from one generation to the next
The Southern Rock Lobster affectionately known in Australia as “crayfish” is an expensive delicacy.
There is a thriving crayfish industry based close by our beach house. The licensed fishermen take the sweet fleshed crayfish from the cold waters of the southern ocean off the Victorian south west coast during a season that spans from September to the beginning of May. Just so long as the month has an “R” in its name you can buy fresh never frozen crayfish.
If we’re up at dawn, we see the boats setting out to sea sitting high in the water then early in the afternoon we see them lumber back into harbour, rolling in the swell with weight of their haul. Sometimes they set their woven cane pots close to the rocky coast where the rock shelf drops off the shoreline leaving a bobbing trail of coloured buoys in their wake.
I feel privileged to be able to buy fresh locally caught cray. The meat is firm and tastes of the sea. Oversized crayfish, too big for the export market are often sold by the local fisherman’s co-op at a dramatically reduced per kilo price, but they’re so big they require an investment in excess of $AU300. One such specimen will comfortably feed six.
We paid a premium price for our 1.2 kg crayfish for two. It was a birthday treat. I cooked my own birthday dinner this year and I spoiled myself and the chief taster to lobster and French champagne. We deserve it!!
I confess to being squeamish about despatching sea creatures, but I’m happy to look them in the eye after the deed is done and thank them for giving up their life to nourish me. I know from past experience that a very fresh cooked cray will stand up to being gently warmed on the BBQ without loss of flavour or texture. Bathing the flesh with unsalted cultured butter subtly flavoured with garlic, lemon and chives enhances the sweet crustaceous flavour and ensures it stays moist.
Why not just eat the crayfish cold? I my opinion the flavour of a fresh crayfish is greatly enhanced by gentle warming and because the meat relaxes, it is more tender. The claw and leg meat also separates from the shell more readily so not a morsel is wasted.
You need plenty of napkins, a finger bowl and an empty dish for pieces of shell if like me, you love to crack and suck each leg and claw, but the very best part is the fleshy meat from the body.
The following quantities for the butter is for two halves.
Put the butter, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper into a small saucepan. Over a very low heat, warm the pot until the butter has melted and it’s gently sizzling. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Split the crayfish in half lengthwise with a very sharp knife.
Remove the digestive tract and rinse out the head cavity.
Heat the BBQ grill to medium heat. Brush the cut surfaces of the crayfish halves with the garlic butter, place on the grill, cover the BBQ and heat the crayfish for about 10 minutes.
Brush the crayfish again with the butter and continue to gently cook until warmed through, roughly another 10 minutes.