April in Southern California marks the beginning of Rock Crab season, and I can think of no better way to celebrate than by doing a Seafood Boil. I mean, there is just something truly special about sitting outside with friends and family on a warm weekend afternoon around a newspaper-covered table, cracking crab claws and peeling shrimp with your bare hands, crab juice dripping down your wrists, dipping torn chunks of crusty sourdough in melted butter in between sips of a crisp white wine. There's music playing, but you can hardly hear it over the laughter and conversation. It's one of those moments when you really do feel like life is good.
If you live in the Los Angeles/South Bay/Long Beach/Orange County part of Southern California, you're in luck because you can get fresh-off-the-boat crab (and lobster, during lobster season) from Critters at one of their awesome dock sales. Chat with the actual fishermen who caught your soon-to-be-feast, and support one of the amazing small family businesses that form the heartbeat of your local community.
Of course, I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have access to fresh-from-the-water live crab, but you can absolutely do a fantastic boil using just shrimp or with crab claws from your local seafood market. The point is more in the gathering of people you love, especially since this is one of the easiest meals to throw together for a party. Everything cooks in one pot, and you don't even need any dishes! Just be sure to have plenty of napkins/wipes on hand, and you're good to go!
Finally, I've actually got two different spice blends in my product lineup that are PERFECT for a seafood boil. The first is my Avalon Bay Seasoning. It's my take on Old Bay Seasoning but with (in my opinion) way more flavor and complexity. I named it after my hometown of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, just off the coast of Southern California, and it's my go-to for all things seafood. The second is my Cajun Spice Blend, which will give your boil more of a spicy kick but is equally as fabulous, especially with shellfish.
Enough talk, let's get boiling!
3 fluid ounces (1 jar or refill packet) Avalon Bay Seasoning or Cajun Spice Blend
3 medium onions, cut in half and skin removed
2 whole lemons, cut in half
1 head garlic, peeled
2 pounds small red new potatoes (about the size of a ping pong ball)
1 1/2 pounds smoked Andouille sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 ears corn, shucked and cut in half
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, deveined (substitute spot prawns or crawfish if you are lucky enough to have access to fresh ones; otherwise frozen shrimp are fine)
6 live Rock Crabs (substitute 3-4 pounds crab legs of choice, broken into pieces, if you don't have access to live crab or are doing a boil outside of your local crab season)
Melted butter and warm crusty sourdough, for serving
Cover a table (preferably outdoors) with newspaper.
Bring a large stock pot full of water to a boil. Add the Avalon Bay Seasoning or Cajun Spice Blend, the onions, the lemons, and the garlic and simmer about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and sausage and simmer about 10 minutes. Add the corn and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the seafood and simmer until the shrimp are pink and the crab is a bright red.
Meanwhile, melt butter and warm up some crusty sourdough.
Drain the water or use a large colander to scoop everything direction onto your newspaper-covered table. Open a nice bottle of crisp white wine and dig in! Serve with melted butter and the warm sourdough bread.