A seafood boil is a delicious way to end the summer.
Image source: Flickr CC user Joe Loong
Finding Great Seafood
Sourcing all the ingredients for a seafood boil--which traditionally involves several different kinds of seafood, like shellfish, crabs, and fish--can take some running around. And, because some of the seafood at local markets will be fresher than others, ordering it all online is more convenient and means you’ll avoid the middleman of the grocery store, where the seafood may have sat for a day or two, waiting for buyers.
Fresh is obviously better when it comes to seafood, but it’s especially important for a seafood boil, which puts the seafood front and center and isn’t highly spiced. Ordering everything at once so it arrives in one box makes it a snap. Keep your seafood in the recyclable, insulated packaging on ice that it came in, and tote it to beach. Easy.
What and How to Boil
Boiling is not a gentle cooking method, so you’ll need seafood and ingredients that will stand up to a bubbling pot. I like shrimp, clams, mussels, and mild, firm fish like cod or halibut. Flaky fish like sole tend to break apart and an oilier, darker fish like mackerel or bonito might overpower your stew for some guests.
Corn on the cob, new potatoes, and onions hold up the vegetable side of things. You can even throw in some andouille, if you want to add a bayou flair to your boil. Old Bay, the classic seafood steaming spice mixture used on the East Coast, will bring out the flavor even more, but you can also leave it without spice for a more West Coast-style boil. You’ll need a big pot, too, one that holds at least 10 quarts.
Fill your pot with water, salting it generously--I like to add a bottle or two of whatever light, summery beer I happen to be drinking during the cooking process. If you’re at the beach, see if you can convince someone to make a few trips to fill a bucket with seawater and use that as your cooking water. Cooking with seawater is something of a trend in restaurants lately, but it’s nothing new. People have been using seawater to cook seafood with for hundreds of years--it just makes sense when you’re by the ocean, and it seasons your food automatically. If you do this go for clean, open ocean water to avoid sand--and it doesn’t hurt to check on the water quality around your area.
Ready, Set, Boil
Build a fire under the pot and bring it to a boil--the way I do it is to build a wall of bricks on either side of your fire, put a grate across it, and put your pot on top (making sure that the setup is sturdy enough to support a large pot filled with water). If open fires aren’t allowed on the beach, use a good-quality burner that hooks up to a propane canister (there are plenty to be found online).
The Boiling Ingredients
For ten people, add to boiling water:
Cook until almost done and then add about 5 pounds seafood (about a half-pound to one pound per person), cooking on a gentle simmer for about five minutes, or until all the shellfish open. When it’s done, serve in big bowls with garlic bread and plenty of cold beer or chilled rosé.
Sure, the potatoes, corn, and sausage in a boil are tasty, but for me, the seafood is what it’s all about. That’s why it’s crucial to use the best seafood you can find. And if, like me, you don’t have time to go from market to market looking for the freshest examples of shrimp, clams, mussels, crabs, and fish, use a supplier that sends all types of fresh, sustainable seafood to your door, like Daily Fresh Fish’s online seafood delivery. It’s about three days fresher than what you’ll find at the supermarket, since it is shipped straight from the fisherman to you, and you can order in any amount. Daily Fresh Fish even offers free shipping on orders of $60 in California and Nevada, so you have even more reason to throw that big end-of-summer seafood bash.