By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
What is it about the Mid-Atlantic that is just so amazing? Well, the list is long and varied, but for starters we can be in the mountains in the morning and in the ocean in the afternoon.
When I lived in Southern California, we made it a practice on occasion to hit dawn patrol at Del Mar Jetty or Lowers, and then jump up to Big Bear to ski or snowboard… or just play in the snow.
Of course, I could not ski to save my soul nor did I have the proper gear, so it was a riot to watch; definitely the fool on the mountain.
I imagine if I tried to do the same thing here, I would have to break out the 6mm wetsuit, gloves, booties and hood, as the water temperature would be just a touch colder than the Pacific in the winter time.
In hindsight, I think I’ll pass on this endeavor for now. I’m getting too old for that crap.
Moving on, this isn’t about surfing or skiing or mountains. This is about the beach. Today’s great lesson (I chortle in just writing that, considering how simple this amazing dish is) is in a classic seafood boil.
Knowing that we can get fresh shrimp from the Carolinas, lobster from Washington Canyon, stone crab claws from the same, thanks to the hard work of Captain Sonny and his family, my mind naturally gravitates to a fresh boil.
What exactly is a boil? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a pot of boiled food. Simple enough.
When you cook this, though, don’t keep it at a rolling boil, as doing so will create mushy potatoes and rubbery seafood. Just stick with the name because it sounds cool but simmer, simmer, simmer.
When you put your boil together, you may add fish, but cook it gingerly and remove it before you start stirring everything together. Otherwise you will have tiny flakes of fish and a cloudy broth. You most certainly do not want that.
Basically, what you end up with is a communal feast, much needed after our months of quarantine, and perhaps in preparation of another one coming up soon, depending on what the powers that be decide.
Either way, it is an amazing way to break bread — jalapeno-cheddar cornbread to be precise.
So when you decide to do this, there are some things that you should look out for.
Consider the size of the clams that you like. Personally, I love top necks as they have amazing flavor and actually feel like you’re eating something of substance.
My girlfriend on the other hand won’t eat them, rather preferring the littlenecks. I have to eat a hundred of the little bastards to feel even remotely satisfied. Again, the choice is yours.
However, if you mix sizes (which I did here for a wedding tasting to give them a choice), simply place the big clams in the pot and let them cook a couple minutes longer. With proper timing, all of the clams will be cooked correctly.
When it comes to sausage, I used a chicken sausage studded with granny smith apples. It was delicious, and the subtle sweetness was a nice juxtaposition with our ubiquitous salty seafood seasoning.
Hot Italian sausage would suffice, as would chorizo. Again, the choice is yours, and you will be hard pressed to find one that I’m not going to like or at least appreciate.
Sweet potato biscuits are another wonderful accoutrement to this bubbling bowl of beautiful broth and beachy flavors. Make sure you take the time to make them right, and top them with a cooked slab of uber-salty country ham and a nice slathering of butter.
Man, that makes for an amazing sandwich, in and of itself.
So as you gather the ingredients for this, do your best to support the local boats and seafood purveyors in the area. Everyone needs our help right now, and it’s not a stretch to say that you will doing yourself a favor as well.
Enjoy the summer, eat a big ole boil, and bring people together as we haven’t been able to for months.
1 qt. Chicken stock
1 # fingerling potatoes
1 Natural Light (aka Delmarva Champagne)
1/4 c. Old Bay seasoning
2 lemons, halved
1 tsp. Thyme leaves
1 ea. Bay leaf
3 ears corn, halved
2 sausages of your liking
12 ea. Clams
12 ea. 13/15 shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied
Lobster tails (optional)
- Bring the stock to a boil.
- Add potatoes and turn down to a simmer. Cook until tender. Remove the potatoes carefully and set aside until ready to finish the boil.
- Add the Natty Light, Old Bay, lemons (after giving them a little squeeze), thyme and bay leaf and bring back to a simmer.
- Add the corn and cook for 3 minutes
- Add the sausage and clams, cooking until the clams open.
- Add the shrimp and/or lobster tails at the end so that they do not overcook. Cook until just barely ready.
- Turn off the burner.
- Add the potatoes back to the pot and let everything rest and meld together for about 10 minutes.
- Serve with brown butter and more Old Bay if that’s what you like
- This goes great with Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread and sweet potato biscuits and country ham. Just sayin’.
— Paul G. Suplee is an
Associate Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College.
Find his ePortfolio at