with linen and fancy little forks. Crawdads, on the other hand, are usually eaten from a steaming mound dumped unceremoniously onto a newspaper-covered table. No plates, no crackers or silly little forks, just your fingers and wit to feed you. It’s fabulous.
I enjoyed my first crawdad boil far more than any of my lobster experiences. Boiling everything together with citrus and spices infuses it all with so much flavor. Potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, smoked sausage, they all taste better. Especially when eaten outside on a sunny afternoon sandwiched between days gray with rain.
There’s definitely something to be said about standing together around a newspaper covered table eating with your fingers that makes you feel somehow more connected. Unfamiliar faces become familiar. Strangers become friends.
If you don’t have the energy to put on your own boil, and don’t know anyone who you can talk into putting one on, mark your calendar for the annual Crawdad Festival held in Isleton every Father’s Day, where over 25,000 pounds of crawdads are consumed in a three day period.
Also, I can’t help but share some cool (or geeky depending on how you look at it) science stuff. I just finished Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide. It’s highly edible. Here’s an article about how researchers were able to isolate individual neurons for decision making in crayfish: http://www.calacademy.org/sciencetoday/crayfish-decisions/