N.C. Crawfish event boils up enthusiasm for shelled delicacy

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON - To Cajuns nothing says party like crawfish.
Last Saturday, Louisiana natives Jason and Sonia Tinsley were the first in line at the North Carolina Crawfish Association's annual Crawfish Boil at the Southeastern Regional Agriculture Center/Farmer's Market.
&#8220We moved here with an 80-quart pot, burner and just assumed you could get crawfish anywhere,” Jason said. &#8220About any weekend this time of year where I grew up, someone in your group of friends is having a crawfish party.”
The Tinsley's shindig was Sunday as they treated 17 people to deep South hospitality with 50 pounds of crawfish.
&#8220I'd rather have crawfish than anything in the world,” Tinsley said. &#8220It has a distinct taste. &#8220You wouldn't find a respectable Louisiana restaurant that didn't sell crawfish.”
Crawfish hasn't been an easy catch in North Carolina for the Tinsleys, who moved to Lumberton three years when he became the assistant basketball coach for the men's team at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He has since become head coach.
For Stephen Parker, Saturday was a new experience as enjoyed the sweet white delicacy for the first time.
&#8220They're really good and spicy,” said Parker, who was brought to the event by Dannie Bruce, who became hooked on the crawfish at last year's event.
&#8220I like the spicy kick, plus the fact that ya gotta fight for what you get,” Bruce said. &#8220It's worth the fight. When you leave with red fingers, it's not like you can go home and say, ‘Honey, I didn't go.'”
Danita McCollum and her daughters, Sierra, 5, and Lanita, 12, had few problems tearing through a few pounds of crawfish.
&#8220It just has a different taste that you can't find anywhere else,” Danita said. &#8220I dip it in garlic at home. But any way you have crawfish is good.”
Crawfish are often compared to shrimp or lobster, and frequently used as a substitute for both in recipes. It has one-third less sodium and cholesterol and fewer calories than shrimp. The primary season for crawfish in North Carolina runs from March through July. Crawfish sold for $4 a pound at Saturday's event.
The North Carolina Crawfish Association unloaded about 500 pounds of crawfish - cooked and uncooked. It has two other annual events, in Greensboro where about 800 pounds disappear and in Raleigh where residents line up for 1,000 pounds.
James Bass manages Jambbas Ranch, a 16-acre crawfish farm near Fayetteville. Since he opened it in 1997, he annually harvests between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds of crawfish.
&#8220I have no problem selling anything I get,” he said. &#8220I get many soldiers and their wives from Fort Bragg. The ducks eat the seed of the rice or Sudan grass and the crawfish eat the foliage.”
Bass said raising crawfish is an affordable business opportunity.
&#8220It requires the least amount of start-up money than any other farming venture,” he said. &#8220I'm not sure why more people in the state don't do it.'
Bass was tutored by Sterling Davenport, who has raised crawfish for 22 years from his home near Roper. The twosome contribute more than half of the association's crawfish.
The Tinsleys use crawfish to make a number of entrees, including a bisque, etouffee (over rice), as a stuffing inside hollowed-out bread and even as a topping for pizza.
Check out the Tinsley's standard crawfish boil and a few recipes from the North Carolina Crawfish Association.

Tinsley's crawfish
boil delight

Approximately 40 pounds of crawfish (one sack).
3-4 lemons (sliced in half)
3-4 large onions
10-12 small unpeeled red potatoes
1-2 packages of mushrooms
2-4 cloves of garlic
12 small corn on the cob ears
1 Large box of Zatarain’s seasoning (73 ounces)
Place 6 gallons of water into a large pot (80 quarts) with an inner wire basket which is removable. Add all ingredients except the corn and crawfish. Stir and bring the water to a rolling boil. Add crawfish and corn to boiling mixture (if crawfish are not covered, add additional water), stir, cover tightly and return to boil. Let the crawfish boil for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cool your pot and boiling mix with cold water and soak the crawfish for 15 to 20 minutes. Pull the basket out of the water and let the water drain, then empty on to a table covered with newspaper and serve.

Stir-fry crawfish
with rice

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups celery, diagonally sliced
1 large onion, sliced and separated in rings
1 large green pepper, cut in thin strips
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 teaspoons black pepper
1 pound cleaned crawfish tail meat
1 can (16 ounce) fancy mixed Chinese vegetable
3 cups hot, cooked rice
1 can (3 ounce) rice noodles or chow mien
Heat oil in large skillet. Add celery, onion and green pepper. Cook until tender crisp. Blend soup and chicken broth. Add to skillet. Stir in soy sauce, pepper, crawfish and Chinese vegetables, which have been rinsed and drained. Cook only until heated thorough. Serve over bed of fluffy rice and topped with noodles.

Crawfish cocktail

3-4 pounds crawfish tail meat
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup horse radish
1 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup celery, minced
Pepper sauces or cayenne
Simmer crawfish tails in well of salted water until tender (10 to 14 minutes). Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Fill bowl with chopped ice and arrange tails over the top. Provide toothpicks for dipping.

Crawfish fettuccine

1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pint half and half
8 ounces of Velveeta cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can of tomatoes (8 ounces)
1 pound crawfish tails
1 pound fettuccine noodles