Essential New Orleans Ingredients

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Crawfish (aka crayfish, crawdads, and mudbugs) are miniature crustaceans similar to lobsters, and spring is when they're in season in New Orleans. That means lots of communal crawfish boils, where the shellfish are cooked in big pots with generous seasonings, and often corn and potatoes, then tipped onto newspaper-covered tables. The tail meat is also widely enjoyed in étouffée, but there's something primally satisfying about twisting the steamed crawfish open at a lively table and sucking the fat and juice from the heads before peeling the shell from the sweet tail meat.