A seafood boil feeds a crowd for a casual get-together and brings a little fun to the weeknight dinner table. Simmered in a flavorful broth, the ingredients of a seafood boil make a meal in itself. Seafood boils cook in under an hour and, with no added fat and lots of lean protein, make a healthy meal. Add a side dish or two and dessert to round out the meal and make it a real feast.
Seafood and Sausage
Seafood boils usually contain shrimp and sausage. Shell-on shrimp, either fresh or frozen and thawed, are available at most supermarkets and cook quickly. Link sausage, such as heat-and-eat kielbasa and smoked sausage, adds a spicy, smoky flavor to the broth and brings out the sweetness in the seafood.
Down south, shrimp and smoked sausage are added to a traditional Low Country boil, while cooks in New Orleans add crabs, crawfish and andouille sausage. In New England, boils include clams and Portuguese sausage. Wisconsin’s Door County fish boils skip the sausage and use whitefish from Lake Michigan.
All of these are usually large outdoor events but are easily adapted for small-scale cooking in your kitchen. Use any combination that pleases your family. Picky eaters? Toss in some hot dogs for the kids.
A seafood boil would not be complete without potatoes and ears of sweet corn simmered in the pot right along with the seafood and sausage. Red potatoes hold their shape and pick up the seasonings in the broth. Small ones can be added whole; cut large potatoes in half to save cooking time. New England boils often include canned, crushed tomatoes that give the broth a rosy tint and add another layer of flavor. Louisiana boils contain lots of onions and celery, and sometimes whole, raw artichokes.
Packaged seafood boil seasonings contain a mixture of spices and are convenient because they add great flavor to the cooking liquid on their own. Augment the flavor by adding bay leaves, cayenne, garlic or lemon wedges. Fish boils rely only on salt for seasoning and produce flavorful fish and potatoes without additional spices.
Sides and Dessert
A seafood boil with corn and potatoes satisfies without additional fuss. For a more elaborate menu, coleslaw -- made with a creamy dressing or vinegar-based recipe -- complements the sweet, spicy, smoky, earthy flavors of a seafood boil. Corn bread, rye bread or a crusty baguette served on the side helps diners mop up the tasty broth. Fruit desserts, such as pies or cobblers, finish this casual, family-style meal with down-home style.
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Alissa Pond Mentzer worked in biotech research and educational publishing before becoming a freelance writer in 2005. She has contributed to textbooks for The Mcgraw-Hill Companies and National Geographic School Division and writes science articles for various websites. Mentzer earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University in anthropology and biological sciences.