CREOLE SEAFOOD BOIL
So this is a definitively American experience; note I didn’t say dish. This is a use your hands-stand around the table-drink what you want-paper napkin experience.
I’ve enjoyed many boils but the coolest experience I’ve has was in New Orleans at a divey blues bar called the Mapleleaf. I went with a few friends to see some blues on a Sunday night.
When our uber droped us off the backboard in the entranceway stated
“Sunday Supper and Blues, $10”. We dropped our $10ers and entered.
The bar was long and narrow and the music room was through an archway to the right. The music room was also long and narrow and plasted with posters and graffiti. The stage was to the right, in the front windows and the entire length of the room was set with 5 eight foot banquet tables end to end, unlinened. The aroma in the room was incredible. There were about 50 people lining those tables and as we approached so we couldn’t really see what was going on there. As we approached, people parted just enough to let us in.
The 5 tables totalling 40 feet were scattered steaming shrimp, sausages, corn, potatoes and other goodies. We dove right in, holding our beers between our knees, eating more or less shoulder to shoulder.
Everyone was peeling, eating and dropping their shells into empty beer boxes on the floor that were deftly kicked along as the line proceeded on down the tables. There was a cook bringing out more boil. After he dumped a basket of steaming seafood boil on the table, he returned with a squeegee on a broomstick. He literally squeegeed what was remaining on the first table onto the second, and proceeded to fold up and walk off with the first table. The eating went on for over an hour, in a slow caterpiller like procession table to table, one by one being squeegeed and removed until about 10 of us were left at the last table.
I engaged the guy with the squeegee who turned out to be the owner. I told him how delicious his local shrimp were. There were hacked bone in meat pieces of something cooked into that boil that I assumed were rabbit. I asked him about the meat.
“No, dats coon” he said in a dense Creole accent.
“We put in what we got dat day”
I could never recreate that experience, but this time we’ll try for our own, using a little chicken and rabbit. Ok?
Serves about 20
This cooking is about the layering and timing so everything is cooked perfectly and the seafood is not over cooked. You have options of the seafood. If you care using more than one type, could can cut back. You’ll need about 12 oz of meat per normal person of seafood.
12-15 lbs head on gulf shrimp
1 25 lb sack of crawfish
or 75-100 blue crabs
or a mix
4 small chickens, cut up, skin removed
or 4 rabbits, cut up
5 lb good andouille sausage, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 lb smoked slab bacon, diced large
10 lb very small potatoes
20 ears of corn, shucked and broken in half
2 onions, peeled and wedged into 8-10 pieces each
4 ribs celery, cut into 1 inch sections
8-10 cloves garlic, whole
32 ounces mild lager beer
32 ounces chicken stock, lightly salted water or canned clam broth
10 fresh bay leaves
6 springs fresh thyme
1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped, stems and all
4 lemons, sliced, plus more for eating time
a generous amount of a good Creole season (my CAGE is nice, or Old Bay works well too)
Have large serving platters of a newspaper lined table ready.
Also set up a few shell bowls and a few dipping bowls with a knob of butter in each.
In a heavy pot layer the bacon, chicken or rabbit, garlic, onions and potatoes.
Sprinkle with a little seasoning, a spring or two of thyme, a sprinkling of parsley and a few bay leaves. Now layer the corn, sliced lemons and sausages on top of that. Season the same way with the herbs and seasoning.
Add the beer and stock/water and cover.
Bring to a rolling boil.
After about 12-15 minutes fish out a potato and a piece of meat.
Check it for doneness. If or when they are both just cooked, dump the seafood on top of everything. Season again this time adding a little kosher salt.
Cover and let the seafood steam 5-8 minutes or until everything is just perfectly cooked.
Turn off the heat and leave covered until ready to serve.
Pour it out onto your table or large platters.
Serve with more lemon wedges, good bread.
Ladle some of the cooking liquid into buttered dipping bowls to offer on the side.