Crawfish concierge Jason Flato, who goes by the nickname Rosie due to the shade his cheeks reach after a day of tending to multiple crawfish pots, teaches guests at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans the finer points of peeling mudbugs in the tree-dappled courtyard of the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel.
During a concierge crawfish boil, Flato visits each table and instructs patrons on the fine art of properly boiling, peeling and eating a crawfish. “For starters, I’ll take the crawfish and twist,” he says. “How you taste someone’s boil is the head.” Then, he demonstrates how to suck the head for the juices and sample the tender tail meat.
For a deft peeler, there’s also meat to be found in the claw. “The claw is one of my favorite parts — the meat is really sweet,” says Flato, who works in the kitchen of the hotel’s Four-Star M bistro when he isn’t donning the crawdad cape. “It’s the closest to lobster, and the tail is between crab and shrimp.”
Those unfamiliar with the art of the craw can pick up helpful hints from Flato, who helps newbies sharpen their boil skills. And with Flato estimating that he cooked around 25,000 pounds of crawfish last year, those guidelines come with some serious experience.
What are the crawfish concierge’s most important tips? Don’t purge with the salt. The other secret is adding seasonal citrus, such as orange rind, with other ingredients, including potato, corn and heaps of garlic. He’ll also mix in mushrooms and other surprises throughout the season. Still, Flato makes a point of not overspicing the boil, because it can result in what he refers to a “ring of death,” which can kill the flavor of the meat. His boil mixture is proprietary, but it includes liquid boil, dry powder, seasonings, onion powder, bay leaves and a healthy amount of garlic. Flato doesn’t overboil, either, citing the ease of the peel as a sign of a good shock.
If you’re interested in taking your own crash course in crustacean appreciation, be a part of The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans’ last crawfish concierge boil of the year on May 25.
Photos courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC and iStock Terry Po