Leelanau Crayfish Feast

Heading down to the water was my wife’s idea. Our dinner date was almost over. Time to head home, pay the sitter and tuck in the kids. Taking the long way back to the car we saw the moon hanging big and bright out over the bay. We strolled down the boardwalk and into the harbor for a better look.

Hand in hand there against the rail under the lights, my wife puckered up for one midnight kiss as I happened to look down into the water and saw them. Crawdads. Mudbugs. Nippers. Crabs. Southerners call them crawfish. Yankees call them crayfish. They look like insects. Taste like lobster.

“Holy Toledo! Look at the size of those crayfish!”

I left Nancy hanging and started counting: one … two … three …

Like some kind of creepy, crawly culinary gold, right there in shallow water under the buggy lights, there were probably 20 king size crayfish clinging to rocks. A dozen more were spider-walking along the bottom, struggling to hold up their massive, meaty claws. They really were magnificent, easily enough to render a bowl of jambalaya or a heaping plate of étouffée.

“Honey,” I sputtered. “Do you know what this means?”

My wife has certain stories she pulls out at parties to illustrate the odd, sometimespainful reality of being married to me. All I can say is this one got heavy rotation that summer as crayfish were suddenly on the menu almost every other week. All the way back to the car I had hand-wringing visions of crayfish tails rendered into a sauce tossed with bacon and chanterelles. Crayfish tails sautéed with wild morels and served over pasta or a medallion of venison tenderloin, my own little version of  Up North surf and turf.

By the time we got home I had already put together the plan for a full-blown crayfish boil, done up Cajun style with whole heads of garlic, half cobs of sweet corn, little red potatoes, andouille sausage and Old Bay Seasoning. The backyard picnic table in my mind was crowded with happy friends and frosty mugs of beer, all surrounding a pile heaped high with crayfish.