Fishmonger Jon Alexis of TJ’s Seafood: Time for a Seafood Boil
Seafood boils aren’t just delicious…they harken back to an American society where friends and family gathered over food, from Maine to Macon, South Carolina to San Francisco and all points in between. Food as social glue. Food not as an accompaniment to the event, but the event itself. Common tables and freshest ingredients.
Crawfish boils are most popular boil in Louisiana and Texas. Live crawfish are boiled in cayenne, hot sauce, salt, pepper, lemons and herbs along with corn, potatoes and an assortment of vegetables. You can add mushrooms, onions, garlic cloves, artichoke hearts..get creative! And don’t forget andoiulle or smoked sausage. Any Cajun worth his cayenne only boils the crawfish for 5-7 min…but lets them soak for at least 30 more to get ’em really spicy.
Head East to Georgia and South Carolina and you’ll find a Lowcountry Boil (or Frogmore Stew). No frogs, but shrimp is substituted for crawfish and a milder boil. Condiments include ketchup, cocktail sauce and sour cream.
A bit farther north towards the Chesapeake Bay, you can’t help but wander into a Maryland Crab Feast. Don’t call it a crab “boil”…crabs are steamed with only water and vinegar; the seasoning is sprinkled over the crabs’ shells. More vinegar for dipping. And doesn’t food taste better when you have to whack it with a mallet?
Put on a sweater and head up to New England where you might get invited to a New England Clam Bake. If you’re lucky, your hosts dug a hole in the sand and lines the bottom with heated stones. Wrap clams (littlenecks of Ipswich), mussels and lobsters in seaweed and wet canvas. The hot stones and moist seaweed steam the shellfish perfectly. Dessert is often a traditional Peanut Butter Pie.
Leave it our California friends to add a little refinement to the outdoor shellfish boil. Substitute Dungeness Crab for crawfish and add orange to the typical Louisiana crawfish boil for a Napa Boil.
Most of the outdoor boils are spring, summer & fall events. Come winter, any locale where oysters are found, you’ll find an Oyster Roast: oysters are piled high over hot coals and covered in burlap sacks. When the pop open they are put out on a big table and quickly slurped.
So get outside and boil/bake/roast/steam some seafood. You’ll never eat better…and you might even make some new friends!
Ingredients: Water. Seasoning. Shellfish. Corn. Potatoes. Friends. Beer.
Serves: As Many As You Can Invite.
Jon Alexis is the co-owner of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market & Catering, 11661 Preston Road, Dallas.
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