Confessions of…(#21)

A Zydeco Fan.

On a recent trip trip to New Orleans it took me several days walking around the French Quarter to figure out what was missing.

On my last tour of the city in 1999 there was a sound in the air that carried you down the street with toes tapping. It was infectious and blaring out of multiple stores on every block!  That Cajun beat possessed your soul and caused anyone who heard it to dance down the street. It made the NoLa’s atmosphere as unique as the cuisine.

On my third day I realized that the toe tappin’, movin’ and groovin’ atmosphere has slipped away. Don’t get me wrong, jazz is still there and in the air, but that unmistakable sound of zydeco is just a whisper.  I heard that whisper coming from The Krazy Korner on Bourbon Street.  Drawn in by the sound of a washboard being slayed; I heard  The Daywalkers.  This band was closest thing to zydeco I had heard the whole trip. I could have stayed and listened to them for hours, but I had to leave to position myself for the Mardi Gras parade that was winding itself through The Big Easy.  On my way out of the bar I did purchase one of their newly released CD’s.


listen here

Curious about the lack of zydeco in the city I asked the bellman at my hotel.  When I questioned him where it went he got a very pensive look on his face.  He slowly looked up at me and said that it had been years since  he had heard it abundantly in city. There was sadness when he realized it was round about the time Hurricane Katrina rolled through and darn near destroyed the city.  New Orleans suffered a great deal, I just hope that wonderful Cajun beat finds itself a home again in The Big Easy… I sure did miss it!



It’s all about the pot

It’s all about the pot

I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, but it’s true!  It’s all about the pot, when you’re talking about boils.  I have seen photos of people cooking their boils inside on the stove and I cringe.  Now, don’t get me wrong, that method cooks the ingredients.  However, I can cook a steak by throwing into a raging fire.  The meat will be done, but I sure as heck won’t want to eat it.  When comes down to it, let’s be blunt, the right pot is important!

For starters, it is impossible to generate enough heat on a cook-top stove.  Yes, you can get large amounts of water to boil but the mass of what is going to be cooked in that pot requires more heat than a standard stove top can offer.  You must break out a mega burner (54,000 BTU type burner).  With a big ol’ pot, somewhere in the 40 quart plus range.  Be sure that it has a removable basket and a lid.  You’ll want that!   When I use the 40 quart pot I can feed roughly 4-15 people.  If you are feeding more than that, either break it up and cook two batches or get a bigger pot.

Secondly, not only is pot important, but what goes in the pot is just a critical.  My family does boils like most southerners do BBQ.  It’s our “thing” and we do several a year.   While water is the cheapest option, it also offers the least amount of flavor.  Cheap beer is my go-to bath for my shrimp along with a crap load of Old Bay Seasoning (I’ve been known to use the whole can) and a few lemons thrown in for good measure.  Now to introduce the rest of the party.

You will need per person

  • 3-4 small red potatoes (I use leftovers for potato salad or smashed roasted potates)
  • hickory smoked sausage (6-8 inch link)
  • 1 FRESH ear of corn broken in half
  • 1/3 pound shrimp

If you so desire, you can also use/add snow crab legs, or mud-bugs.  Crab legs are usually frozen and just need to be heated up in boil.  I have been known to cook them as a second batch after the basket has been dumped on the table.

Now for the fun stuff!  Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.  This is an outside activity and having everything at the ready just makes it easier.  Including your butter and cocktail sauce (we treat them special too but that is another post).   Now remember from science class this thing called displacement.  That’s a thing that is pretty important.  Only fill your pot about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up with beer (I usually use a case and top it off with a bit of water to get it to the right level)  if you put too much liquid in the pot, it will overflow, that is bad! You don’t want that!  Go ahead and throw in the lemons and Old Bay, (make sure the the basket is already in the pot before you throw the lemons in)  The longest part of this process is waiting for the initial boil.  Once your pot has reached a ROLLING BOIL it’s time to start adding stuff to the pot.

Rolling Boil reached:

(lift the basket out of the pot when you first add ingredients to avoid getting splashed with boiling liquid)

  • add potatoes and sausage     cover and wait for boil to return 
  • boil for 10 minutes
  • add corn     cover again
  • boil for 5 minutes
  • add shrimp replace the lid again
  • cook for 3-5 minutes  The shrimp are cooked when they turn pink.
  • It is critical that you don’t turn down the heat on the burner.  You want it to return the pot to a boil as fast as possible.  This is why indoor cooking methods aren’t the best.  The total cooking time should take about 25 minutes (allowing for the pot to reheat to a boil between each addition).  The sausage, potatoes and corn are pretty forgiving if the timing isn’t right.  The shrimp on the other hand, once they turn pink STOP and DUMP! 

For the love of all good tasting things, once the shrimp turn pink you’re finished!  Remove the basket from the boiling water and dump it out on a table covered with newspaper.  I honestly don’t know a better way to serve it.  I’ve never eaten one any other way. If you have extra crab now is the time to let them heat up.  It only takes a few minutes.  No need to cook it to death.  Just heat it up.  Overcooked crab and shrimp are tough and the shells are difficult to remove.

Enjoy y’all!