Get low

Photo taken by Stacia Marselos
I've been wanting to make this low country boil for several summers and now I know what I was missing. This particular recipe comes from a family friend, Paul Campbell. As far as I'm aware, he made it whilst visiting our place in Northern Michigan several summers back and it's been talked about with a great deal of longing in family food conversations. In general, a seafood boil is popular in many coastal states in the United States, particularly in Louisiana and South Carolina. Maryland and New England have their own versions of seafood boils, but this low country boil is just that- from the low country.

First things first. Your shellfish of choice is crucial. Get it fresh and don't compromise. We used the freshest shrimp and mussels, we could lay our land-locked hands on, but craw fish would be great if you're lucky enough to be in Louisiana. Secondly, it doesn't hurt to get the sweetest sweet corn. At last! Something we mid-westerners can score quite easily!

Lastly, the seasoned broth that your stew cooks in can be tweaked to your tasting (some people add hot sauce, lemon, parsley), but start with a crab boil seasoning packet widely available in US supermarkets. For my friends outside the borders, try this mix, but either way, beware: this is potent stuff! Four of us were hovering over the brew and couldn't stop sneezing. No joke!

Before you embark on making a low country boil, remember a few final tips:
  1. This is simple stuff and it's very easy to make, but you need a very large pot- at least 10 gallons.
  2. I urge you to assign a "Boil Master" who will be in charge of ensuring ingredients are added in the proper sequence and that the water comes to the boil between each addition. Do not make the mistake of giving this job to two people. Arguments can break out. You've been warned.
Typically, this dish is poured out over newspaper on a picnic table where a crowd dives in with juices dribbling down chins. If you want to be a bit more civilized, don't forget the amazing broth at the bottom of the pan. It should be ladled generously over everything and mopped up with crusty bread and a crisp green salad.

Low Country Boil
Adapted from Paul Campbell
Served 6-8

4 stalks of celery, chopped roughly
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 crab boil seasoning bag (or make your own)
3 gallons of water
1 4-5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
6 ears of corn, snapped in half
2 lb shrimp, peeled, de-veined and tail left on
1 1/2 lb mussels
3 lb sausages cut into bite size pieces- we used hot Italian and mild Italian
3 tbsp kosher salt
plenty of freshly cracked pepper

Quick tip for mussels: ask your fishmonger to keep them on ice for you. When you get them home, dump them in a colander and rinse while you de-beard them- pulling the little grassy/beardy bits from each shell. Discard any mussels that are already open. If they are open slightly, tap them on the counter. If they don't close shut, discard them.

Add the water to the pot, add the salt, pepper, crab boil seasoning bag, celery and onion. Bring to the boil and simmer briskly for 10-15 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sausages and cook for a further 10 minutes and then add the corn. Bring it back to a boil and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add your shrimp and mussels and put the lid on. Boil for a further 5 minutes and discard any mussels that have not opened during cooking.

Your low country boil is now ready for serving. Pour it over newspaper or ladle it onto a big serving platter. If you're a corn lover like me, you'll want to cook all your corn in the crab boil seasoning from now on!


  1. Thanks Lisa !! Paul is beaming from ear to ear!!!

  2. Lisa, it looks sooooooo good. My mouth is watering!!!