Chris Bicknell has organized roughly 100 crawfish boils, but he still remembers his first. It was high school in Metairie, Louisiana (his hometown), where he was in a backyard, surrounded by about thirty 11th graders and eighty pounds of crawfish. One keg; no arrests.
Since 2004, he and his wife Lizzie have brought the same tradition—lots of delicious mudbugs, some beer, and a good, legal time—to New York with Crawfish NY. They are crawfish event planners (pretty good title, huh?) year-round, but are getting pumped for the annual boil, open to the public, on May 16 at Solar One. Tickets are already on sale. We chatted with boil master Bicknell in anticipation.
Name: Chris Bicknell
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Commercial advertising
Where do you buy the critters? From a local seafood wholesaler, New Orleans Fishouse, owned by an old high school friend. He ships us the crawfish when we need it.
How many pounds? For this event, which will be limited to 200 guests plus our volunteers, we will be shipping up 920 pounds.
Is crawfish price affected at all by the economy? Nope, prices are affected by the weather mostly. And the price of shipping goes up and down with gas prices.
I imagine you've met a lot of New Orleans transplants through the event? We've met transplants, people who moved to Louisiana and then back to New York, people who are diehard New Orleans visitors, and plain New Orleans crazies. Basically if you have ever visited New Orleans, you never lose your taste for crawfish.
How long have you lived in New York? Almost 20 years. I grew up in a suburb of New Orleans called Metairie.
How do you decide what to cover the table with before dumping? Do different newspapers work differently? No, whatever is on hand. Though thick papers like the New York Times work best cause you can read them while you wait and the liquid doesn't leak through.
So, spices. Are we busting out the Old Bay? We will never tell.
Where do you cook all the crawfish? Please don't tell me a cramped New York City apartment! We cook them at the event. We bring propane tanks and 100 quart pots and boil 'em up!
Any tips for people boiling at home? Cook them in small batches and use crab boil oil.
Would you do a beer broth? Never tried a beer broth—the most important thing is the spices. I personally think beer works better on the side.
Do you ever feel too attached the cute little beady eyes and want to keep them as a pet? We have many crawfish pets that we have adopted from countries all over the world. Ummm, no.
Thoughts on crawfish racing. If you have that kind of time, by all means. But they are pretty slow.
Are there any rules for when you should and shouldn't eat crawfish? Something about a curved tail? When you see a straight tail when you are purging them, throw them out—they are dead. Also, you shouldn't save cooked crawfish in the shell. Shell them and save the tails for an omelette in the morning. The Louisiana season is roughly February to June.
And now for some non-crawdaddy questions...favorite neighborhood eatery? Right now, Moim in Park Slope.
Best pizza in the city? Lombardi's on Spring Street
Favorite burger? Moutarde brunch burger in Park Slope.
Favorite bagel? H&H bagels on the West Side Highway.
Best late-night eats? Used to be Florent, but now? We have two small children.
Undiscovered gem? Ici in Fort Greene.
Food you won't eat? Lamb, veal, and dirty water dogs.
Most memorable New York City meal? Craft.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Tim Sutton.
What's the best recommendation he's given you? The Farm on Adderley in Ditmas Park.
Tickets to this year's Crawfish NY Boil are $60 each and include four crawfish pours (with all the fixings), beer, and New Orleans hurricanes. For more info, go here.