Seafood is a favorite dish for a variety of diners, whether they enjoy fried clams, fresh mussels from Prince Edward Island, a well-stocked raw bar or all of the above. The combination of unique flavors and the rarity of finding a variety of seafood outside of coastal areas make these foods especially desirable. Boulder culinary school students should pay special attention to seafood bakes and boils, which offer a fun and tasty way to serve a variety of seafood to groups of diners and offer them an uncommon dining experience.
What are seafood bakes and boils?
Although the ingredients and exact methods of preparation vary greatly from one version to the next, seafood bakes and boils frequently involve using a mixture of heat and a source of moisture to cook the ingredients. Some approaches, like a Maryland crab feast, can be completed quickly. Assuming the side dishes are ready to be served, the crabs – usually seasoned with Old Bay or a similar mixture – can be on the table in just 20 minutes.
A New England clam bake is an example of a much more time- and labor-intensive preparation, lasting for hours. The clam bake relies on having a sandy beach to create a fire pit, as well as many stones and a significant amount of seaweed on hand. Between digging the pit needed to bake the ingredients, gathering seaweed and stones, building the fire, heating the stones, the cook time itself and cleaning up, many hours can go into such a preparation.
While a clam bake can feed many people and could be used in certain catering or single service applications, it’s not an efficient way to approach cooking in most restaurants. The clam boil takes a similar approach in terms of ingredients, still focusing on clams, mussels, lobsters and crabs, along with a supporting cast that can include everything from potatoes and onions to sausage and, potentially, seasonings. However, boiling significantly cuts down on the time needed to prepare the dish and makes it easy to prepare several boils over the course of a service for smaller groups of diners.
Seafood bake and boil recipes to get you started
If you’re looking for advice when it comes to making a Maryland crab feast, a great place to start is this multi-part guide from Baltimore magazine. Far from just a basic recipe, this explainer delves into everything from the details of storing and preparing crabs to opinions on the best method of preparing crab cakes (there’s a deep divide between frying and boiling). The guide offers expert guidance on presentation, utensils and serving ware, side dishes and much more. You can even find suggestions for using leftovers effectively – a great starting point for coming up with menu specials for the day after a major crab feast is offered.
Emeril Lagasse, a native of southeastern Massachusetts, offered his family recipe for a Portuguese-style New England clam boil in Boston magazine. This preparation burst with flavor, both from the seafood as the star of the dish and the various seasonings and other additions. The Portuguese sausage can be especially hard to acquire outside of southern New England, but a variety of other sausages that feature strong garlic or paprika flavor can be substituted.
This recipe for South Carolina’s Lowcountry boil, which also goes by a variety of names tied to local towns and other landmarks, offers a shrimp-focused take on the classic recipe shared by Coastal Living magazine. You’ll also want to look for a flavorful sausage to include and make sure to stock up on cocktail sauce in advance of serving.