Around these parts this time of year most appetites wander toward such lovely Springtime delicacies as artichokes, asparagus and fresh peas. And while all that’s just fine and dandy, Spring for me has always meant sitting in the backyard at a long newsprint-covered table piled high with freshly caught, spicy, boiled seafood.
As a kid, my mostly Filipino parents always kept a small boat for fishing and were out on the water as often as possible. Most of those super early fishing mornings usually started at 3AM (depending on where we were launching from that day) with my younger brother and I sleeping on the floor of the pickup truck on the way, and waking up at some point to the sound of the outboard revving up. Regularly being out on the brackish waterways of South Louisiana at sunrise growing up is just one of the very essential parts of me that I regret I won’t be able to share with my own CA born kids. The still waters, the loamy scents, the light just before the sun appears and the cool air that you know will be evaporated into scorching heat in a matter of hours is something that I’ll always cherish.
Before we got down to the actual business of fishing, my Step Dad would roll out the trawl net and slowly, slowly dredge the bottom of the canal. An excruciatingly long hour or so later (especially for a seasick prone kid like me), the enormous black net was hauled onboard filling us with hopes of fat shrimp, sweet blue crabs and the occasional edible fish. Everything else was tossed back. The small shrimp were used for bait. The bigger shrimp and crabs would end up in a BIG, FAT SEAFOOD BOIL.
Of course the other great seafood for a proper New Orleans seafood boil is the almighty CRAWFISH, which we also did aplenty in the Spring. As soon as the price dropped to a reasonable amount, we’d pick up a 50# sack from our favorite seafood market and go to town. But that didn’t keep us kids from still messing around in the ditch behind the house with crawfish nets, “melt” (bloody chunks of cow pancreas), and a nice long stick. Of course when we’d crawl out of the ditch a muddied mess with a few critters in a bucket, it was a total wonder that we weren’t bitten by a snake, turtle, rabid nutria or even possibly an alligator!
Anyway, because the weather warmed up just a tiny bit this week in San Francisco, which got me feeling just a little bit nostalgic for those moments sitting in my shorts in the backyard, seafood juices dripping down my arms, I thought I’d share a little something with (you) and my wife.
Shrimp Boil For Two
For 2-3 LB fresh shrimp, head on (which we bought at our favorite local seafood market, Sun Fat on Mission)
12 C Water
¼ C Kosher salt
3 TB Cayenne
6 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
1 Yellow Onion, Peeled and Roughly Chopped
5 Bay Leaves
1 TB Black Peppercorns
1 TB Dried Thyme Leaves
1 Lemon, Cut in Half
2 Ears Corn, cut into 3″ pieces
2 Andouille Sausage Links
5 or 6 Small New Potatoes
Add first 8 ingredients to a large pot. Squeeze lemon into pot then toss the whole thing into the pot as well. Bring to a low boil and add potatoes. Cook covered for 10 minutes. Add corn and sausage and cook another 10 minutes covered. Turn off heat. Add shrimp and let steep covered for another 10 minutes or so depending on size. Drain, spread out on newspaper and go to town!
A little San Francisco Shrimp Boil dinner conversation with my Midwestern wife:
Her: “Soooo, the shrimp aren’t already deveined?”
Her: “So, who deveined them?”
Me: “I guess we just we just did it ourselves as we ate.”
Me: “Would you like me to peel some for you?” As I’m already setting her up with peeled AND deveined shrimp.
Her: “No, no I’m OK…” As she helps herself.
Her: Gasp! “Is this gluten-free?!
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in New Orleans anymore…
Stay tuned for what I made with all of those yummy leftover shrimp!