Sep 9, 2011

Doing a slow boil

I love my husband for many reasons, among them his ability to spot interesting foods and eateries.

Which is pretty remarkable given his upbringing. He was raised in a very traditional southern family and his mama's fried chicken, pork chops, squash casserole and macaroni and cheese outshines Paula Deen's any day of the week. But her recipe repertoire is pretty limited - I suspect that is due in large part to the picky palates of her family and the tight budget she had to work with when her children were young. 

Case in point: when we married, my husband had never tasted broccoli.


However, he was more than willing to try new foods, and has been our longtime intrepid food scout, always looking for new and unusual foods and venues.  (Like ordering barnacles in Portugal.  But that's another story, for another timezone.) 

We moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1985. At some point soon after we arrived on the scene, Mr. Official spotted a hole-in-the-wall place called "The Cajun Boiling Pot" and suggested we try it.
Just as I remember it
 The interior was quintessential strip-mall diner: worn linoleum floor, heavily varnished (and slightly greasy) pine paneled booths with ripped vinyl padded seats and formica-plated tabletops.  A little dark, a little dingy but filled with contented diners.

The menu choices were unlike any we had ever seen, so we plunged in and ordered a family-style boiled dinner.   We had no idea what we were doing but the zydeco music was playing and the smell was intoxicating.

The waiter spread newspaper on our table, and dumped steaming hot food on it: spicy boiled crawfish, shrimp, corn on the cob, new potatoes, and sausage, much like this photo.

A wood mallet and small forks were our only utensils.  We looked around at the other diners, looked at each other, shrugged and dove in, and didn't stop eating until it was gone.


We went back several times while we lived in the area.  I hear it has since closed.  But it has never left our memories.  We've never found anything quite like it around here, but I did some research and discovered a bit of the history and background on seafood boils.  What we experienced was pretty authentic to the Louisiana-style boiling pots.  In South Carolina, the name and ingredients change slightly: Frogmore Stew, Beaufort Boil, or Low-country Boil.  They all refer to a similar dish, with no crawfish or hot sauce, and emphasis on the shrimp.

I brought home the ingredients for a seafood boil the other day.  Not as good as just-caught shrimp and fresh Andouille sausage, but tasty, nonetheless.   A boil is easy; the following is enough for 4-6 generous servings.

4 quarts water
juice from one lemon (you can also add the remaining rinds if you like)
4 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (more to taste)
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce (more or less to taste)
1/2 pound small new red potatoes
1 pound Andouille or kielbasa sausage
2 ears fresh sweet corn, broken into 2-3 pieces each
1 pound (or more to taste) raw shrimp in the shell
1/2-1 pound crab legs (optional)

additional lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, sour cream, hot sauce, butter

Bring water, lemon juice, and seasoning to a boil in a large stockpot (we have also used our turkey fryer outdoors and doubled the when we're cooking for a crowd.)  Taste and adjust seasonings before adding other ingredients (you want it to be fairly spicy or the food will be bland - trust me on this.)

Add the potatoes, corn and sausage and cook until done (10-15 minutes.)  Add shrimp and crab legs; boil for a couple minutes (do not overcook), then strain and place on clean newspaper or waxed paper.  Hand out plates and napkins; serve with chunks of warm crusty bread and butter.  Lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, butter and sour cream are definitely nice-to-have on hand, too.

Happy adventuring,

(Photo of The Cajun Boiling Pot courtesy of