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Seafood

Seafood just happens to be everywhere in South Louisiana. Shrimp, crabs, crawfish, oysters, frog legs, alligator, turtle are a few, and of course,  fish.  A few are reptiles and amphibians but what the heck, they live in water, they're seafood to me. Click on the links above or just scroll down, your choice....

Shrimp

Shrimp are harvested on the Louisiana saltwater bayous and in the Gulf of Mexico. In general we have two seasons; the Brown Shrimp or May season usually starting in May and lasting for about 45 days. The White Shrimp Season usually begins in August and lasts until around December.

Fresh shrimp are usually de-headed and frozen with the shells on in a little water in a zipper lock type bag (get all the air out). The water is essential to prevent freezer burn. Some folks peal the shrimp first. Leaving the shells on leaves me with more cooking options also; like baked shrimp and making shrimp stock. Fresh shrimp should be kept covered with ice (not ice water) for handling. If they get warm they'll spoil and start smelling immediately. If you see any red on a fresh shrimp it means it got too warm at some point. I won't buy em'! 

I like a 40 count (number per pound, heads on) shrimp for gravies and 20 count for boiling, baking, grilling and frying. To me, any larger has too much of an iodine taste.

With large shrimp you can even pull the leg sections from the heads and fry them. "Oh yuk" you say, but, it's no different than frying a soft-shell crab.

Shrimp dishes include boiled, gumbo, etouffee, stew, jambalaya, Creole, baked, stuffed, dips, soup, grilled, boulettes, and of course, fried. ..... see "cooking shrimp".

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Crabs

The Louisiana gulf coast crab (Blue Claw) is normally found in abundance during the summer months but can be had at other times. Freshwater and saltwater crabs are available, saltwater being the more popular. Crabs are caught in the shrimp trawlers' nets but mostly by crab fishermen using traps.  You can also catch them yourself using string with a chicken neck tied to it, a dip net and a little finesse (the kids love this)! Hey, when the fish ain't bitin' the crabs probably are! 

Fresh crabs will usually stay alive if kept moist and cool with a decent air circulation. Icing crabs down with too much ice (we call this "iced hard") will kill them as will excessive heat. If you put crabs in an ice chest laying a small bag of ice on top of them will do just fine. Another trick to keeping live crabs "Live" is never let them sit up-side-down. If you have to, dump them into another container and place them one-by-one back into the holding container. Once a crab dies the meat gets mushy, same as crawfish.  If you've ever eaten boiled  crabs and found that some of them had mushy meat it means they died before hitting the boiling water. I'm sure there is a time period that must elapse between death and the mush. I don't know what it is but it's not long. That's why when it comes to boiled seafood in Louisiana you hear people say "don't eat the dead ones", that's what it means. An experienced boiled crab or crawfish eater can tell the difference right away. I can't say that it will actually hurt you to eat it, but, boy the pallet gets a nasty feeling! You can usually look at a fresh crabs' mouth and if the mandibles are hanging loose, it's dead. This is not so prevalent in crabs that have been iced hard. If they try to pinch you they're most likely alive!

Fresh whole crabs can be prepared for the freezer by scalding them about 2 minutes and cleaning them. They can also be prepared live. Freeze them as you would shrimp. If you boil the crabs you can pick the meat and freeze it in a zipper bag with a little water (get the air out).

Soft-shelled crabs are a delicacy to me. A soft shell crab is just a regular crab that is molting. The crab sheds its smaller shell to allow for a new larger shell to grow. This crab is now being farmed, in that the experienced crab farmer can actually look at the color changes on certain parts of the crab and is able to tell when the molt will begin. At the precise time the crab is pulled from the water and hard packed in ice to stop the molt.  

Some of the favorite dishes are boiled, stew, au'gratin, patties, stuffed and is used in creamy soups. [Cooking Crab]

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Crawfish

Mud-bugs (or "bugs" for short) are very popular here in Louisiana, especially boiled. Crawfish can be purchased right from the fishermen, if you know one, but normally they're available at seafood stores that specialize in fresh and boiled seafood. Restaurants abound serving this delicacy throughout South Louisiana.   

Crawfish come from the Atchafalaya Basin, rice fields, and, are farmed in dedicated crawfish ponds. They, as crabs, are caught in traps. If you're willing to brave a snake or two you can go out and catch them yourself in the right ditch. 

Handling fresh crawfish is pretty much the same as crabs. Keep them cool and moist. If they died before cooking the meat will get somewhat mushy. You can tell when you pull the tail away from the body and the first piece of meat breaks off. Most of the time the crawfish tail won't be curled.

Great dishes with this rascal are boiled, Etouffee', bisque, stew and fried soft-shell. They also make a great omelet. [Cooking Crawfish] 

When Freezing your crawfish tails in water add a little lemon juice. They keep a while longer.
Make a "Fat" cube by separating the fat, simmer it a little with lemon juice and freezing it in an ice cube tray adding a little water. Once frozen remove from tray and put in zipper bags and back in the freezer.

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Oysters

Here's one of my favorite sea creatures. Oysters from South La. are harvested in saltwater bays and bayous by oyster fishermen year round.  The commoner can pick a few for himself which is another "fish ain't bitin'" activity. I'm from South Louisiana and have picked, shucked and eaten many an oyster. Down here the "R" month concept does not fully work. The concept (I've heard) was developed up north in the colder regions of the U.S. People have mistakenly adapted it down here. The best months are normally Nov., Dec., and January. In February they start to become milky and loose their firmness. If Iím going to eat raw oysters Iím very selective about where the oysters are picked. For me itís Empire and Grand Isle Louisiana; these areas have good water flow and salt content is high. Iíll also wait until the daily high temperature is at least 45 degrees for several days. Eating raw oysters can be very dangerous.

Oysters must naturally be shucked. My paternal Grandfather was an oyster shucker in New Orleans way long ago. He showed my father not only how to shuck them but how to make an oyster knife. This might seem simple but the "pro shuckers technique" was complex and produced a perfectly shucked oyster 99.9% of the time. 

Handling oysters follows the basic rules, cool and moist. After you get them out of the shell they must be refrigerated.

Oyster dishes include; on the half shell, fried, soups, jambalaya, Rockefeller, dressing, grilled and gumbo... see "Cooking Oysters"

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Frog Legs

Frog legs come from the chicken! Aw come on nah! Of course they're from frogs and those frogs are usually the marsh bull frog. You ain't lived unless you've been at the camp and heard those bad boys croak.  Froggin' (hunting frogs) is a night time activity usually done in small jo-boats and pirogues. They're taken with a gig or with a looped-wire stick. The frog is then skinned, gutted and head removed. If the frog is big enough we eat the body too! Hey, don't waste nuttin round here. Frog actually tastes a little like chicken but better.

Favorite dishes here are fried, sauce piquant and smothered.

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Alligator

Yea, usually if it moves we'll eat it! Alligator is farmed, and, caught in the wild in South Louisiana freshwater marshes. Cultivation is not for the meat but for the hide, but, as fate would have it, there's meat beneath that hide and, well.... we're eating! If you're lucky enough to know a farmer or hunter you can get a little alligator tail meat for usually nothin'. The meat is now available via seafood outlets and believe me, it's worth trying. The meat is off-white and has a taste combination in the chicken, fish, frog area and has no "wild" flavor. It kinda depends on the size of the animal, and to me, the younger the better. 

Favorite dishes are fried, and naturally, a good sauce piquant. 

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Turtle

Turtle is abundant in the fresh water swamps of Louisiana and of course it moves, so what do we do?.... eat it! No, we don't eat "Ripley's believe it or not" turtles. We got enough fresh water varieties. Snapping turtle (cah-wan, somebody correct me on this) is probably the most popular but there are other types that fit just fine in the pot. Turtle meat is available in the local seafood place and if you're out fishing and run up on one just grab em' and throw em' in a sack. Chances are you'll find somebody who knows how to clean one around here. Turtle is one of the animals that has meat that tastes different dependent upon the part of the body it comes from. 

Turtle is also a sauce piquant favorite. I've heard a gumbo is good too but haven't tried that one yet.

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Fish

As I'm sure everyone knows fish fits any plate and most people like it. One of the nice things about South Louisiana is that fish is abundant in both fresh and saltwater varieties. Personally I like perch (a.k.a. blue gill), sac-a-lait (a.k.a. white perch or crappie), goggle-eye, catfish, fresh specks (speckled trout), red fish, drum and flounder. I honestly can't say I have one favorite when it comes to fish, I just love them all. Each has it's own spot on my tongue.  The Gulf waters give us snapper, ling (cobia), amberjack and many others (too many to list here). 

Most of us know that fish must be kept iced down at all times (but I had to say it). 

Fried, grilled, with sauces, hey you can't hardly mess up fish. Favorite dishes are sauce piquant, courtbullion, fried and stuffed (flounder). See... "Cooking Fish"

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Well that's about it for the seafood section. I hope you've learned a little and I didn't gross you out...haha! Seafood is a big part of South Louisiana eating. We say," it's here - we eat it!". On to Cooking Seafood...

Oh by the way, if your visiting South Louisiana and want to partake in any of the outdoor activities mentioned above, be sure to follow the laws set forth by our state. Your link to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Have a good one.......

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