The first shellfish boil I attended was held on a winter’s night so cold my hands stiffened the second I pulled them out of my ski jacket pocket. The other guests and I formed a scrum around one of those tall, skinny heaters you see on restaurant patios, stabbing potatoes and shrimp, sticking them in our mouths, then shoving our hands, fork and all, back into our pockets. I would have worn gloves, but I had arrived at the party unaware of the most basic fact about boils: They’re to be experienced outside.
Which is much easier to do in June, thankfully, and you can do it this Saturday in the parking lot behind Del Ray restaurant Evening Star Cafe. Louisiana-raised chef Jim Jeffords has ordered a bunch of crawfish from his home state, and aims to re-create the Sunday afternoons of his childhood—when his family would gather for crawfish, corn, potatoes, and sausage. “They were also a standby before college football games,” says Jeffords. “We’d always have the grill going at the same time for hamburgers and hot dogs.”
If you’ve never experienced a Louisiana-style crawfish boil, here's how it works: You get a big ol’ pot of water and add some seasonings, and you let that boil for 20 minutes while you clean your crustaceans. You add the crawfish and potatoes to the pot, “and you bring it back up to a boil and put the lid on for two minutes,” says Jeffords. “Then shut off the heat and add corn and sausage and let it sit for 15 minutes. You can add ice to stop the cooking when it’s done.”
Saturday’s event—which also involves live music—lasts from 1 to 5 PM and is free to attend. You buy tickets for $1 each; those are good for beer, wine, house-made half-smokes, boil, warm cornbread, and cobbler. Items will cost between four and ten tickets. If you can’t make it but still wish to get a fix of those tasty little creepers, head to Evening Star next week, when the restaurant will be serving crawfish boil in its mussel pots. Either way, prepare to get your hands dirty.