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Sierra Nevada Crawdad Stew

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July 20, 2017

Submitted by Scott Kelley (Reno, NV)

Dinner looked slim on the final evening of our backcountry Sierra Nevada camping trip. We had counted on supplementing our meals with freshly caught trout, but this year, the fish weren’t biting, and we’d eaten up most of the food supplies.

All that was left were these meager rations:

  • Bag of green beans
  • Bag of instant white rice
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic
  • Wild onions from a nearby meadow
  • Various spices

These ingredients were great for stew, but not enough to fill the bellies of five hungry campers who faced a 4-mile hike back to the car the next morning.

What our stew was missing was protein. What we needed was meat.

“What about crawdads?” someone asked.

The alpine lake we were camped near was filled with crawdads. We knew these bottom feeders were an integral part of a lake’s ecosystem since they kept it clean and provided food for trout. Indeed, we’d used crawdads as fishing bait, unsuccessfully, of course. But, eat them?

Scott Kelley and his camping crew substituted crawdads for trout on the last night of a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada when food supplies were running low.

As our stomachs growled with hunger, the consensus was to give them a go.

Darkness arrives quickly in the mountains, and we had less than two hours to catch crawdads. Everyone armed themselves with fishing line and a hook topped with a tiny piece of potato. We scrambled across half-submerged logs along the shoreline and went to work.

Catching crawdads is relatively easy. These long-lost relatives of the lobster aren’t particularly smart. As soon as someone hoisted a crawdad out of the water, another person would pull it off the potato and toss it into a bucket.

Working together, we caught more than 100 crawdads by the time night settled over our campsite like a black blanket.

After thanking the crawdads for allowing us to catch them, into the pot they went.

Crowding around our campfire, we boiled two pots of filtered water. Into one pot went the green beans, rice and potatoes. After thanking the crawdads for allowing us to catch them, into the pot they went, along with onions, garlic and spices.

Scott Kelley and his camping crew substituted crawdads for trout on the last night of a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada when food supplies were running low.

After 10 minutes of cooking, the crawdads were bright red and ready for eating. The morsels of meat are located in a crawdad’s back and claws and require shell cracking and meat pulling to retrieve.

The meat, combined with butter, salt and pepper, and mixed together with our green bean-rice-potato stew was remarkably delicious and very fulfilling.

Crawdads are an excellent source of high-quality protein and low in saturated fat. They are a good source of vitamin B12, niacin, iron and copper.

The next time you’re camping alongside a high Sierra Nevada lake, let your mountain man or woman out, and consider catching and cooking some crawdads.


RECIPE


  • 100 live crawdads
  • Bag of green beans
  • Bag of instant white rice
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Various spices

BOIL two pots of water.

COMBINE green beans, rice and potatoes into one pot. Combine crawdads, onion, garlic and your choice of spices into the second pot.

COOK both pots while boiling for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft in the first pot and the crawdads are red in the second pot.

MIX the crawdad meat (after cracking open the shells and retrieving it from the back and claws) with the butter, salt and pepper. Then, toss into the first pot of green beans, rice and potatoes. Add spices to taste.

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