Crawfish season is always cause for celebration in Cajun country, and the folks in Erath know how to throw one helluva party—especially when there's a chance to share their emblematic food with newcomers, like my group of grad students from NYU's Food Studies program. We arrived at the Perrin farm in Vermilion Parish on a sunny day, just in time to harvest some of the squirming critters. Heading out in the flooded rice paddies in a converted pirogue on tractor-like wheels, with stowaway snapping turtles sunning themselves inches from our toes, we watched, mesmerized, as our captain and his helper hauled in trap after trap of the otherworldly delicacy.
A mishap with a fire ant hill didn't dampen our appetite for the feast that followed—a traditional crawfish boil, expertly seasoned and served on platters the size of flying saucers, accompanied by a slew of other dishes: crawfish stew, crawfish cornbread, crawfish sauce piquant over rice, crawfish fettuccine, crawfish casserole, and crawfish salad, alongside newfangled crawfish enchiladas from Prejean's in Lafayette, courtesy of our wonderful hosts Warren and Mary Perrin's son, Bruce. Chefs Kyle and Ron tended a giant cauldron of crawfish jambalaya and fried up some alligator tenders and hushpuppies that we washed down with cold Abita beers. And to cap it all off, a delectable sheet cake drizzled with Steen's syrup from the sugarcane grown across the way.
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