Crawdads? Pasta and Crawfish Bordelaise

by Sarah on September 16, 2009

I FINALLY got brave enough to buy some of the live crawdads at the farmer’s market on Sunday! Not that I was worried about killing them or whatever, it was just the whole ordeal of boiling, ripping, peeling, de-veining, etc….I guess it was just laziness, really, when it comes down to it. It’s a lot of work for seemingly little reward.

I decided to make them into a pasta since the 4 pounds I bought for 4 people was not nearly enough–particularly when you have 2 teenaged men/wookies to feed. You know they’re practically bottomless pits? It’s true, it really, really is.

Here’s what I used–just stuff that happened to be in the house. I was planning on using some brandy or cognac, but then I didn’t–so please disregard the brandy bottle. The sauce is a sort of New Orleans style-Bordelaise.

This is 4 pounds of crawfish. The crawdad man advised to put them in a pot with a heavy lid in the fridge if you’re not planning to cook them right away. Unlike clams which have no legs, crawdads are sneaky fellas and will escape the bags and crawl around in your refrigerator.

I bought this crawfish boil from the crawdad man for $4. I only used about a half cup for the amount of mudbugs I had. You can also use Old Bay.

Put a big pot of water on to boil–add the spice mixture. I added a whole head of garlic, paper and all, that I just cut in half.

Dump in the crawdads and let ‘em boil for 5-6 minutes, or until they’re bright red–like a little tiny lobster.

Drain them in a colander. Fill the pot up with water again for the pasta, and add a handful of kosher salt. Put it on to boil.

As soon as you can handle them, grab them and twwiiisstt them, right in the middle. Peel the tails and take out the “veins”–really, the intestinal tract–and discard. There will be some funky yellow stuff from the head. Leave it alone. Trust me on this. Suck the heads if you are so inclined. My cousin, who was helping me, was kind of grossed out about the yellow stuff, but she was less skeptical when tasting the final product.

Chop up the meat.

In a heavy pot, melt a knob of butter. I used my favorite pot ever, the 7-qt Le Creuset. You’re going to add the pasta to the sauce later, so make sure the pot is large enough. Add a few Tbsp. of olive oil to the butter.

Add the shallot, carrot and thyme. Sweat the vegetables for a few minutes without letting them color.

Add the chopped parsley. Yes, I use curly parsley.

Pour in about two-thirds of a bottle of white wine.

Let it boil over high heat until about it has evaporated by about a third.

Pour in heavy cream and another knob of butter.

Add a tsp. or two (to taste) of cayenne, or the crawfish seasoning.

Add the pasta to the sauce.

Add the crawfish.

Toss in a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Yikes! Cheese and shellfish!
Ignore the cheese/fish rules on this one. It’s delicious. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.


Hungry yet?

Sacramentans! Take advantage of our local crawfish and make this–or have a crawfish boil. The crawdad man is out there every Sunday morning under the W/X bridge while they’re in season. Affordable too, I think they were $4 a pound. Support your local Crawdad Man!


Crawdads? Pasta and Crawfish Bordelaise


  • 4 pounds live crawfish
  • 1/2 cup crab boil spices, such as Old Bay, or whatever the crawdad guy sells you
  • 1 whole head garlic, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 3 sprigs thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 cups white wine, about 2/3 bottle
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1-2 tsp. cayenne or crab boil spice
  • 1/2 cup Parmigianno Reggiano, grated
  • kosher salt and pepper


  • Fill a large stockpot 2/3 full of water and add the crab boil spice and head of garlic. Bring to a boil. Add crawfish and boil for 5-6 minutes, until they are bright red. Drain in a colander.
  • Rinse the stockpot and refill with water for pasta. Add 1/2 cup kosher salt. Bring to a boil.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel crawfish. Chop the meat and set aside.
  • Add 2 Tbsp. of the butter and the olive oil to another heavy large pot, such as a Le Creuset. You will be adding the pasta to the sauce later, so make sure you use a large enough pot.
  • The pasta water should be boiling by now. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, according to package directions. If done before sauce, drain.
  • Add the shallot, carrot and thyme. Cook the vegetables over low heat for just a few minutes, without letting them color. Add the parsley.
  • Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about a third.
  • Add the cream and the rest of the butter. Add the cayenne or a little of the crab boil. Add the cooked pasta, then the chopped crawfish meat.
  • Add in the Parmigianno Reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss lightly to mix and serve.
  • Feeds 8 as a first course, 6 normal people or 2 normal people and 2 ravenous teenagers as an entree.

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