Family First

August 14, 2012

This is the fifteenth installment of Sunday Dinners, a biweekly column from our own Tom Hirschfeld featuring his gorgeous photography, stunning Indiana farm, and mouthwatering family meals.

Today: Come rain or shine, Tom throws a family Shrimp Boil with Remoulade and Cocktail Sauce -- and with just a little bit of planning, you can too.

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It is dark out. I lie in bed listening to the rain emptying from the gutter. In my brain, I am ticking off the possible rainy day options, and canceling dinner isn't one of them. Where should I put the tables? I have two or three choices -- screen porch, front porch, or great room -- so it isn't a big deal. In my mind it is always appropriate to have a shrimp boil outside, so I choose the front porch. We will stay dry rain or shine.

Mentally, I start running through the list of other pressing projects that still need doing. Things like letting the bread dough come to room temperature so it can rise and I can get it into the oven, thawing the shrimp, and making the remoulade. Then I calculate the time it will take to mop the floor, set up tables, and sweep the porches, all before everyone arrives.

I go back to sleep, sort of.

Several years back, when we first moved to the farm, I mentioned to my sister that it might be great to do a dinner once a month as a family get-together. I didn't want it to be mandatory. I was thinking more like, if you can make it and want to come you're welcome, just call first.

Me being me, I got distracted from this notion -- I didn't have kids then, so I can't blame them. Being one of action, recently my sister finally put "Family First" into motion.

The reason we call it Family First is so everyone can remember it is the first Sunday of every month. Truth be told, I am the real slacker here. I forget, and even with the tricky moniker my family manages to miss it more often than the others. I suppose it would help if I actually had a calendar -- well, but then I would have to use it. That reminds me, I had better see when the girls' school starts.

It is my turn to do dinner. I usually have a potluck, but this time around I thought it would be appropriate to start doing a shrimp boil again. You see, I used to do a shrimp boil once a year for Father's Day, my dad's and Amy's dad's birthdays, and for Mama Betty's birthday too, because they all fell within a few days of each other.

Everyone loves a good shrimp boil, but I don't think anyone loved it as much as Amy's dad. He would talk about it for weeks before and weeks after, and tell everyone at his work -- or any stranger who was willing to listen -- all about it. When he died it seemed out of place to have it, but a number of years have passed so I figure it is time.

Not only that, but I use a recipe Emeril Lagasse did for Julia Child on her series and in the companion book Cooking with Master Chefs. So since it is her hundredth birthday this month, I thought I might as well kick things off right. After all, Amy's dad was very superstitious -- he would wholeheartedly agree with my plan.

There are several beautiful things about a shrimp boil that make it an attractive choice for a large party. First and foremost, it is easy if you follow a few simple steps. Second, the clean-up is brilliant, and third, it is some damn good grub.

Here is a list of the things you will need:

1. A big pot with a lid and a basket insert. Mine holds 44 quarts.
2. I use a portable propane burner and do the whole thing outside. Not one of the little hot plate things, but an actual jet burner with some real BTUs. It has to get hot enough to bring the pot to a boil. An outdoor deep fryer kit works too.
3. Long tables covered with brown kraft paper.
4. A beer cooler full of ice and Dixie beer, BYO lawn chairs, and some lawn games (horseshoes should suffice).

As the bread comes out of the oven, I notice the sun coming from behind the clouds. It is the best day we have had all summer, and there is plenty of time for the grass to dry out.

I get the beer on ice.

Shrimp Boil Menu:

Shrimp Boil
Serves 20
10 pounds shell-on 26-30 shrimp, thawed
3 bags, Zatarain's shrimp boil spice
2 bottles Zatarain's liquid boil
3/4 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup creole or cajun seasoning
2 lemons, halved
6 heads of garlic, topped trimmed off
6 yellow onions, trimmed root end left attached, peeled and quartered
2 bunches of celery, trimmed but left whole and rinsed
5 whole artichokes, trimmed of leaf spikes, stems peeled
50 red potatoes, golf ball sized, washed
6 pounds andouille or polish sausage
20 ears of corn, husked and broken in half
3 asparagus bunches
15 green onions, trimmed
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Emeril's Remoulade
Serves 20
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons French whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Flat leaf parsley, minced
juice of one lemon
salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 cups vegetable oil
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Cocktail Sauce
Makes 3 cups
24 ounces ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, more or less to taste
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground black pepper
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • LLStone
  • Burnt Offerings
    Burnt Offerings
  • drbabs
  • thirschfeld
Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


Kitchen B. August 15, 2012
Oh my, this is wonderful, colourful and packed with love! What a beautiful thing...and easy for me to replicate at home in Nigeria where shrimp are plentiful....and I even have Zatarin's shrimp boil......from my first US shopping trip!
thirschfeld August 17, 2012
KB I can't think of a better place to have a shrimp boil then in Nigeria and if you ever need Zatarain's just get me your address and I will gladly send you some.
LLStone August 14, 2012
I threw a shrimp boil in March, but wish I'd included artichokes!! And of course, corn wasn't in season...Great pics - I'll use your recipe next time!
TXExpatInBKK August 14, 2012
Yes, I never thought to include artichokes either! But love them and will totally steal that idea.
thirschfeld August 17, 2012
artichokes are great in it and I would definitely add them to the mix.
Burnt O. August 14, 2012
May have to scale this down a bit and do it at our cottage this weekend. We have a new fire pit to break in.
thirschfeld August 17, 2012
I hope you make it cause I think you will enjoy it a lot. Seems like a great way to break in a fire pit.
drbabs August 14, 2012
Love this! I grew up with this! Hope y'all had fun!
thirschfeld August 17, 2012
drbabs I use to do this every year and boy how I've missed it. We had a lot of fun!