One of the best, tastiest and “big show” ways to entertain family and friends is to host a seafood boil. A seafood boil is an informal meal where an array of seafood are boiled in a seasoned liquid and when cooked, the contents are simply laid out for all to pick and eat what they want.
A recipe for a seafood boil varies and depends on what’s fresh and available in your market. It could be a big pot of crayfish, or crab or lobster and other fruits of the sea. The latter is the approach I took with lobster and crab as the main event, there were shrimp, clams, some Portuguese Chourico that Paula of Dragon’s Kitchen brought and I threw in some fresh sweet corn and new potatoes.
We were out shopping for some odds and ends and in a burst of inspiration that had to have come from the fresh seafood we saw that day in the market, the spontaneous seafood boil came into being. To host a seafood boil one needs a very large pot, some Old Bay seasoning, fresh herbs from the garden and some newspaper to throw on to the table where your seafood will be served.
A seafood boil is NOT a formal dinner gathering and you may want to host a more formal dinner for the boss. With a seafood boil, you’re up to your elbows in seafood juices, shells fly when you’re cracking the lobster and crab, you’re sucking the juices out of shrimp heads and pretty much eating with your hands. I like seafood boils.
Despite seafood boils being messy to eat the flip-side is that these require little in cooking utensils (one large pot), no table cloths and since you’re throwing newsprint on the table – all one has to do is roll-up the shells in newsprint and chuck it in the trash can.
There are three key aspects to successfully cooking a seafood boil: choose the freshest of seafood (live lobster, crab and clams (or mussels), creating a flavourful liquid that will impart some flavours in the seafood and most importantly, plan and time when each component of the seafood boil gets added into the pot. Not all seafood cooks in the same amount of time and therefore lobster then crab go in first, then the clams and finally the shrimp. Your goal is to have everything in the seafood boil ready at the same time without overcooking any one element of the boil.
Tailor your seafood boil to your liking, calculate how long each ingredient needs to get cooked then arrange the order in which the seafood gets tossed in the pot. The main flavouring for my seafood boil is the favoured Old Bay Seasoning (from Chesapeake Bay) but if you can’t find it in your part of the world, you can make your own batch or simply create your own flavourful liquid based on your tastes.
by Peter Minakis & Paula Costa
24 cups of water
2 large onions, quartered
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Old Bay Seasoning (or salt or your preferred seasoning)
3 bay leaves
5 birdseye chilles
the peel of 1 whole lemon
1 handful of mixed peppercorns
2 heads of garlic, sliced in half
1 cup of white wine
1 long piece of dry (cured) Chorico sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (or other cured sausage like Andouille or Kielbasa)
8 new (red potatoes), about palm-size
4 corn on the cob, peeled and cut into three
2 live lobsters, about 1.5 lb. each
2 live crabs, about 1lb. each
1lb of littleneck clams, rinsed
1lb. of medium shrimp, deveined
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
wedges of lemons & limes for garnish
1 cup chopped basil leaves + sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish
- Add water into a very large pot along with Old Bay, peppercorns, chillies, lemon peels, wine, garlic, onions and sausage. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes (whole) and boil (covered) for 10 minutes.
- Add corn, lobster and crab and reduce heat, simmer (covered) for another 10 minutes.
- Add clams, cover and boil for 5-6 minutes or until just opened. Take pot off the heat and add shrimp and olive oil and let stand for 5 minutes (shrimp are cooked when pink). Remove all the contents of your seafood boil from the pot and transfer to a smaller pot that will fit all the seafood and fixins’.
- Add the basil, thyme and lemon & limes into the pot and simply empty out the seafood onto your table. Serve with ice cold beer or a light white wine with moderate acidity, like a Boutari Moschofilero.
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