Al Scramuzza is a crawfish expert, New Orleans TV commercial personality and former king of Krewe du Vieux. For 44 years, he ran Seafood City, which shuttered in 1994. Today, Scramuzza bottles and sells his signature crawfish boil seasoning blend. Scramuzza spoke with Gambit about this year's crawfish season, what he likes to put in a boil and the largest crawfish he's ever seen.
What are your pre- dictions for crawfish this season?
Scramuzza: We were boiling crawfish about a month ago, before Christmas. I told everyone, "This is going to be one of the rare years we're going to have a crawfish Christmas!" I checked with about 12 seafood stores, and about seven or eight of them had crawfish — live or boiled — in early December.
My prediction is that crawfish are going to be very, very plentiful this year. They're going to be good in quality and availability. It's going to be a "collasaful" season. That's a new word I just made up.
In order for crawfish to thrive, they need weather above 28 or 29 degrees. When we have consecutive days of freezing weather, it's bad for the crawfish. Just like a captain on the sea has a sextant to know which way to go by the stars, crawfish have the same thing about cold weather. They can feel when the weather's getting real bad and they bury and bore into the ground. They'll bore down as much as 50 feet. When it's not going to be conducive to their survival, their radar tells them to dig in and get away from that bad weather.
I had the experience of handling crawfish in my business for 45 years before I retired, so I know when it's going to be a good season.
What's the biggest crawfish you've ever seen?
S: I've seen crawfish that are as big as three-quarters of a pound. Normally, they don't get that big. The biggest they get right now is going to be 3 or 4 ounces.
What do you like to add to your boil?
S: A lot of people like to put ice in the pot when you're soaking the crawfish. I do not recommend that. Putting that in there — the ice — dilutes the flavor of the crawfish, in my opinion.
If you want to add sausage or potatoes, I would recommend adding the potatoes to the pot when you turn the fire on because potatoes take a very long time to cook. My recommendation is if you boil potatoes, put them in a small sack. For sausage, my recommendation is to put it in when the crawfish come to a roaring boil and keep it in there the whole time you're soaking the crawfish. If you're going to add corn, do the same thing. The corn doesn't take long to cook, and you can put it in a little sack, too.
People like to put mushrooms in there or whole heads of garlic. The thing about crawfish is you can put anything into the pot. It just welcomes anything you want to cook. I've seen people put grapefruit in there.