lowcountry boil 🦐
the ultimate one-pot weeknight meal
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Maine has its clambakes, Maryland its crab boils, and Louisiana its crawfish boils. Every eastern coastal region has a famous way to prepare its local catch for the masses, and in North Carolina, where I grew up, (and in South Carolina and Georgia!) that way is called a Lowcountry boil.
Shrimp is our local catch and is the star of a Lowcountry boil, while smoky sausage, crisp summer corn, and tender potatoes play delicious supporting roles.
During summers on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, my older sister and I used to spend hours casting shrimp nets off the docks, hauling in hundreds per net on good days. We ate shrimp almost everyday — shrimp cocktail, shrimp salad, grilled shrimp — but my favorite nights were Lowcountry boil nights.
Lowcountry boils were always a special occasion — we’d only do one or two per summer. My grandmother would get the giant boil pot down from above the refrigerator. It was so enormous that it would take an hour for the huge pot of water to come to a boil on the 1980s coil stovetop. One cousin would be assigned the job of shucking the corn, another halving the potatoes. Everyone had a job in that tiny, sand-covered kitchen.
Realizing we’d prepared way too much food yet again, we’d usually invite some “beach friends” — those special people in your life that you only see once a year but still feel intimately familiar with — over to eat with us. My dad would fill up coolers full of cheap beer and ice. My grandfather would cover the outdoor table (the one that used to give at least one of us a splinter every trip) with layers of newspaper. After inevitably forgetting to weight it down, the paper would go flying into the dunes, so chasing down the newspaper would become the job of yet another cousin.
But the thing I remember most is the moment that the shrimp finally went into the pot. The corn, sausage, and potatoes — those can all afford to be a little overcooked. But the shrimp needs precision. I remember my grandmother training me to watch for the moment when the shrimp turned from translucent to opaque.
It only took a minute or two, and the *moment* they went from grey-ish to pink, two of the strongest people would grab that full pot, drain it, then quickly spread the contents out on the awaiting newspaper-lined table.
In my memory, there are no plates or forks or knives involved. Big bowls of cocktail sauce (some with extra horseradish, some practically ketchup) and lemon butter are interspersed amongst the shrimp and potatoes. And a big empty bowl sat in the middle of the table for shells and gnawed corn cobs. But no plates. I don’t even think we sat down. Just crowded around the table, adults and kids, shucking and chowing down together.
This might just be the greatest summer meal of all time.
no special occasion needed
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that my bizarre pregnancy craving this time around is… Lowcountry boils. In all of my 33 years, I have never prepared a Lowcountry boil unless it was for a special occasion where I was feeding 10+ people. I’ve just always associated boils in my head with big group meals.
But in actuality, a Lowcountry boil is the ultimate one-pot meal! I’ve been making shrimp boils for just me and George all month long and it’s truly the quickest, easiest meal when prepared in smaller quantities.
Following this easy recipe there’s no extra cousin labor needed. No special occasion needed. Shrimp boils any dang time you please!
But FYI — if you *do* need to feed the masses, you can easily double, triple, or quadruple this recipe! It just takes a bit more effort and a much bigger pot (or use two pots!).
weeknight lowcountry boil
Serves 4 to 6 (easily halved to feed 2!)
Cook time: ~45 minutes
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