Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I don’t particularly like shrimp. I used to refuse it completely, abhorring the seafood flavor and chewy texture, though now I’ve evolved to a more enlightened I-can-take-it-or-leave-it mentality. But last August I discovered I really like a good shrimp boil. I was staying in a cabin in southern Minnesota with my extended family, and my aunt cooked up a whole mess of corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage, and shrimp in a spicy, beer-laced broth. Washed down with a cold bottle of beer, it was the perfect summer meal, and the most memorable of our vacation (although my happy memory is tempered by the fact that later that evening my mother had to be rushed to the emergency room for a mysterious [but probably non-shrimp-related] malady).

A few months ago, Cooking Light magazine conveniently printed a recipe for Frogmore Stew that almost exactly matched the ingredients I remembered from that happy summer shrimp boil. When my friend P recently decided to host a shrimp boil party at her house (and show Southern-themed movies like King Creole and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), I passed on the recipe to her and assisted her in cooking it for the guests. As we appreciatively devoured our steaming plates of food, I was happy to note that the flavors matched my nostalgic memory nearly exactly. Better still, I’d seen how ridiculously easy it was to make. When A, who’d been out of town, expressed regret about missing the shrimp boil, it occurred to me that this was not some fussy special-occasion recipe, but a simple cooking method that (with the quantities reduced) would make a perfect summer dinner at home.

So on Sunday, I welcomed A back from Indiana with our very own personal shrimp boil. I split the recipe in half, which technically should have made 4 servings, but since I didn’t serve anything else for the meal except watermelon, we managed to eat a bit more than half of it during the first sitting. There was just enough left over for A’s lunch the next day. I accidentally ended up buying my Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp peeled, which probably made it turn out a little tougher than it should have, but it was still tasty. I used three ears of corn instead of two, because I love corn. I was worried the food was going to turn out horribly spicy, because while the crushed red pepper flakes were boiling, they emitted a peppery steam so powerful it made my eyes water and my throat burn, setting me coughing each time I leaned over the pot to add another ingredient. Don’t fret if this happens to you, though—the final product was only mildly spiced, and jn fact, I found myself thinking as I ate that it maybe could have been a little spicier. We used chili powder at P’s because she didn’t have any red pepper flakes (how does one live without red pepper flakes?), so maybe I’ll try adding a little of that next time. Overall, though, this is a trouble-free, casual, decadent-feeling but light meal that I plan on making often throughout the summer. Give it a try, y’all!

3 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
8 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
4 bay leaves
2 (12-ounce) bottles beer
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered (if they’re really tiny, you can leave them whole)
1 pound smoked sausage (I use chicken andouille), cut into ½-inch-thick slices
4 ears shucked corn, halved crosswise
2 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled (thawed under cold running water if frozen)

1. Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot.

2. Add potatoes and sausage and cook for 12 minutes.

3. Add corn and cook for 4 minutes.

4. Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes or until shrimp are done.

5. Drain, and discard bay leaves.

Serves: 8
Time: 30 minutes

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