I live in the boonies, help me recreate a meal!
June 24, 2009 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Recently I had a great meal at a place in Southern California. They bring out a bunch of boiled shrimp (and other assorted items) in a huge bag, covered and mixed with a spice rub. The rub consisted of a cajun mix, a lemon pepper mix, and garlic butter. Since I live very far away from this restaurant, any tips on how could I recreate this dish at home? It was very yummy!

I'm a novice cook, so any tips on boiling techniques would be great. I've never cooked large shrimp before (I think there were prawns.) Perhaps I should just keep it simple and buy the spices off the shelf?
posted by thisperon to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
it seems to basically be - boil water, add seasonings to the pot (as a novice cook, zatarans at the grocery store could help you a great deal here), add shrimp.

here's an ehow recipe.
posted by nadawi at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: Ok...I guess I assumed that the spices were added after boiling everything? Thanks for the link.
posted by thisperon at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2009

they could have seasoned after as well - but the main thing that's going on with the dish (i assume - was this a cajun place you went to?) is getting those delicious seasonings into the shrimp. some people also use crawdads and i've seen andouille sausage added as well (like in this recipe).
posted by nadawi at 1:32 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks nadawi!!! Can't wait to try it. Yeah, the bag had sausage in it too, though I don't know what kind, though I'm guessing now that it was andouille as you said.
posted by thisperon at 1:44 PM on June 24, 2009

This is less of a big deal if they're large shrimp/prawns, but make sure that you don't overcook the shrimp. It's very easy to do, especially when boiling. Take them out when they turn pink!
posted by rossination at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2009

This is typically called a "shrimp boil" and it typically has shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes all boiled together, served in the bag (usually with newspaper on the table!). If you google "shrimp boil" you'll find lots of recipes and methods. I can't weigh in because I've never tried it.

I can say that here in MD, when you get a bag of shrimp coated with seasoning, it's usually coated with Old Bay. I'm guessing that's a popular shrimp boil ingredient, too.
posted by necessitas at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2009

Best answer: It you want the original idea, go to Acadiana or Cajun country.

It's called a crawfish boil or an "insert your crustacean (shrimp, crab)" boil and a bag is totally unnecessary.

Here are the Cliff Notes:

1. Go to Zatarain's and buy some Zatarain's Crawfish, Shrimp, and Crab Boil (liquid or dry powder).

*The ingredients in the box/liquid are MUSTARD SEED, CORINADER SEED, CAYENNE PEPPER, BAY LEAVES, DILL SEED, ALLSPICE. You can try making your own, but try their product first so you can see how much they use–more than you think. You'll find this stuff by the case in any Cajun's pantry.

2. Read the directions on the package re: quantities of seafood:water:seasoning.

3. Boil some water outside (setup: propane burner and propane tank (Home Depot, etc.), big stock pot with strainer (you can buy cheaply at a restaurant supply store).

4. When water's boiling, add live crustaceans (yes, must be fresh and alive!), halved potatoes, peeled carrots, peeled onions, corn on the cob, and other vegetables that can survive high-temp boiling. You can also add links of smoked sausage. (I think you have to add your own salt, and a lot of it).

5. Boil according to package directions (should say per lbs. seafood, this many minutes; else, MeMail me and I can help).

6. When done, strain, and pour over a table that's been covered with old newspaper. It helps absorb water, makes less of a mess.

7. Season again with Cajun seasoning. You'll also find this stuff by the case in Cajun pantry's everywhere. Lemon pepper and garlic butter on the side.

And don't forget the garlic bread, the beer, and the toe-tappin' Cajun music:

The Lacassine Special
Think of Me
Mom, I’m Still Your Little Boy
The Back Door
The Bosco Stomp

7. Eat while steaming hot, as it gets cold fast.


More pictures:

Cooking the Louisiana Crab Boil

Stuff That Crab

Zatarain's Crawfish, Shrimp, and Crab Boil

Sarah Rose Loves Dancing and Boil Shrimp

Cajun Fest
posted by foooooogasm at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2009 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the details, foooooogasm! Aw man, I really can't cook it inside? That's disappointing.
posted by thisperon at 2:27 PM on June 24, 2009

I guess you could if you could isolate your kitchen, open the windows, close doors to the rest of the house, turn off the climate control and ventilation, etc.

Those spices, the seafood, the quantity of both, etc. makes for "a lot of smell" (it doesn't smell bad at all, on the contrary; but, I just don't think you'd want your clothes, carpets, bedding exposed to it).

It's also hard to get the large quantity of water you'll need to a boil on a stove (unless you have one of those gas ranges with 50,000+ BTUs).

I saw a couple of pictures of people doing it indoors on Flickr, but can't seem to relocate. I guess it wouldn't be a problem if you do it in small batches. It's just that, in Louisiana, there's nothing small when it comes to a seafood boil.

Here's a good photostream for more ideas.

I forgot the lemon wedges, need those to squirt lemon juice on the crustaceans just before eating.

Oh, and hot towels to clean you hands.

Salt, seasoning, sharp shells, acid from lemon, etc. means you'll want to keep your hands clean as you munch along.

Once you have all the thingies, it's very easy to do and everyone just loves it.

It's a great idea for a summer party.
posted by foooooogasm at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the warnings!!!

Wish I could have all of you guys over to my first boil!!! Ok, wait, maybe we should hold off until the second, once I uh, work, out the kinks.
posted by thisperon at 2:47 PM on June 24, 2009

I doubt mine is as good as foooooogasm's, but here's what passes for subsistence shrimp boil around here:

Boil water in a large stock pot (yep, even on the stove), add in a bag of Zataran's seafood boil, plus a large handful of old bay, and two lemons, quartered. Toss in some quartered new potatoes, quartered onions, quartered ears of corn (we use the frozen ones), and some smoked sausage, sliced on the bias. Proportions according to taste, hunger level and what's on hand. Return to a boil, cook until potatoes are done. Add in cleaned shrimp (or whatever other shellfish you want), cook until done (until no longer translucent for shrimp -- a couple of minutes max).

Pour out into strainer, remove lemons and seafood boil bag, and serve with hot french bread, butter, lemon wedges and cocktail sauce.
posted by nonliteral at 4:03 PM on June 24, 2009

Or, for inside cooking, why not actually use the bag method? Put the seafood and spices in a heavy ziploc bag, add a little water or wine or something and maybe some butter, and seal it really tightly.
Have some water boiling in a big pot, then put the bag in the pot and let it cook for a few minutes.

That way you get the really concentrated spices, and everything stays contained. You could also add corn or sausage.

Then invite me over!
posted by exceptinsects at 4:34 PM on June 24, 2009

So, where was the restaurant where you had this big bag of yummy shrimp?
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:50 PM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: It was called Boiling Crab in Alhambra. I think there are multiple locations you can check on Yelp. So freakin' good!!!!
posted by thisperon at 12:24 AM on June 25, 2009

thisperon, this is off topic, sorry, but I received a few emails asking about the Cajun music in my original response.

Lee Benoit is the performer's name.

Here's his web page.

The tracks are from "Lee Benoit Live from Vermilionville".

He's a accordion virtuoso, probably one of the top performers in the world today.

The language is, obviously, Acadian French, a dialect closer to 17th century French than modern day Parisian. It's spoken all over Acadiana and, I think, the Canadian eastern seaboard (Nova Scotia, etc.)
posted by foooooogasm at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2009

A trick I learned when I lived in NOLA is to have a bag of ice on hand to throw into the pot when the required boil time is done. This stops the cooking of the shellfish so you can allow a decent soak time to let all the goodness of the seasoning into them suckers. As others have said Zatarain's is the stuff to use.
I also grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and we did simple shrimp boils on the stove where you just boil the shrimp (shell on) with no seasoning then drain and put in a paper bag, sprinkle Old Bay on and shake it up. Really simple and tasty.
posted by white_devil at 3:57 PM on June 25, 2009

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