Michelle VanBibber is a true Pittsburgher now, but she hasn't forgotten her Southern roots, especially a family food favorite -- Southern-style Shrimp Boil.
"My family uses a recipe that was given to us from a friend of my brother who grew up in Louisiana," says the South Fayette woman, whose husband, Michael, is a Pittsburgh native. She met him 18 years ago at Virginia Tech. "We have a shrimp boil for most occasions when we get together. My brother even did this for his daughter's first Holy Communion party years ago."
They use a high-pressure gas cooker, which makes for little fuss, even for large crowds. "All the preparation can be done before guests arrive," Ms. VanBibber says.
A shrimp boil is as casual as it gets. All you need to get started is a large stock pot, vegetables, shrimp and Old Bay seasoning, and a bunch of friends or family. You can add whole blue crabs (at the same time as corn). And if you want to do it authentically, skip the plates and utensils.
"In the South, we drain the water off and pour the contents directly onto a newspaper-covered picnic table." says Mrs. VanBibber, who notes that the hostess typically passes out bricks to all the guests for cracking the shells.
Find the recipe below. The only change I made was to do the boiling inside on the stove top.
And I've included some recipes for side dishes so you can toast the end of summer in Southern style.
SOUTHERN-STYLE SHRIMP BOIL
You will need a 20-quart (or larger) stock pot. Says Michelle VanBibber: "I modified the ingredients and used 6 pounds of kielbasa and 6 pounds of shrimp. I just add a little more Old Bay. If you have leftovers, heat up a pot of boiling water, add a little Old Bay and boil for 5 minutes."
- 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning
- 2 Vidalia onions, skinned and left whole
- 1 bottle or can of beer
- 4 lemons, sliced
- 5 pounds red potatoes, cut into small chunks
- 4 pounds kielbasa (smoked or not), cut into 2-inch pieces
- 10 ears of corn husked and halved
- 4 pounds fresh or frozen shrimp
Fill the pot halfway with water. Add Old Bay seasoning, onions, beer and lemon slices. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Add potatoes and kielbasa and boil about 10 minutes. Add corn and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Add shrimp and cook an additional 4 minutes. Drain the water, return ingredients to the stock pot and serve.
Serves 10 to 20 depending on serving sizes.
-- Michelle VanBibber, South Fayette
CHARRED TOMATO SALSA
- 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium)
- 1 unpeeled medium clove garlic
- 1/2 chipotle from a can of chipotle chiles in Adobo sauce
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Position an oven rack about 4 inches below the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Arrange the tomatoes and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until the tomatoes are charred on 1 side, about 5 minutes. Turn the tomatoes and garlic and char on the second side about 2 minutes longer. Let cool. Peel the tomatoes, discarding the skins and saving any juices that are released.
In a blender, briefly puree the tomatoes and their juices, the garlic, chipotle chile and 1/2 teaspoon salt. It needn't be perfectly smooth.
In a medium heavy-based saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. When a drop of pureed tomato mixture sizzles when added, pour in the remaining puree. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Adjust the heat to an active simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to a scant cup and thickened to a sauce consistency, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in the cilantro and the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Serve at room temperature.
Yields about 3/4 cup.
-- "Fine Cooking Appetizers: 200 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavor" by the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking. Taunton, 2010)
BLEU CHEESE-CRUSTED ONIONS
You also can pair this dish with grilled steaks or pork chops.
- 2 large Spanish onions
- 6 ounces bleu cheese
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
- Freshly ground black pepper
Generously butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Peel and wash onions. Slice onions thin, being sure to leave each slice intact. Transfer to buttered dish, spreading evenly over bottom.
Combine butter, Worcestershire sauce, dill weed and black pepper in mixing bowl. Blend well. Using a flexible spatula, spread cheese mixture over onions. Bake 20 minutes, then broil briefly until top is brown and bubbly. Serve hot.
-- "Gourmet by the Bay: The Virginia Beach Cookbook" (Dolphin Circle, 1989)
Arlene Burnett writes the Kitchen Mailbox column: firstname.lastname@example.org.