Tuesday, September 27, 2011

(S)hell of a Good Time

On our way back from the zoo Saturday we stopped at Tony’s Seafood Market. There are seafood markets closer to home, but none like Tony’s. Tony’s is where we take guests when we are running out of things to do. We even let them pick out their own dinner.

You can buy fish so fresh it’s still swimming at Tony’s. When you walk in the front door, on your right, running the depth of the store from front to back is a large tank with catfish swimming in it. You can pick the one you want and have it dressed on the spot. The day we were there, I think some of the customers watching the fish swim around were placing bets on which one would get to the end of the tank first.

Across the back of the store is the counter where you can buy shrimp, fish (the already dressed kind), oysters, picked crabmeat, turtle meat, whole crabs and crawfish in season, hogshead cheese, and the day we were there, octopus and seaweed salads.

Down on the left end of the store is where they sell cooked seafood and sides. You can get a lunch there or buy in bulk for party trays. You can also buy sides like boiled corn and potatoes, French bread, and desserts. Tony’s even sells its own seasoning mixes under the name of Louisiana Fish Fry Products.

The day we were there, we were picking up catfish for catfish etouffee and shrimp for barbecued shrimp. Despite the name, “barbecued shrimp” are not really barbecued. They’re broiled (unpeeled and the heads still on) in a lot of melted butter and seasonings, then served with a loaf of French bread to soak up the sauce while you wait for the shrimp to cool enough to peel. 

Looking around Tony’s reminds me of how we entertain here in Louisiana. You round up several dozen of your best friends, buy a sack of crawfish to boil along with potatoes and corn, cover the folding tables with plastic and newspaper, and put out lots of rolls of paper towels. That’s it. Everybody serves themselves and peels their own. It’s customary to have jambalaya on hand for those who don’t eat crawfish, and maybe some boudin balls and other nibbles. If crawfish is not in season, you can have a crab boil or a shrimp boil, or use those big pots to fry up big batches of catfish and fries.

If you are really ambitious and have friends who will shuck for beer, you can buy a sack of oysters, and serve them several ways. Raw on the half shell of course, fried served along with French bread, mayonnaise, sliced lettuce and tomatoes to make your own po’boys, and as Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville. You need more people pitching in to help than you do with crawfish, but that’s what beer is for.

If you have sufficient property to dig a big pit in the ground, or build a cooking shed, you can have a cochon de’lait. If you have friends who play Cajun fiddle and room for dancing, even better. I haven’t been to a cochon de’lait in a long time. I need to make more friends.

We don’t have a large enough yard to dig a pit, but we do have large pots for crawfish, and we are long overdue for holding a party. Next spring, when the crawfish are running good, our house. I’ll even teach you how to peel.

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