Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crawdads At The Blue Canoe


That's me.

I wanted to spend some time with my teenage son; a technical thing when they get older, get driving, and get a social life.

I thought of the perfect thing. This guy was the kid that at age ten asked to be taken out for sushi for the first time. When the restaurant server placed the platter before us, we advised him to go for something mild to start off with. He went straight for the purple slice of octupus, little white suction cups and all. Popped it in his mouth and chewed like it was candy.

On a busy Saturday afternoon, I invited my son to pencil in some time with me for something he'd been dying to try: crawdads.

I knew just the place. Hadn't I seen a Crawdad Feed advertised at the Blue Canoe? Just our luck, we'd missed it. But I was betting they had a few left for us.

My son and I drove up Highway 45 south of Nampa past Walter's Ferry, then kept left for the road that veered toward Murphy. We were at our destination in no time; it's really not that far out of the way.

We were met by Al, or Alan (take your pick), the restaurant's co-owner. He was a card from the start. He asked my son all about his life, life plans, and love life. Then he gave us a riddle:

"What days of the week besides Tuesday and Thursday start with the letter T?"

We thought he was just messing with us, but he asked the question and then disappeared around the corner to get our food, leaving us in suspense. We could figure this out, I thought. My son is a brainiac and I'm a writer, good with words.

Aha. Today and Tomorrow. I'm sure that was an old one, but we'd never heard it. When Al returned, we were ready with our answer.

"Did your mom tell you that?" Al asked when Jared responded with the solving of the riddle. We told him it was very much a joint effort. Al's cheerful grin never faded as he spoke with us.

Crisp salads with homemade dressing (delish, by the way), and warm fresh-baked mini-loaves of bread with chilled butter pats where placed before us. We both relaxed a little more into the booth's padded seats and settled into our role of happy diners.

Marinated stuffed mushrooms were brought out next. It's not often that I can't place the flavors; I'm a pretty good spice and taste detector. I couldn't place these. Savory variants were blended so well, it was hard to make a distinction. Deb (who was concocting in the kitchen) told me later that the diced stems and some bacon were involved. That explained the filling's intricate texture.

Crawdads at last. I'd once had them while I was (interestingly enough) expecting this particular son. A friend had pulled them out of the Boise river and had presented them to me, knowing that I was having a serious seafood craving at the time. If I recall, a serious amount of garlic butter was a part of that memory.

But these bad boys...they were bigger than anything I'd seen out of the River. Red and with large black eyes that seemed to say, "I dare ya."

"Can you eat the brains like they do in New Orleans?" my son asked Al. This from the boy who enjoys devouring fried shrimp heads with his uncle at an undisclosed place in Boise.

"Well...you can," began Al, "But you're better off eating them like we do here in Idaho. We only eat the good stuff."

Al then gave a tutorial on proper crawdad handling and consuming.

"How you eat them after this is up to you, but this is how we do it around these parts," he said.

A word of caution from one who now knows; avoid the 'mud vein' at all costs. It really and truly tastes like mud. Regrets.

The little guys tasted so much like lobster it was amazing. The claw meat seemed to be the sweetest and the best. My verdict? A lot of work for so little meat, but the meat was very tasty, especially when dipped into melted butter and accompanied by a side of mouth-watering garlic mashed potatoes and delicately steamed veggies.

Everybody won that day. I got time with my son, my son got to experience crawdads, and we both got a wonderful jaunt out into the early Autumn Idaho countryside. Everybody won...everybody, that is, but the crawdads. Sorry little guys: sometimes you just have to take one for the team.

 *For more adventures in Idaho, (with recipes between the stories!) get the "Appetite for Idaho" book here.

And visit the Appetite for Idaho Facebook page, with new stuff to do posted every weekday!