I love a good summer party, and last weekend we had our friends over to enjoy a Southern-style low country shrimp boil. My husband is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and when I moved out there, I learned that low country boils are a way of life. I missed them when we moved back out West, so we started having our own boil parties. Having the pot out on the patio and having your friends participate in the creation of the meal makes your party a memorable experience. Use shrimp, crab or lobster…whatever shellfish your tribe likes. But make sure to follow my five “must-have” tips for any summer party to make it a real success.
Must-Have #1: Ironed Linens:
Use cotton or linen tablecloths and cloth napkins to give your party that extra special touch. No time for ironing? Drop off your linens at the dry cleaners. But really, a big glass of wine, an 80’s playlist, and you can knock out your ironing in about 30 minutes.
Must-Have #2: Coordinating Colors
Choose one color and carry it throughout your decorations. For this party, I used red, so everything from my chairs to the dishtowel napkins coordinated. Doing this makes everything look professional and well thought out.
Must-Have #3: Use Real Dishes and Flatware
Use your good dishes or mix and match. Borrow from friends or shop antique or thrift stores to find fun serving pieces and accessories. Save the paper plates for the 4th of July bbq.
Must-Have #4: A Seating Chart
I like to have a pre-set seating chart especially when my friends don’t know each other that well. Pair up guests with similar interests and get them talking before dinner. Cheesecloth covered sliced lemons with a cute red and white ribbon makes for a unique nametag and the lemon is a necessity for any shrimp boil party!
Must-Have #5: Open Bar
For my outdoor summer parties, I always have beer and wine, usually some sort of punch like my Lemon Pineapple Mint Wine Cooler, plus non-alcoholic drinks available for my guests. I love to use big and unusual ice buckets and I always set up a self-serve station. This ups the casual feel and makes everyone feel at home. But again, I use real wine glasses, and since it’s a party, I pull out vintage glasses or other pretty dishes that I don’t get to use every day. This time my vintage Pepsi glasses that belonged to my parents that we used when I was a kid for Friday night hamburger night, were front and center on the bar. Not using plastic makes for more dishes at clean up, but usually, my friends end up in the kitchen after dinner, we pour more wine, and they help me put everything in the dishwasher.
How to Make a Shrimp Boil
What to Use
A shrimp boil, or any boil really, is super easy and fun for all! You can mix and match your seafood and veggies and do it up how you like best. I used onion, potatoes, corn, kielbasa sausage, mussels, clams, and shrimp. A bottle of crisp white wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc) and Old Bay seasoning is all I use for flavor with a little salt and pepper to taste. You want to layer the ingredients in your stockpot correctly, so everything is done at the same time. We use a Bayou Classic 34qt stockpot on a propane flame, but you can also have a boil directly on your cooktop. That method works best for smaller crowds, but all you need is a large dutch oven. It’s perfect for a dinner party with four to six people.
Layer the Pot
Start your pot with the wine, potatoes, and onion and fill your pot halfway with water. Let the water come to a boil, cover, and then lower the flame and cook for 20 minutes. Add the corn and cook for another 15 minutes. Throw in the kielbasa and cook for about 5-7 minutes until its heated through. After this, add your rinsed and washed shellfish. Have your fishmonger clean your fish to save precious prep time. Don’t add any more water; this way the shellfish will steam and turn out perfectly! For seasoning, I always use Old Bay and a little salt and pepper. I use about half the container of Old Bay. If you like it spicier, add some sriracha
How to Layer Shellfish
We layered mussels, clams and then the shrimp. Keep an eye on those as they only take a few minutes to cook. Once the shells open and the shrimp are pink, your boil is ready. Pull the strainer out and drain the cooking liquid and then dump the boil on a few platters to take to the table. Once at the table, you can keep everything on the platter, but it’s more fun to dump it all out on a table covered with butcher paper. Add a few full loaves of french bread, butter, tartar sauce, and cocktail sauce, and you’ve got a shrimp boil party. Have some pre-chilled towels with lemon for clean up since everyone’s hands will be a little sticky. I served a peach, plum, and arugula salad on the side with multiple bottles of Pinot Noir.
I hope this post inspires you to do your own shrimp boil. Don’t think summer is the only time to throw a party like this either. Dungeness crab season is over the Christmas season and this would be wonderful for a Christmas dinner. You can boil the pot in your garage or under the covered patio and bring it inside all steamy and wonderful.
Have you had a shrimp boil party before? What’s your favorite way to throw a summer party? I’d love to hear from you below.