This weekend, when I saw the flashing sign announcing “BOILED CRABS” in big, bold letters outside Randol’s restaurant, I knew that things were heating up in South Louisiana, and I’m not talking about the weather. Propane burners and stovetop boiling pots are firing up as crab season ushers in on the tail end of crawfish season. It’s just the natural order of things and reason enough to fall in love with the Cajun food culture.
Fat blue crabs (they turn red when boiled) are salty and sweet when boiled to perfection. A backyard crab boil is always a sign of summer in Louisiana, and firing up the propane burners is the call to friends and neighbors that a party is underway. Boiling fresh blues in a spicy cauldron of seasoned water is not just for home cooks, but many Acadiana restaurants specialize in the dish as well.
There’s only one place in Acadiana that I’ll eat boiled Louisiana blue crabs — Frank’s place. With his friendly smile and infectious laugh, my good friend Frank Randol rules the dining room of Randol’s Restaurant and Dancehall. He is a smart, talented entrepreneur with a knack for finding opportunity. He built his restaurant from the shell of a landscaping nursery into a world-class tourism destination. It is not uncommon to see busloads of French and German tourists dancing alongside neighborhood locals. Frank was one of the first to tap the potential of cultural and culinary tourism by marrying the two together.
The French-speaking culture of Acadiana has a rich tradition of music, with Cajun two-steps, waltzes and African-influenced zydeco music. Over the past 50 years this unique musical mish-mash has created “swamp pop”, a funky rhythm & blues music heard throughout Acadiana’s music clubs and dancehalls. Like Randol’s, many of these concert halls are also restaurants that pack in the tourists and locals alike. Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons are host to hoards of dancers–adults and kids–crowding the corn meal-covered dance floors to sashay to live Cajun music.
Frank cranks up the live music seven nights a week and cranks out a terrific menu of Cajun and Creole classics. But, it’s the boiled crabs that keeps folks coming back. Frank is one of the largest crab processors in Louisiana shipping fresh-picked lump crabmeat to restaurants in Chicago and other markets. His operation focuses on Vermilion Bay blue point crabs that are plentiful once the bay waters heat up.
I urge you to make a trek to Randol’s and try his boiled-to-perfection Louisiana blue crabs, but if you can’t, then instead of singin’ the blues, just follow this recipe. But, you’ll have to provide your own music.
A Cajun crab boil is as easy as well, boiling water. Don’t overcomplicate this; it’s just seasoned water and the freshest live blue crabs available. Be sure to have a really big pot, long-handled tongs (for handling the live crabs), gloves, and pliers or shell cracking implements to dismantle your cooked crabs. Oh, and ice down your favorite beer; it’s a party, after all.
- 1 cup liquid crab boil seasoning
- 3 (3-ounce) bags dry crab boil seasoning spice or 3 cups dried Cajun seasoning spice
- 6 lemons, halved
- 2 pounds small red potatoes (about a dozen)
- 12 ears frozen corn on the cob, shucked and cut into thirds
- 6 medium yellow onions, halved
- 2 dozen live blue crabs
- In a large, tall stockpot with basket insert, fill halfway with water, 2 to 3 gallons, and bring to a boil. Add the crab boil seasoning along with the lemons, potatoes, corn, and onions, and continue boiling until the potatoes become tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the crabs and cook on a rolling boil for 5 minutes; turn off the heat. Let everything soak in the seasoned water for another 20 minutes or so, and then remove and serve family-style on a newspaper-covered table.
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