When I think about a seafood boil, southern U.S. states with coastlines, such as Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolinas, is what first comes to mind. Bubbling pots of seafood, stocked with such things as corn and potatoes, have long been popular in those locales.
To serve the boil, drain the flavoured liquid from the pot the seafood was cooked in. Then spread the seafood and other items out on paper or a serving platter, set down some condiments, such as hot pepper sauce, and dig in with your hands and whatever utensils you need to eat this feast for the eyes and stomach.
Another place that I think should be a mecca for seafood boils is Vancouver Island. We have some spectacular seafood here to use in one and I did that in today’s recipe. My version of the dish has B.C. Dungeness crab, spot prawns and clams, along with the potatoes and corn noted above. The liquid those items are cooked in is spiked with such ingredients as garlic, lemon and Old Bay seasoning.
The recipe yields two generous and delicious servings and if you have any leftovers, you could do what I did: Use them the next day in a chowder.
If making a seafood boil seems like too much fuss, but you now have a major-league craving for a seafood-rich meal, visit the B.C. Shellfish Festival being held in the Comox Valley, from June 8 to 17.
If you do, the only problem you will have is trying to decide which of the many tasty events to attend. For example, on June 8, some of the possibilities include a tour of a deep-water oyster farm, and the chef’s shellfish showdown, where four talented local chefs will battle to prepare your favourite seafood dish and serve a gala eight-course menu.
On June 12, Fanny Bay Oysters will be offering tours of its impressive processing plant, and Cascadia Liquor Store, Toscano’s Mediterranean Grill and 40 Knots Estate Winery will team up to bring you a splendid seafood-and-wine pairing event.
If you would like to attend an outdoor event that offers a wide range of activities, take part in the B.C. Shellfish Festival Signature Weekend. This family friendly event takes place June 16 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox. On both days, chefs will give cooking demonstrations, and others will compete in competitions, such as an oyster-shucking competition, and a chowder challenge.
If you get hungry, don’t worry, because during the signature weekend event there will be 10 or more tasting stations set up in the park selling seafood and other dishes, which generally cost $1 to $6 per portion. There will also be 15 or more stations offering B.C. craft beer, wine and spirits. And while you eat and sip, you can listen to live music throughout the day.
Children will want to check out the kids zone featuring numerous touch tanks and interactive displays, including the first visit to the festival by the Vancouver Aquarium AquaVan.
That gives you just a taste of the numerous events happening during the B.C. Shellfish Festival. To learn more about the festival, accommodations and to buy tickets, go to bcseafoodfestival.com.
West Coast Seafood Boil for Two
An impressive spread of seafood, potatoes and corn, all nicely seasoned when being cooked. You could serve the seafood boil with such things as hot pepper sauce, cocktail sauce, aioli and/or melted butter, for dunking and/or sprinkling.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 20 minutes
Makes: Two generous servings
12 cups water
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning (see Note 1)
1 bay leaf
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemon, quartered
10 to 12 miniature potatoes (I used B.C. nugget potatoes; each was about one-inch round)
1 medium (about 750 gram) live Dungeness crab, halved and cleaned (see Note 2)
2 corn on the cob, shucked, each cob cut into four pieces
6 to 8 spot prawn tails
10 to 12 manila clams
• Lemon slices, for garnish
1 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
Place the potatoes in a five-litre pot (mine was nine-inches wide). Add the water, potatoes, Old Bay seasoning, bay leaf and garlic. Squeeze the juice from quartered pieces of lemon into the pot. Now set the squeezed out pieces of lemon into the pot.
Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce heat until water is simmering (smalls bubbles should just break on the surface.) Cook the potatoes for seven minutes.
Cut each half piece of cleaned crab, between the middle legs, into two pieces. When potatoes have cooked seven minutes, add the crab to the pot, return to a simmer and cook five minutes. Add the corn to the pot, return to a simmer and cook two minutes. Add the prawns and clams to the pot, return to a simmer and cook three minutes more, or until clams open and prawns are cooked.
Drain the liquid from the pot, then arrange the seafood, potatoes and corn on a large platter, sheet pan or other serving vessel. Garnish with lemon slices, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve.
Note 1: Old Bay seasoning is a classic blend of herbs and spices that has long been used to flavour seafood dishes. It is sold in tins in the herb/spice aisle of many supermarkets. If you can’t find it, Cajun spice will also work in this recipe.
Note 2: Live Dungeness crab is sold at some supermarkets and at seafood stores. Ask the clerk to clean the crab for you. They will remove the top shell and the innards, and you will end up with two half pieces of crab.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.