I love shrimp season in Acadiana. The opening of the Vermilion Bay inshore waters in late May signals the start of an endless summer supply of fresh Gulf shrimp. While I’m ready with a stack of recipes, there is no denying that a simple backyard Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil is the purest (and best) recipe for these superior shrimp from Louisiana waters.
Broiled, boiled, grilled, sautéed or fried, shrimp is the most versatile of all the tasty Gulf coastal seafood options available this time of year. Most cooks in South Louisiana stock up on shrimp when they find a good supplier. Price and quality can vary widely depending on the location and the seasonal demand. That’s why I was so very pleased to discover Delcambre Direct Seafood.
The quaint fishing village of Delcambre, just an hour down the road from Lafayette is usually quiet, but once the shrimping season is underway, the cars line up at the docks. Buying shrimp right off the boat used to be a hit or miss proposition with a noon arrival the most targeted time for catching the boats coming in from the morning trawl. But, times have changed, and the Internet has made it much easier and profitable for buyers and sellers to connect.
Buying direct insures freshness. Besides, I know I’m helping a local fishing family make a living. When you buy at the supermarket you take a chance on both quality and local sourcing. Foreign products disguised as local have begun to appear in even South Louisiana grocery stores and it’s up to consumers to be smart. To make it easier to distinguish local products, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries recently began promoting a Louisiana Certified seafood program. I always demand local products when I shop and you should, as well.
This day I am glad to see Daddy’s Dream is in port, and his seasonal catch of sweet Louisiana shrimp is just what I’m looking for. I buy ten pounds of 16 – 20 size count (shrimp per pound) head-on shrimp that I particularly like for my Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil. I find this size to have the optimum flavor as well as the versatility to use in a number of dishes.
When you buy raw shrimp from somewhere other than straight off a shrimp boat, it’s good to know what to look for. The Delcambre Direct website says it best:
Fresh Shrimp: Shrimp should have a mild sea breeze, ocean smell. Shells should hold tightly to the flesh and legs should be intact. Meat should be firm and translucent. Avoid product with any scent of ammonia. Nothing tastes better than fresh shrimp right off the boat.
It’s time for a South Louisiana shrimp boil. Boiling shrimp is a dead simple Cajun recipe. So much easier than boiling live crawfish because the shrimp you boil are, well, already dead. No worries with purging, changing the water or the occasional straight-tailed crawfish that is DOA. Shrimp are straightforward–boil the water, season the water and drop in the shrimp. Period.
But wait, there is one important commandment for my Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil recipe, and it should not be a surprise–Do Not Overcook. Ok, I know, it’s common sense and a basic rule of cooking most any fish or shellfish, but I cannot tell you how many shrimp boils I’ve been to where this happens. Either the cook becomes distracted or the beer drinkin’ adds time to the boil, and the resulting tough, hard-to-peel shrimp are destined for the trash bin. Ugh!
So, that is the only cardinal rule for a Cajun recipe for a Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil. What you do from there can only elevate the experience. Added ingredients? Beer? The spice level? The dipping sauce? Did I say the beer?
Let’s get to boiling.
- 3 gallons water
- 1 cup salt
- 3 bags shrimp boil seasoning or 1 cup Cajun seasoning mix
- 4 whole lemons, halved
- 3 pounds small red potatoes
- 1 dozen ears frozen corn on the cob
- 4 pounds smoked pork sausage links, cut into portions
- 6 pounds large head-on fresh Gulf shrimp
- Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here, optional
- Cocktail sauce, for serving
- In a large stockpot over high heat, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the salt, bags of shrimp boil seasoning and lemon halves. Continue to boil for 5 minutes as the water seasons.
- Add the potatoes and let boil for 10 minutes. Add the corn and sausage and boil for another 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and boil for 2 minutes longer and turn off the heat. Let the shrimp and all the other ingredients sit in the water for 5 minutes and then remove.
- Pile the shrimp, potatoes, corn and sausage together on a newspaper-lined table. Sprinkle on the Cajun seasoning if desired. Serve with cocktail sauce or your favorite dipping sauce and ice-cold beer.
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