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It’s Low Country Boil season!

LCB spreadSpring has now sprung, and as the heat starts to roll in that means that many of us in the South will begin our regular migrations to large bodies of water. And few things make for a better feast for friends at the beach or lake than a good ole’ fashioned low country boil.

I spent his past weekend at the beaches of L.A. – that is Lower Alabama for those of you not from this neck of the woods – and put together my first boil of the season. Beyond the fact that most people can’t help but enjoy a bounty of seafood, the Low Country Boil is a favorite of mine because it is A – extremely easy to do and difficult to mess up and B – the people that you feed are always more impressed with your work than they probably should be.

One of the biggest issues that I have with other people’s LCBs is that they go too light on the seasoning. Many recipes simply call for “Old Bay to taste”, and a lot of folks wind up under seasoning the food. Or if you are working off of the directions off of a boil-bag box, you only use one for a boil for 10+ people, and you can barely taste the difference. The secret to the success of my Low Country Boils is to be aggressive with the seasoning, and it has not failed me yet.

For this particular boil, we excluded the potatoes – ok, fine…we completely forgot them – but we grabbed a couple of baguettes and that made up for it. For a group of 10 guys, we used 5 lbs of Snow Crab, 3 lbs of large shrimp, 3lbs of crawfish, 3 lbs of andouille sausage and 8 ears of corn. LCB 1Despite missing the potatoes, this was the perfect amount for a group our size.

I don’t usually have a prescribed level of seasoning, because as I watch the pot boil and sip a few cold ones, I start throwing in whatever suits my fancy at the time. This past weekend, I used 2 boil bags (one spicy Zatarain’s and one plain), a few healthy dashes of hot sauce, 4 sliced up lemons, and dumped a few light beers in there for good measure. It was fantastic, if I do say so myself, and easy as can be.

What about you? Do you have a favorite Low Country Boil secret? Would you like to share with the rest of the class?

Here is the complete recipe for those that are interested:

Jon Watson’s Gulf Shores Low Country Boil

Serves 10 w/out potatoes, 15 with

Ingredients:

5 lbs of Snow Crab legs (frozen)

3 lbs of large shrimp, unpeeled

3lbs of crawfish

3 lbs of andouille sausage, cut into 2-3 inch pieces

8 ears of corn, cut in half

2 boil-in-a-bags (Spicy optional)

6 lemons (4 cut in half for the boil, 2 sliced into wedges for garnish)

1-2 light beers

Hot sauce to taste

Cocktail sauce and lemon butter for dipping

Large pot (a turkey fryer works well for a large group)

OPTIONAL: 5 lbs new potatoes, cut in half (not pictured)


LCB action

Directions:

Add the boil bags, lemon halves, beer, and hot sauce to a large pot of water, filled to about half way, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the sausage and potatoes if included and cook for roughly 10 minutes. Next, add the corn and crab and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp and crawfish and cook for no more than 3-4 additional minutes.

Remove contents from the pot and lay out on a newspaper-covered picnic table. Serve with cocktail sauce and lemon butter (optional). Enjoy.

Jon-Watson-Tagline- By Jon Watson, Food & More Blog

6 comments Add your comment

Lee Weber

April 27th, 2011
1:39 pm

Good stuff, John.

But snow crab in a low country boil? For shame…blues, man, you gotta have blues.

Great tip on adding the shrimp and crawfish at the end. Far too many boils end up with overcooked, tough shrimp. I like to pull the pot off the heat and add them last…as Paul Prudhomme, (I think) says, all you really want to do is heat the shrimp all the way through.

All you are absolutely right on the seasoning. If the corn doesn’t have that saturated, spicy, taste, you’re not using enough.

Cheers,

Lee

FoodFan

April 27th, 2011
2:36 pm

You gotta have some onions in there, and my good friend from New Orleans told me you always need to drop in a whole head of garlic (at least one) just sliced in half width-wise to expose the cloves & dropped in. Goes great on the bread too. I usually add some bay leaves, too (on top of what is already included in the boil bags).

For spicier/more flavorful boils, the key is to to let it sit in that mixture to soak up the spice.Turn off the pot when you add the shrimp/crawfish at the end & the residual heat will cook it. I’ve also seen everything boiled for a couple of minuts & then ice added, which work well (but you need to compensate for the additional water from the ice, so make it REALLY spicy). But just let it sit for a while (like 30 minutes to an hour) in that broth after it’s done to get good & spicy.

mrmambo

April 27th, 2011
3:59 pm

I’ve been doing boils for 10-15 years, for crowds ranging from just me and a friend up to 30-40 people. This year I finally happened upon one of the best recipes I’ve ever found–everyone agreed these were perfectly spiced (hot!), tasty, and properly cooked.

One secret for cooking the shrimp correctly–don’t add frozen shrimp to the boil! You have to thaw them first, either in fridge or by using hose and strainer. If you throw them in frozen, the heat differential will cause proteins on the shrimp flesh surface to bond with the shell–makes it devilish to remove those shells.

Here’s that great recipe from the out-of-print book “Lee Bailey’s New Orleans” by Lee Bailey with Ella Brennan. It’s awesome!:

Boiled Crab, Crawfish, Shrimp, Corn, and Potatoes
15 quarts water
8 lemons
3 pounds onions, peeled and sliced thick
4 bags Zatarain’s Seafood Boil (we used 4 lbs. worth, which comes in a large tub)
3 cups coarse salt (we omitted)
2 cups Louisiana Hot Sauce
1/2 cup cayenne pepper powder
3 heads garlic, halved crosswise
6 bay leaves
2 cups whole peppercorns
4 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
12 ears corn, shucked and broken in two
18 live crabs (we omitted)
4 pounds fresh shrimp in shells, defrosted
15 pounds live crawfish
3-5 pounds andouille sausage (we added)

Put the water in a 20-gallon pot. Cut the lemons in half, squeeze their juice into the water, and drop in the rinds. Add the onions and seasonings. Bring to a boil and cook for several minutes to develop flavors. When the boil tastes very hot and salty, it’s ready.

Add the potatoes and boil for 4-5 minutes. Add the corn and sausage and bring back to a boil. Add the crabs and bring back to a boil. Then add the shrimp and crawfish and bring back to a final boil. Remove from (or turn off) the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and serve on large trays with sauces and french bread on the side.

Serves 18 to 24

Jon Watson

April 27th, 2011
11:52 pm

@ Lee Weber – I honestly prefer the Snow Crab because there is just so much more meat in there. It is much more satisfying to pull out a 6 inch long strip of crab meat from one of those legs than to have to deal with the blue crab, but I get what you are saying ;)

@FoodFan – I really like the garlic suggestion. I’ll definitely do that next time.

@MrMambo – I usually avoid frozen shrimp all together, but that is a good tip for those that aren’t in an area where fresh is available. Thanks!

Lal

April 28th, 2011
12:27 am

Snow Crab?!?!?!!?

kmb

April 28th, 2011
10:04 am

Clearly not traditional but should be great is adding Dungenese Crab to the boil. Live ones are available in many of the markets along Buford Highway and a few “Farmer’s Markets” throughtout the metro area.