Special Report: First Annual King Creole Crawfish Boil at Chicken Scratch in Dallas

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Mother Nature must love crawfish. Sunday, after a morning of rain, the sun and crowd showed up for the First Annual King Creole Crawfish Boil, the brainchild of chef Tim Byres of Smoke, Outpost American Tavern,  and Chicken Scratch and Jim Gossen, the CEO of Louisiana Foods. The line never wavered, stretching the length of Chicken Scratch all evening. Walking into The Foundry, the Zydeco Stingrays were already singing – asking the crowd to “wave two fingers in the air” – with some patrons participating. After the song was over, the buzz of a tattoo needle was audible. A young man was getting his thigh inked with an overflowing beer mug.  Jennifer Martin and her friends sat nearby. “We came out for the atmosphere, drink and the company,” she said.

That feeling of fun and community is music to Tim Byres’ ears. “Community table and joining friends and family are the core of Smoke and Chicken Scratch,” said Byres. “And, I’ve been friends with Jim Gossen for a long time. This year, we wanted to start doing stuff that was fun and had a purpose.  We wanted to do something that would be a good time and wouldn’t take itself too seriously.”

They succeeded. People of all ages and background were there, with babies dancing, people talking, and music blaring. Peticolas Brewing Company was there with beer and Stoli Vodka made cocktails.

The food did not disappoint. Spicy and full of flavor, the crawfish were cooked just right. The potatoes were not overcooked – always a risk — and the corn, though not fully in season, was sweet and added a subtle contrast to the spice. “This was a traditional way to make crawfish. This is how I grew up making them and eating them,” explained Gossen. Crawfish, cooking outside, and being with family are some of Gossen’s favorite food memories. “My memories that really stick with me are all outdoor things. One of them is a big crawfish boil we’d have down at the rice farm. We’d have it around an old oak tree.” That is what Gossen and Byres are trying to capture – not just the food, but the spirit of what eating in these environments really mean.

Most people know how to eat crawfish, but the critical question is always whether to eat the head. Byres is a traditionalist. “I’m definitely a head guy. Snakes, bugs, that’s something else. But crawfish, that’s what you’re supposed to do.” Gossen agrees. “When you eat the head, you’re just eating the good stuff. The fat. That’s what you should be eating.” Head or no head, crawfish lover or not, the Dallas community should hope that Byres keeps planning events and trying to create feelings of community and good times, because he has shown himself to be pretty good at it so far.