Friday Night Dinner: King Crab Leg Boil

Friday night dinners started a some time last spring.  Every week a few of us get together at either our house or Adrianne’s house to make a really fantastic meal.  Last Friday there was a resounding request for crab boil.  The first time we made this dish it was a sort of combination of Lel’s Louisiana roots and Sofia’s contribution of King Crab Legs-though it’s roots were experimental it became an instant Classic!

King Crab Boil:

The Ingredients:

  • The Eats:
  • 2 per person King crab legs
  • 2 pounds of Shrimp (for five people with some left overs)
  • small potatoes (depending on how many left overs you want I go with about 2 potatoes per person)
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (sliced in to inch and half thick slices)
  • A couple of bunches of asparagus
  • 1 ear of corn per person
  • a box of baby portobello mushrooms
  • The Spices:
  • 6-8 smallish yellow onions
  • 5 heads of garlic
  • 2 bags of boil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few sage leaves
    a few sprigs of oregano
  • a few leaves of basil(optional)
  • 1 TBLS of whole pepper corns
  • 2 Lemons halved
  • a little chunk of ginger
  • Hot peppers
  • Cayenne (optional)
  • Kosher Salt

How to start:

First things first you will need a really big pot!  I use my canning pot (8 Gallons).  Fill this pot with water leaving about 3 or 4 inches at the top.  Place on the stove and start heating.  You can add the spices to the pot of water while it is cool.

       It is a good idea to get the boil boiling with the spices at least 30 minutes before you add your veggies and seafood.  For this boil I had more time on my hands so I actually started it about an hour and a half before I even added the artichokes.  It really helped to enhance the flavor- if you have the time I would recommend taking it.

The boil bags are an easy way to buy a bunch of spices that you need for a boil with out buying a bunch of spices.  If you have an amazing spice rack and want to make your own bag- the basic contents is Mustard Seed, Coriander, Red pepper, Bay leaf, Dill seed, and Allspice.  Some boil bags will say spicy or extra spicy, if you like spice and you know that everyone eating likes spice go for the spicy bag.  If not, I suggest adding your own spice to taste.  I like to add hot peppers (the peppers in the picture are called Cajun bells) from my garden and cayenne.  I started adding a little fresh ginger to my boils and it really adds to the body of the flavor.  I only add about an inch by inch chunk.  I also like to add a couple of extra bay leaves, some fresh sage, fresh oregano, and a few leaves of fresh basil- mostly because I like to experiment and have an herb garden.  You will also want to add two lemons halved.  Squeeze the lemons into the water and then drop the whole thing in.

       Okay, so now for the salt.  I just sort of eyeball it- or hand measure to be exact.  I put about 2 handfuls in to start.  You have a lot of water to flavor!  Once the boil heats up and the salt dissolves, taste the boil for saltiness.  At that point add more if you need to.

Now add the Onions.  I just take the skins off and leave them whole.  The garlic I don’t bother peeling,  I just break the bulbs up and throw them in skin and all.  When the whole thing is done the garlic will be soft and can be squeezed right out of it’s skin.  It’s just like roasting garlic in it’s skin.  Very tasty!  Now you can just put the lid on and let that all come to a boil.

While you wait for the boil to do it’s thing, start working on prepping your artichokes.  If you are not familiar with cooking artichokes the first thing you want to do, after you wash them of course, is take some kitchen scissors and snip of the very top of each leaf you can get to.  There is a small spinney part at the top of each leaf that does not feel so good on the hands or in your mouth, so it is best to get rid of this before eating.  You won’t be able to reach all the leaves as they become tighter around the top of the artichoke. The next thing that you want to do is to cut the very top of the artichoke off.  I recommend using a very large, sharp knife.  You will notice that there is a stem.  You want to remove this part as well so that when serve the artichokes they will sit nicely on a plate or bowl.   When you are finished the artichokes should look something like this:

Now that you have your artichokes prepped, start to prep the rest of the veggies.  I leave the potatoes and mushrooms whole.  I thickly slice the sweet potatoes.  For the asparagus, you just want to snap of the bottom bit that can be little woody.  Shuck the corn and snap the ears in half.  When you are done it should all look a little something like this:

After the boil has been boiling for some time and you are about 30-40 minutes from eating the appetizer, it is time to put the artichokes in the pot.

       At this point I also start melting butter in a small sauce pan with a little garlic.  Don’t underestimate how much butter your guests will like with their boil.  We usually go through a pound or more with five people.  It sounds like a lot, but between dipping the artichokes, crab, shrimp, veggies…  You will see how quickly a pound of butter can disappear!

The Artichokes are going to want to float.  I like to use tongs to push them under the water and get some of the air out of them.  They will always float, but I think it seems to help get the water and flavor of the boil all the way on the inside.

It takes about 30 minutes give or take about 10 minutes on either side.  The real trick is just testing them.  After they have been boiling for a while, use your tongs to  pull on one of the outer leaves.  If it pulls off easily they are probably close to done.  Let the leaf cool and then try eating.  If the bottom part of the leaf is soft and easy to scrape off with your teeth, you are ready to pull the artichokes out of the boil.

I didn’t capture a picture of this part because everyone was too excited to eat!  I serve the artichokes individually in a small bowl.  Each person gets their own artichoke and their own little (or not so little) bowl of garlic butter.  Then we put a big plate in the center for the discarded leaves.

If you think you will be eating the main meal right after the artichokes, you can put the crab legs, shrimp, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms in the boil right before you sit down to eat.  It takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes for the crab legs, shrimp and everything else to cook.  After around 10 to 15 minutes I pull the crab legs out of the boil.

At this point I throw the corn, asparagus, and for this particular boil I also added some green beans that I had picked that day in my garden.

I only give the boil another 4-5 minutes.  Test the asparagus as a good measure time.  When the asparagus is done pull everything out of the boil.  The easiest way I have found is to have a really big bowl on the counter next to the boil and use a small wire mesh strainer to sort of go fishing.  Then just dump your catch into the big bowl.  I serve the boil this way too.  I put the crab legs on one platter and everything else in a big bowl or platter.  Add a couple of tongs for everyone to serve themselves and you are ready.  Eating crab is inherently messy and is done with your hands so this serving style fits the atmosphere that will soon be created by your hungry guests.  Sleeves rolled up and fingers covered in butter.  Enjoy this meal with great friends and few cold beers!

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