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Cajun Seafood Boil
Loaded with delicious seafood, vegetables, and sausage, there's no better way start a new summer tradition.
Summer is so close I can almost feel it.
The weather this spring has been very un-California. I’ve found myself having to reach for my favorite hooded sweatshirts more days than I care to admit. The afternoons and evenings have been somewhat cold (like 78º) and windy. I know I sound like a real baby, but I absolutely adore hot weather and all that comes with it.
The familiar scent of sunscreen. Lounging on the hammock half the day reading an enjoyable book while the dogs run through the sprinklers like kids do on a hot summer afternoon. My husband complaining about having to tend a hot grill when it’s pushing 100º. Enjoying an extra cold glass (or two) of my favorite white wine blend (which also happens to perfectly pair with today’s recipe and is oh so affordable at $16 a bottle). That’s what summer is to me.
A couple of weeks ago, while my husband and I were sitting around the living room trying to formulate a shopping list we both vowed to try to change things up a bit this summer. We (meaning he), usually gets in the habit of grilling the same things on rotation: burgers, chicken, ribs, locally made Swiss sausages, and the occasional lamb chomps. This then led to the conversation of what’s “traditional” for the big holiday summer weekends and how it doesn’t seem to matter which of the big three holiday’s it is, we grew up eating the same things. It’s like our families weren’t very adventurous when it came to outdoor entertaining recipes that fed a crowd of people. Then a few days later, while I was talking to one of my favorite clients (who sent my husband and I lots of goodies from Williams-Sonoma grilling collection out of the blue), we got onto the topic of summer grilling and how stale summer cooking can be.
When’s the last time you’ve hosted a seafood boil? Georgia asked.
Uh, never? I replied. Isn't that an East Coast thing?
Within five minutes she had e-mailed me her family recipe along with a few helpful tips, which I have included below.
She then called me back and explained to me that this seafood boil has been her family’s ode to summer for the last four decades. She said they only enjoy this once throughout summer, otherwise it wouldn’t be something their family and friends look forward to every year. Since purchasing a vacation home in New Orleans, she’s changed some of the ingredients but the basics have remained the same. On the West Coast, we don’t have anything like that and I think it’s time we change that.
I'm tired of eating tritip and uninspired barbeque that we eat on the regular.
I want something else.
I want something that will create memories.
I think anytime we can eat with our hands and get incredibly messy memories are made. Who doesn't enjoy laughing at their husband/brother/grandfather for having schmeg smeared all over their faces? I mean, how does a person get sauce on their ear? At least with a seafood boil it's probably butter they got on their face, and I'm told butter is a good moisturiser.
I started thinking about old family traditions and how everyone seems to have become too busy to celebrate summer. Aside from trips to Hawaii, I can’t recall the last time I’ve rented a house at the beach or some other relaxing location with limited cell reception with friends or family and just enjoyed life. These days I’m certainly guilty of being unwilling to unplug from social media (or even just my cell phone) and I’m positive I’m not alone in that (I've since booked a weekend getaway with some very dear friends of ours to rectify that).
To some that might seem like an odd transition back to food, but for me, there isn’t a single memory of summer as a childhood that doesn’t involve food. My family, particularly my grandmother and her own mother, were such believers in making memories around the table that I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself that we’ve strayed so far away from those traditions that they worked so hard to develop. Georgia’s cajun seafood boil seems like a perfect vehicle to get back to basics and live for the moment.
Georgia’s seafood boil notes:
Start with a non-oaky white wine that will satisfy casual wine drinkers. I usually look for white Bordeaux blends. I just ordered a case of Chateau de Fieuzal Blanc, which is one of our favorite wines for summertime. Fill buckets with ice and put out several bottles of wine so nobody has to retreat into the kitchen for a refill. Sticky hands inside our wine fridge is a deal-breaker.
Use in-season seafood. If you can’t get crab legs but can get lobster, swap it out! I like to use a combination of crab legs, lobsters, extra large shrimp with their heads and tails still attached and mussels for a good sampling of the ocean.
Cover the dining table with newspaper for an easy clean-up and several bowls or buckets for dinner guests to toss empty shells and corn cobs into to decrease the clutter in front of them. Buy affordable dishtowels and use those in place of paper napkins.
Serve the boil right from the table. I simply pour the entire contents of my Dutch Oven onto the center of the table, carefully spreading it out so everyone at every inch of the table can easily grab what they want.
Lots of butter! Melt butter and put out several ramekins or other serving dishes with melted butter seasoned with pepper or hot sauce.
NO POLITICS AT THE TABLE! I like to put on music: Sinatra, Bublé, Redding… nobody is going to argue over the music and you might even catch some of your dinner guests dancing by the end of the night! When we have younger guests invited, I put out a basket for everyone to place their phones in so everyone can unplug and enjoy everyone's company.
- 6 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- 2 large peeled and quartered yellow onions
- 1 unpeeled and cut in half cross-wise large garlic head
- 2 large, quartered lemon
- 4 large cut into 1/4's ears of corn
- 1 1/2 pounds cut into 1" slices cajun sausage
- 3 pounds, unpeeled and preferably with their heads and tails large shrimp
- 1 pound precooked crab legs