Memorial Day is on the horizon. Alongside the true meaning of the day as an observance for our country’s servicemen and women who have died in the line of duty, it also kicks off the unofficial beginning of summer, with sporting events like the Indianapolis 500, family gatherings, picnics, and, of course, yummy barbecues! Even though the Deep South doesn’t really “shut down” for winter and then have to dig out of the snow like our northern neighbors, there’s something about that unofficial kick-off celebration that sets the scene for summer. Although, by this time it’s usually already pretty hot and humid down here along the Gulf Coast region.
It’s a day that’s all about gathering with friends and family for a break from work, and reconnecting with our children, who have likely just begun the freedom of the school’s-out-for-summer routine. It’s about trips to the beach or splashing in the backyard pool. It’s the first of the summer, fresh-squeezed lemonade for the kids and homemade frozen watermelon margaritas for the adults. The first home-churned ice cream. Ribs, backyard barbecued chicken, meats on the smoker, burgers and hot dogs, and, here on the Gulf Coast, it’s likely to include a seafood boil.
My son sets the stage for summer with a big crawfish boil gathering at his house every year for Memorial Day, with his long time friend and boil-master, Brad, manning the outdoor cooker. My husband’s aunt and uncle open the pool and their home to the whole family, hosting a cookout with all the fixings, and the biggest shrimp you’ve ever laid eyes on, boiled in a massive outdoor cooker. Our celebration at home with the two of us is on a much smaller scale, with some chicken or ribs on the smoker, burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and this recipe of boiled large or jumbo shrimp that I’ve scaled down for inside cooking.
Our boils always include small, red-skinned potatoes, smoked sausage, and chunks of corn, but I also like to add smashed garlic, sliced lemon, and quartered onions to mine. Some folks add in extras like chunks of celery ribs for flavoring and even button mushrooms. On the larger boils, there are always plenty of potatoes left, and with those boil seasonings infused, they sure make for a mighty tasty potato salad. So, I’ve included my after-the-boil seafood potato salad recipe, too. Happy Memorial Day, y’all!
©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
5 pounds jumbo (16 - 20 count) raw shrimp, shells and heads intact
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup ketchup
Couple dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning, or to taste
2 large lemons, sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons liquid crab boil, or to taste
8 ounces loose crab boil seasoning, divided, optional
1 pound of andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, cut into 3-inch sections
3 pounds small red potatoes
4 ears corn, shucked and cleaned, each cut into thirds
1 cup kosher salt
Rinse the shrimp with cold water and set aside. Fill an 8 quart or larger stockpot about 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the next nine ingredients and return the water to a boil. Add the liquid crab boil, including half of the loose boil seasoning if using, the sausage and potatoes; boil for 10 minutes. Add the corn, boil for another 5 minutes, then add the shrimp and immediately remove the pot from the heat. Add the salt and stir well to dissolve. Cover the pot and allow to soak, about 10 minutes, or until shell pulls away from shrimp. Spread newspapers across table for shells. Drain or use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp, potatoes and sausage to large platters. When finished, gather up newspaper and discard.
Cook’s Notes: Multiply as needed for larger outdoor batches. Try to avoid adding ice to the boiling water when you add the shrimp as this will drop the water temperature. You can still use a larger quantity of smaller shrimp, but you’ll need to adjust your soaking time down to avoid overcooking them. Potatoes, corn and sausage may be boiled separately from the shrimp, simply reserve the seasoned water.
When cooking fresh caught crabs or crawfish, remember they must be alive when you boil them and you’ll want to purge them first before boiling. Simply add them to a large tub and soak in clean, fresh, salty water. If the water gets very muddy, drain and repeat as needed until it runs clear. We prefer to cook crabs separate from shrimp; drop the crabs in, cover and bring up to a boil, uncover and boil for about 15 to 18 minutes, then test for doneness.