Yes, I’m ready for the ghosts and goblins—I’ve been quality control checking the candy for weeks. But October is not just about Halloween. Every year, before October gets away from us and we go straight into talking turkey and putting up the Christmas lights, I get in the mood for a Lowcountry Boil. Lowcountry Boil is not just a dish—it’s an event. And fall is the perfect time for one. Here’s my recipe…
First thing—invite everyone. It’s more fun with a crowd. Get out the tiki torches and string some lights in the backyard. Set up a few picnic tables and get a fire pit ready in case the evening gets chilly. Lots of folks spread newspaper on the picnic tables, and that’s fine. But if you’re a little bit finicky about such things like me, you might want to put tablecloths and butcher’s paper down, or get out the big, bright-colored bowls for serving.
You can buy a lobster pot if you want to, but we use the turkey fryer. In any case, you’ll need a 30-32 quart pot, and it’s best if it has a strainer basket insert. This recipe makes enough for 18-20 people. Adjust accordingly.
2 gallons water
12 12 ounce cans beer
4 sweet onions
15 cloves garlic
3 lemons, cut in half
4 tablespoons kosher salt
3/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning
5 lbs red potatoes
5 lbs smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces
12 ears fresh corn, cut in half
6 pounds peeled, tail-on, medium-size shrimp*
* About the shrimp…if you have fresh shrimp, of course you’ll want to use that–ideally it was swimming this morning. Then you’ll need someone handy to do the peeling and deveining. Sugar is a pro at this. I do not particularly enjoy peeling and deveining, nor do I relish eating them un-deveined. But, to each his own. Traditionalists will likely want to use shrimp in the shell and let folks peel and eat.
If fresh shrimp is not in season or otherwise not available, we use Costco frozen tail-on, peeled, deveined, but I know some prefer Trader Joe’s. If you use frozen shrimp, make sure you prepare it for the pot by thawing it overnight in the refrigerator. About an hour before you’re going to cook it, dry brine the shrimp with a mixture of 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per pound of shrimp. This makes them plump up.
Now…I purely do not like over-cooked shrimp, and you can bet your mamma’s pearls there will be dissension over whether the shrimp is done or not. By the time everyone has finished squabbling, the shrimp will be over-cooked and therefore chewy if you’re not careful. Make sure you have a steady hand on the pot. The minute they turn pink, for Heaven’s sake, get them out.
Step One: Put the water and beer in the pot.
Step Two: Embellish the liquid
Add the onions, leeks, garlic, and lemons, and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
Step Three: Spice it Up
Add kosher salt and Old Bay and return to boil.
Step Four: Add food in sequence
- Add the potatoes and Andouille and cook 20 minutes.
- Add the corn and cook 5 more minutes. Make sure potatoes are done. If necessary, cook a little longer.
- Add shrimp. Cook about three minutes, just until they turn pink. Do not over-cook the shrimp
Step Five: Dump basket contents onto butcher paper or scoop into serving bowls.
I like to serve Lowcountry Boil with lemon wedges, melted butter mixed with lemon, cocktail sauce, extra Old Bay, softened butter for the corn, and salt, and pepper on the side. You’ll need two rolls of paper towels per picnic table—this is messy, especially if you used unpeeled shrimp like most folks do.
Of course you’ll need cold beer with this, even if you’re a wine lover like me. I throw in some crusty garlic bread, and of course, homemade key lime pie for dessert. Or, if the night is chilly and you do have that fire going, s’mores make a great dessert.
If y’all try this, let me know how you like it!