It’s that time of the year! If you live in the southern United States, odds are your Facebook newsfeed is filled with pictures of crawfish boils and the all day parties that surround these events. Crawfish boils are one of the staples of southern life in the spring and summer. If you don’t live in the southern U.S., or if you do and want to learn how to have a small batch boil, I will show you the tricks to enjoying this southern tradition at home!
First off, I should probably explain what a crawfish is. For those that aren’t familiar with these little crustaceans, they look like a small version of a lobster. They live in little muddy holes that they dig in wet areas around ponds, lakes, and rivers. When cooked, they taste a little like a cross between lobster and shrimp and they are absolutely a staple in southern cuisine.
Crawfish go by many names; crawdads, crayfish, mud bugs, or bugs (for those really in the know) to name a few. No matter what you call them, they are absolutely delicious. Don’t let the unappetizing nicknames scare you away, they are definitely worth a try.
Crawfish boils are a big deal in the south. As I mentioned before, a crawfish boil is an all day event which requires participation from your entire family, all your friends, everybody you’ve ever met, and anyone who just happens to drive by. I have a friend whose family hires a live band every year for their crawfish boil and they invite around 150 people. The number that show up is usually well over that.
A boil is actually surprisingly easy and it’s a one pot meal. It also comes together in less than an hour and has very little prep. What could be better? You don’t have to throw a big party to enjoy this meal, it makes a great (and fun) family weeknight dinner!
Here’s how you can make your very own southern style boil at home, no matter where in the world your home is:
Start by mixing up the seasoning.
Stir together paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, dried oregano, and dried thyme. And that’s it! Set it aside.
The next step is picking your vegetables. The staples are corn, potatoes, and onions, but many people also add in other veggies to liven up the mix.
I am using lemons, whole mushrooms, corn, potatoes, green beans, and onions (not pictured).
There is very little prep required for a boil. Make sure you buy baby potatoes or red potatoes. Big potatoes just won’t so for this recipe. Leave the potatoes whole.
The corn cobs can either be bought already cut, or bought whole and you can cut them in half.
The lemons need to be cut in half.
The onions just need to be cut in quarters.
The green beans and mushrooms can be left whole.
Other good veggie options that I’ve seen are bussels sprouts (left whole), artichokes (left whole), oranges (cut in half), broccoli, and really anything else that strikes your fancy. As long as you have the potatoes, onion, and corn, you can really be creative with the rest!
Besides the crawfish in a southern boil, there is almost always sausage. People use all different kinds, but basically you’re just looking for a good smoked sausage. I am using chorizo in my boil because it’s one of the few smoked sausages available in Scotland and I like the spice it adds to the dish.
Cut the sausage into about 1 inch sized pieces.
This recipe makes enough for 4 people. If your biggest pan is a 3 quart saucepan (like the one I have pictured) you will need to make it in two batches. If you have a larger pot, feel free to make it all at once or in batches if you want to enjoy the boil in true southern fashion!
Add the potatoes, lemon halves, and onion to the pot. Fill the pot with water to about 3 inches over the top of the potatoes.
Stir in 4 tbs of the seasoning mix and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the water to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Add in the mushrooms, green beans, corn, and any softer vegetables that you are using. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Last, add in the sausage and seafood.
Crawfish are not available in many parts of the world so your boil may not be able to include crawfish. The quality of this dish is very much dependent on the quality and freshness of the seafood you use. Here in Scotland we have access to great mussels and shrimp so that is what I chose to use. Where you live you might have better access to crabs, lobster, prawns, etc. Use what is best where you live, but make sure you are picking hard-shelled seafood so it will stand up to the boil.
Most types of seafood will only need to cook for a few minutes so throw them in at the very end and serve the boil as soon as they are finished cooking. If you are unsure of the cooking time of the seafood you are using ask your butcher/fish monger or look it up on a credible website.
And that’s it! To serve, use a slotted spoon or strainer to scoop out all of the goodies and serve on big plates with some crusty bread on the side. Sprinkle over a little more of the seasoning mix if you need a little extra spice.
If you are making your boil in two batches, make the second batch in the same cooking liquid, in the same way, and add in another 3 to 4 tbs of spice.
And there you go! Now you can have a southern style seafood boil at home no matter where in the world you live.
Southern Style Seafood Boil
Feeds 4 people
For the boil
- 2.5 lbs red or baby potatoes
- 2 cobs of corn, cut in half
- 1 onion, cut in quarters
- 16 oz whole mushroom caps
- 8 oz fresh green beans
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- 14 oz Andouille sausage (or a similar spicy smoked sausage)
- 20-30 shrimp with shells
- 1 lb fresh mussels, cleaned
- Note: Crawfish are the traditional seafood ingredient. If you have access to them, use them. If not, use the hard shelled seafood that is best where you live.
For the seasoning:
- 2.5 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
For the seasoning, mix all the spices together and set aside.
For the boil, in a 3 quart saucepan place half the potatoes, onion, and lemon. Fill the pot with water to 3 inches above the potatoes. Stir in 4 tbs of the seasoning mix and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Note: If you have a pot big enough for the entire boil, feel free to cook it all at once rather than in batches.
After the potatoes are tender add in the remaining vegetables (only half of each kind if cooking in batches). Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add in the seafood and sausage (again, only half of each if cooking in batches) and cook just until the seafood are finished. If you are using shrimp and mussels, they will finish in 3 to 5 minutes.
To serve, use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove the boil ingredients to a large plate. Squeeze over a little bit of lemon juice and sprinkle on some of the seasoning mix, if desired. Serve with a big slice of crusty bread.
If cooking in batches, for the second batch cook in exactly the same way in the same cooking liquid. Add in the remaining seasoning mix to the pot with the second batch.
To make sure you don’t miss any recipes that bring the world to your kitchen, subscribe to Southern Abroad to have them delivered directly to your inbox!
You might also like: