You cook for your friends because they are your friends. You cook for your friends because you want to cook for your friends. You cook for your friends because you want control.
When one of the wives says, “How hard would it be to do a shrimp boil,” you spring to action. Do you have a big enough pan? Will you cook it inside or outside? Is 10 lbs. of shrimp enough or should you get 12? Will the pregnant chick eat it?
(Answers: Sort of, outside, 10 was too much and yes.)
To the sort of, I don’t have a pan with a strainer insert. I looked around and didn’t feel as if $40 was a worthy spend. Better off saving that for the shrimp. Instead, I repurposed a 20-quart stockpot from home and used a large Oxo scoop strainer to pull the contents when it was time. The gas grill at our rental has a side burner, which worked swimmingly for the heat and accompanying mess.
Oh, and there will be a mess. A gust of wind will blow the Old Bay as you add it to the scalding water. Liquid will splatter when you dump the potatoes in the pot. When you inevitably overload the pot and liquid overflows, it’s better to have this done on a gas burner outdoors than on the enamel surface of the range.
A note on the shrimp and other ingredients: all of the main players here were purchased from local purveyors. The shrimp came from the market at The Big Fish Grill, which regularly is voted the best seafood store in Rehoboth Beach. It’s pleasant, the staff is knowledgable, and the joint doesn’t stink like fish. Personally, I like it when a fish market doesn’t stink like its own rotten product, but to each their own.
The potatoes and corn came from the nearby Tomato Sunshine farmstand. The sausage? Look, it was store-bought cured Andouille, but find me fresh here and I’ll change things around for next time.
Ideally, you take your fully-cooked goodness out of the pan with the strainer, let liquid run off and dump it in the middle of a newspaper-lined table. I used my scoop and tossed it in a monstrous punch bowl that was in the cabinet.
The shrimp boil — or Low Country Boil or Frogmore Stew or Tidewater Boil depending on your preference — is the ultimate in communal dining. You make your boil, you eat together, you slurp cocktail sauce together, you toss lemons into the neighbor’s yard and yell at the kids together. You sweat through the steam and seasoning and horseradish together. And then you wrap up the newspaper, throw everything out and hose the outdoor table down together.
You cook for your friends because shrimp is the ultimate in attainable classy food. You cook for your friends because they each gave you $20 for the supplies.
You cook for your friends because they are your friends.
The Shrimp Boil
By Everyone On The Internet
10 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined OR scored to make peeling easier (your preference)
4 small or 2 medium lemons
12 oz. beer (I used Shiner Bock. Ales or lagers will work fine here. Stay away from unfiltered beers.)
1 large onion
1 cup Old Bay
1/4 cup kosher salt
24 to 28 oz. cured Andouille sausage, links cut into thirds
2 lbs. red potatoes, halved
8 to 10 ears of corn, husks and silks removed, broken into halves or thirds
Bring 1 to 1 1/2 gallons of water to boil over high heat. Add the Old Bay and salt, cover, and let the boil roll 2 to 3 minutes. Squeeze the lemon halves into the water and add the beer. Drop in the onion pieces, cover and cook 5 minutes.
Remove the shrimp, potatoes and sausage from the pan using the strainer insert from the pan or a scoop strainer. Serve hot with cocktail sauce and plenty of napkins.