Friday, March 14, 2014

Steamboat Bill's Louisiana Seafood

Even Nashville's finest know where to find the best 
crawfish in town!
Most people look forward to football, baseball or even basketball season. My favorite season of the year is “crawfish season” which usually runs from late January to mid June.

Steamboat Bill's Louisiana Seafood
takes the utmost pride in the quality of their crawfish. They’ve left me hanging a couple times this season – refusing to bring molting crawfish to Nashville because they would die on the trip from Louisiana. I respect that!  Yes, they make weekly trips to Louisiana to stock up on fresh seafood and other Louisiana specialties like boudin, alligator sausage, blue crab and shrimp. The harsh 2014 winter in the South has stretched the beginning of “crawfish season” from late January until mid-March this year. Apparently, crawfish hate winter as much as I do.

I’ve had some seriously bad experiences with crawfish in the ten plus years since I first tried it, enough to turn the average person off.  But I never gave up on the crawfish! Admittedly, I am a relative “newbie” to crawfish.  I have no idea how I missed out on this delicious creature in my 44 years, but then again I have yet to visit New Orleans.
You can watch them sort the fresh, live 
crawfish prior to boiling time.

Crawfish are also called crayfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, or mudbugs and are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related.

Last summer, I discovered and frequented Steamboat Bill's Louisiana Seafood almost every weekend during crawfish season. I have stayed and watched them sort through the live crawfish prior to the “boil”. I was utterly devastated at the end of the season. The last time I had crawfish prior to now was the 4th of July weekend. That same weekend, my friend purchased a dozen, live blue crab to boil at my house. It was our first attempt. That was a disaster waiting to happen! Did you know that blue crab can get quite ornery sitting inside a Styrofoam cooler awaiting their demise?

I took “home” ten lbs of Louisiana style crawfish last summer for my nephew who grew up in Baton Rouge and now lives in Cookeville, TN.  He had been in dire straits to get some Louisiana style crawfish for over five years since his last visit to his home state. His response: “Damn! Now this is how it’s supposed to be done!” I beamed with excitement.

The end result!
How to eat crawfish: This is a messy business, so prepare to get dirty, and don’t rub your eyes after until you’ve washed your hands about a dozen times. Sadly, I know from experience.

Freshly boiled are the best - NEVER frozen or off some Chinese buffet. I can still eat them cold a day or two later, but they’re never as good as fresh from the boil. It’s as easy as eating shrimp. Grab the body with two hands and twist off the tail. You might need to peel away a bit of the shell to extract the meat. Pinch the base of the tail to disconnect the meat. Now pull! If you do it right, the vein (aka “digestive tract”) will come out when the shell is pulled away (that similar vein runs through shrimp). I’ve gotten pretty good at this part over the years.

For most the tail meat is the most prized part, for me it’s the head. True crawfish fans choose to suck out the juices from the head which contain a fair amount of seasoning from the boil. Some people stop there. I actually pull the head open in search of the mustard yellow stuff known as “crawfish butter”. No, it is not the waste of the crawfish as many have suggested. It is crawfish fat and, and in my opinion, the absolute best part of the crawfish.  Personally, I would prefer to throw away the tails and just eat the heads – the reverse is true of most people. Watching me eat crawfish can be a pretty barbaric experience – so tread cautiously if you choose to eat with me.

Steamboat Bill's has moved their East Nashville “food truck” location this year (about a mile from the old location and across the street). I had to be part of the first boil of the “season”.  I showed up on opening day (after work rushing from Franklin). My original order was for 3 pounds of crawfish but as it was being filled, I had “reverse buyer’s remorse” – or was feeling greedy – and order 2 more pounds.

It is best to check their Facebook page for actual hours and items available at the Food Truck. If you are experienced and wish to boil your own crawfish, you can also order them live, but there is a cutoff time is mid-week for live orders, so plan ahead.

Locations:
311 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN
Phone:
(615) 243-7482 Bill + Moni(615) 499-6865 Mark
Hours:
Friday & Saturday: 10am - 7pm
Sunday: 10am - 6pm 
Boiled crawfish starting at 11am or until SOLD OUT! And they DO sell out!

Coming soon:
840 NW Broad St, Murfreesboro, TN
Phone: (615) 499-6865 Mark
Hours TBD

On Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steamboat-Bills/117121998315979?hc_location=timeline

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