Need a Beachy menu for 30 people
June 15, 2011 4:06 PM   Subscribe

My husband's extended family is renting a beach house this summer and each family is going to cook one night's meal for about 30 people. We want to do a low country boil, which is generally potatoes, corn cobs, sausage and shrimp with Old Bay seasoning boiled together. We can jazz it up by adding crabs or other kinds of shellfish, but I'm looking for another non-seafood item to go with the meal. I'm not a huge fan of seafood, and one other family doesn't like it much either, so I'm trying to think of something extra we could make so we have another choice besides the sausage. I could also use some suggestions for side dishes and desserts. My husband is a chef and keeps proclaiming that since it's his vacation he shouldn't have to plan or cook, so I want to try to do this without bothering him too much, but still impress him.
posted by saffry to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A big bowl of cold pasta salad is easy and goes well with your boil. If you grill some chicken breasts, chop them up and serve them on the side, you have a chicken pasta salad as an alternative. Big loaves of french bread to sop up the juices.
posted by raisingsand at 4:41 PM on June 15, 2011

I'd cry if you took me to a boil and ruined all the creatures and vegetables with Old Bay, but that's just me and I'm being mean.

If you do the kind of boil that I'm used to, you can steep just about anything in the super-spicy after-boil (and you didn't say lemons, you hafta have lemons in there) and it tastes rawsome. Depending on where you're going, if you can get some sheepshead (it's a fish, in the drum family), toss them into the boil and they come out just like crab only without any shelling. You said you're trying to avoid seafood though, so that's maybe not a lot of help.

The boil that I'm most used to is fairly spicy, so I always try to do *something* that offsets that spicy in a way that is complimentary. Anything with avocado, for example---and for the love of God if you're going "Low Country" you damn well better NOT puree the avocado if you make guacamole, it's supposed to be chunky. Pasta salad may be a good choice as well, as mentioned above. A good, rich, eggy potato salad may go well, deviled eggs are often popular if you're going traditional. Homemade ice-cream is a certified win as well, although not really a side dish. Fruit salad will offset well if you go with nice and citrusy. Banana pudding is somewhat traditional too, again not a side dish.

I realize I haven't been any help at all, but now you've got me wanting to do a boil.
posted by TomMelee at 4:55 PM on June 15, 2011

I don't like seafood and I can tell you anything you put in that pot is going to come out tasting like seafood. raisingsand has it right - do some other hearty side dish that isn't the boil to satisfy the non-seafood eaters. Maybe a baked macaroni and cheese? You can make that half way ahead of time and finish it off the evening of your dinner. Chicken/broccoli/sun dried tomato pasta salad would also be good.
posted by Wolfie at 5:11 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My sister adds whole button mushrooms to our crawfish boils (similar to your boil, except with crawfish and different spices). It turns out awesome.
posted by Houstonian at 5:14 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Chorizo sausage.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:28 PM on June 15, 2011

posted by goggie at 5:51 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

From Ms. Vegetable: Eggs may hardboil ok in the boil.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:55 PM on June 15, 2011

Is there a grill available for use? If so, grilled peaches are my go-to impressive-but-incredibly easy dessert. Halve them, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Tastes like pie without all the work. (Pineapple grills well, too.)

If there's no grill, I'd suggest having a few fresh fruits and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Everybody can make their own bowls of fruit and ice cream.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:02 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Chicken and steak kebobs. You can prep them earlier in the day (cut the meat into 1 inch squares; pop them in separate ziplock bags with oil, some seasonings, salt, etc.) and then thread them on skewers with mushrooms and onions. Delicious, and you can cook them on the grill while waiting for your boil to finish.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:14 PM on June 15, 2011

"... I'm not a huge fan of seafood, and one other family doesn't like it much either, so I'm trying to think of something extra we could make so we have another choice besides the sausage. ..."

Brunswick stew (and/or barbeque pork) is the traditional non-seafood alternative served at most low country gatherings in southeast Georgia. For the lowest effort solution, I'd call around for local barbeque joints, and order up a couple pounds of 'que and a gallon of Brunswick stew, for them as won't eat seafood.

"... I could also use some suggestions for side dishes and desserts. ..."

It's the very tail end of blueberry season in the low country of southeast Georgia, and the first seasonal melons (watermelons, musk or casaba melons, and cantalope) are harvesting, and you can generally find them at good prices in local markets and roadside stands. A cut fruit mix, with grapes, melon, and fresh berries is often put out in the hollowed out halves of the melons, as a traditional southern dessert this time of year.

Slow roast some sweet yams, mash 'em and drench 'em in melted butter and a little salt, if you need a side dish.
posted by paulsc at 7:08 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

for your alternative protein: grilled chicken is easy. marinate it in buttermilk overnight so it stays moist on the grill. season with salt and pepper and glaze it with bbq sauce. easy as pie.

dessert: while you have the grill out, grill pineapple rings and serve with vanilla ice cream.

side: cole slaw. you can buy pre-shredded slaw at the grocery store and dressing too. one thing we like to do is try different dressings--bleu cheese, ranch, asian sesame.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:23 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beach fare isn't complete without Hushpuppies (especially if there'll be seafood served).
posted by qwip at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only things we ever serve with our low country boil are beer, bread, and butter. The end. (If it's worth eating there is no room for other sides or desserts.)
posted by Kronur at 7:54 PM on June 15, 2011

with 30 people you are almost guaranteed to have one person who is allergic to shellfish. it is the most common food allergy. you should make some non shellfish option.
posted by wurly at 8:25 PM on June 15, 2011

As a chef, you had me at "low country boil." Heh.

Your plan is sound. Great advice above, especially the cornbread. Love the idea for the kabobs. Yes, be careful with the Old Bay.

30 people - someone is bound to be allergic to something. I'm allergic to oysters, but can eat all other shellfish. I recently met an allergist - apparently most folks who think they are allergic to "all shellfish" are like me - only allergic to one type. Considering how bad the allergic reaction can be for some folks, I never argue with people who tell me they are allergic to shellfish generally, but I know now they probably aren't.

Any who. For 30 people, don't cook too much in the boil with the shrimp - make other options for people who have allergy concerns.

That's my big suggestion. That, and be careful with the Old Bay. Also, use sea salt to season.

You can always add more spices, you can't take them out. Taste as you go! That's the big chef secret, as you probably know from your husband.

Go forth and dazzle people's palates!


As a former caterer, I'm going to tell you not to go too crazy. The simpler, the more successful the event.

A boil, some sides that can double as entrees for the vegetarians, plus some grill items that don't touch the shellfish. You'll be sweet!

I'm happy to work out an easy sample menu that I would offer if I were doing this event. Contact me through MetaFilter if you are still stumped. I have further questions that would factor in, or I would start laying stuff out.

Wait. A chilli you can do in a slow cooker. That would take a heap of pressure off. Consider that, as an example.
posted by jbenben at 10:57 PM on June 15, 2011

As a side: Not traditional, but whenever my family did boils (of anything) we always had a big loaf of crusty french bread and salted butter. Excellent for soaking up all goodness.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:32 PM on June 16, 2011

Wow, no love for the Old Bay.

Thanks everyone. I hadn't even thought of having French Bread. We'd been thinking cornbread but it seemed like a lot of extra work and overkill on top of corncobs. And husband vetoed hush puppies without a fryer.

I'll probably go with grilled chicken, I think the buttermilk marinade is a great idea. And some mac salad too. My eyes lit up at the Brunswick stew suggestion, because we lived for awhile in Brunswick, GA and I'd forgotten about it, but it's not really the best choice for July. A few other suggestions are out because they're already part of the other family meals for the week.

I'll also see about having two pots going so that we can have one without the shellfish for allergy or taste reasons. Thanks again!
posted by saffry at 12:51 PM on June 17, 2011

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