A New Orleans Boiled Dinner (2 March 2000)
A good New Orleans seafood boil is a work of art, so I had to do this a few times to get it right. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. This recipe serves 4 to 6 folks; with appetizers, 6 to 8. It will depend on the “hunger quotient.” My thanks to Andrew Jaeger for the inspiration for this meal.
1-1/2 gallons water
6 to 8 bay leaves (depends on size)
1 tablespoon 4-colour peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, and 1/2 tablespoon coriander seed, all lightly toasted, then cracked with a mortar and pestle or rolling pin
2 teaspoons ground cayenne chile
3 tablespoons ground pasilla chile
2 teaspoons red chile flakes and seeds * (make ‘em spicy)
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, crushed
You may want to tie all the herbs and spices in a cheesecloth bag, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Leaving them floating in the water adds interest to the later eating.
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, and add the spices and herbs as the water boils, then the celery, onions, and garlic. Maintain a rolling simmer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 200° F.
4 ears fresh corn, cleaned and broken or cut in half
16 new potatoes, 3-inch maximum diameter
After 15 minutes, drop the corn into the boil. When the water comes back to a rolling simmer, add the potatoes and cover the pot. Simmer for 35 minutes.
Remove corn and potatoes to a warm pan in the oven, coat the corn with a melted butter, salt and pepper mixture, and bring the liquid back to a rolling boil.
It would be best if you can get whole shrimp (with the heads on) as the flavour is substantially enhanced. Carolyn is not even remotely interested in crawfish, but they are traditional.
2 to 2-1/2 pounds fresh shrimp in the shell
3 fresh Dungeness [Pacific Northwest, eh?] or Blue crabs or another pound of shrimp
12 ice cubes
2 tablespoons sea salt or Kosher salt
Add the seafood to the boil and let simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the shrimp float. If using crab, put it into the pot six to eight minutes before the shrimp. Remove from heat, throw in the ice cubes and the salt, and let steep for 20 minutes.
The traditional way to serve this dinner is by spreading everything onto newspaper (I would prefer plain newsprint without the ink) and having plenty of beer, wine and napkins around for the guests. After you do it once, you may feel that bibs are also an appropriate tool for service.
*Note: I use ground Thai chiles. Hot, hot !! And it always makes the coffee more exciting the next morning!
I know – we could buy a dedicated grinder for spices, but I cannot concoct a legitimate reason. Really fascinating coffee happens after I blend a curry powder …. If you would rather clean your machine, grind stale bread briefly then discard it and wipe the grinder well.