Blog of an aspiring foodie

Clear Lake Crawfish Festival

Posted by beer_chris on 2-April-2006

The annual Clear Lake Crawfish festival was held at Clear Lake park (across from the lake on NASA road 1). Proceeds benefit the super cool July 4'th fireworks show put on by the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. The chamber floats a barge out into the middle of the lake and does the show from there. Last year Rob took Jaime and I out on his boat and we watched the show from the water.

Hoping he's home around the same time again – I don't want to miss another chance to see it from that perspective.

In addition to the bugs, there was a gumbo competition going on. Most of the cooking teams were not really professional festival cookers (like I saw at the rodeo cookoff a few weeks ago), but are just local businesses or individuals who think they have the best gumbo recipe.

For 5 bucks festival goers were given a spoon and a small tasting cup, and we were given the chance to nominate our favorite among the 14 or 15 competitors. There was also a formal judging, so at the end of the event two champs would be crowned – a people's champion and a festival champion. Highlights/lowlights of the gumbo:

  • More then one of the teams had severely burned their roux. One of the guilty teams also smoked the majority of their meats in the gumbo – this made the overall effect something like eating charcoal.
  • Only three teams used okra. It's a good natural thickener, and the seeds can serve to hold in flavor.
  • For a festival in Texas, the offerings were really bland. Most everyone seemed to be using Cacherie's seasoning, which is good, but more salty then spicy. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part the gumbos were pretty pedestrian in terms of spiciness.
  • There were some really good ones that just loaded their gumbo up with crab meat. YUMMMMM!
  • Consistency ranged from downright watery to thick and gloppy. One especially insipid offering tasted like it had Froot Loops cereal in it.
  • The reigning people's champs (although not getting my vote) had a really complex gumbo – smoky, spicy, a little thick, and with notes of peanuts in the palate. I think they must have put peanut butter in it.
  • A few of the teams had a whole setup associated with serving us – a group called 'Toulouse Ladies and a Muffaletta' gave us mardi gras beads and had decorated their little tent with plastic alligators and crawfish. The team was, of course, made up of three womeon – 2 taller ladies and a shorter woman. The short woman said she was the muffaletta – short and round 🙂
  • My winner was the team from 'Visiting Angels', a home care outfit. Their gumbo was think and roux-y, with just enough spice to make the broth interesting without overwhelming the taste of the meat – chicken, shrimp and a really great smoky andouille sausage. By not falling into the trap of adding additional smoke flavor into the base (i.e. liquid smoke, as some of the teams obviously had done), they really created a gumbo that, in my opinion, was what gumbo should be. A bunch of individually good ingredients that meld and shine together.

Got a couple of neat pics as well. We walked over to the mudbug cooking area, only to see a guy with a HUGE colander filled with, by my guess, 100 lbs + of live crawfish. He was winching it up and into the even larger boiling pot.

The bugs themselves were good. I like them a little hotter, but they provided additional spice mix to add on yourself – I certainly did this. I had heard that the harvest this year was not netting the larger bugs, and I definitely found that to be true. The majority of the suckers were no longer then my index finger. This apparently is an outcome of the hurricanes in southern Louisiana.

Thinking maybe next year I'll start my own gumbo cooking team – I think it only costs 50 bucks or so to enter.

Pics:


So, how does one cook 100 lbs of mudbugs – ah yes, now I see.


Before . . .


After . . .


The Very Best Gumbo at CLCF06

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