On February 22, Dinner Lab hosted its first-ever Clash of the Crawfish presented by Zatarain's. Twenty-four teams competed by serving up their best boils for more than 400 attendees. As the inaugural event's presenting sponsor, Zatarain's provided its famous boil seasonings for contestants to use in their recipes to woo attendees to vote for their recipe.
Team Two Hott 2 Trot, made up of Billy Jones and Eric Tirone, brought home the championship title. They took some time away from their day jobs at Cochon — where Jones works as sous chef and Tirone works as a butcher — to answer a few questions about their award-winning boil.
Everyone could taste the butter you added to your boil. Was that something you've done before or did you bring it out for this competition?
BILLY JONES: I've been boiling for a while, so my normal move at the very end of the boil is to throw a pound of unsalted butter right into the pot with everything else. When we were developing our recipe, we said, "Wait a minute, let's make the butter more interesting." So that became the compound butter with a lot of spices and Sriracha, anchovies and lemon zest - as much flavor as we could add to it.
Are there any other boil secrets that you think put your crawfish over the top?
BILLY JONES: We have a close relationship with our restaurant's crawfish purveyor, who we get live crawfish and tail meat from. So I was talking to her one day and asked what they did with the shells after they pulled the tail meat out. And she said, "You know, we can really do anything with them." And I said, "How about you give 'em to me instead of throwing them away?" We had this idea that the second and third boils were always the best. Essentially, it's not adding more stuff to the pot in terms of spice and salt - you're making stock when you boil crawfish. The whole basis of cooking starts with yummy stock. We thought that if we tried adding the empty shells, we'd get the second and third boil effect. And it worked.
Did you use any Zatarain's in your boil? What did you use?
BILLY JONES: We practiced three times before we did the boil. We used Zatarain's the first time, and it was delicious. We work for Donald Link, and his cousin has a spice blend that we tried out in the second batch. Then we went back to the Zatarain's for the third time. And for the day of the boil, we were in a pinch getting things together. We liked both of them, but we wound up going with Donald Link's mix. But I do enjoy Zatarain's Pro Boil. It's the only thing I've ever used outside of this competition.
Do you have any tips for inexperienced boilers?
BILLY JONES: I think the most important part is tasting the water before you put the crawfish in. It needs to be salty like the ocean and almost too unbearable with the heat. A very small part of that is going to come through with the crawfish, so don't be afraid.
ERIC TIRONE: Keep tasting the crawfish as they're cooking. Every five minutes, grab one out and taste it because the flavors are gonna get more intense in the crawfish and you don't want to overcook 'em.
BILLY JONES: Yeah, you can't go by cooking times. You just have to keep tasting them.
For a surefire way to create your own winning boil, try this recipe from Zatarain's.