Food That Moves: Finnish Signal Crayfish


Just when I had figured this feature was gone for good with our relocation to woefully shellfish-scarce Finland, this happened. Our friends next door received a large batch of live signal crayfish and generously brought over a bucketful. It should be noted that these are the first live crustaceans I have cooked in about five years. I’d heard about Finnish crayfish season before, but it turns out that they are not as popular in our particular region as I would have hoped. I’ve seen a handful of live ones (not even enough for one person, usually) at the supermarket on occasion, but it’s mostly just frozen cooked ones from China unless you have a fishing license. Which I very well might try to get one of these days. So you can imagine my flaily excitement when they showed me the large tub sitting on their front porch yesterday.


I went with some old favorites for this crayfish boil, since I didn’t want anything to go wrong with such a scarce commodity. To the left, the remainder of a batch of Old Bay seafood seasoning that I’d whipped up last year. To the right, mild but flavorful California chili powder to give the mix some kick. I also added salt to taste. The traditional Nordic way to cook crayfish is with dill and not much else, which seemed a bit plain to me.


Bringing the pot to a boil with the nicely seasoned water. No particular ratio — I just added stuff until it tasted right. About a 1:1 mix of the Old Bay and chili, I’d guess.


While waiting for the pot to boil, I soaked the crayfish in fresh water for a couple of minutes to purge them. Hardly anything came out, though — these guys were farmed in filtered pools and fed fish on demand, so they are more pristine than the muddy critters we’re used to back home.


A pretty blue specimen getting a closeup. These guys were very feisty and grabby, so a pair of tongs came in useful.


Posing him in front of the pot was probably not the nicest thing to do, but I was just so excited to have these that I had to take another picture. The rest got popped in fast and never knew what hit them, I assure you.


Ten minutes of boiling, followed by a fifteen minute rest off the heat. Notice how all the tails are curled tightly under them, a sign that they were alive when cooked and therefore very edible. Only dead bugs have straight tails after being cooked, and those should be avoided unless you want a mouthful of icky mush.


Nicely arranged for a photo op before being rapidly devoured. As with all crustaceans that come into our home, the shells were saved for later use in making shellfish stock. That way, the same batch can be stretched to make several meals even after that lovely, sweet tail and claw meat is gone. Hopefully, it won’t be another five years before I have another entry in this column!



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