How to Make a Pro-Level Shrimp Boil at Home
Chef Jeff Balfour of Southerleigh Haute South in San Antonio shares his tips
Spring and summer dining rely heavily on the grill, but sometimes what fiery grates can’t do, a humble pot can. Enter the shrimp boil, a flavor-packed combination of crustaceans, sausage, corn and seasonings.
“A shrimp boil is a classic dish in many cultures, including the Americas,” says Jeff Balfour, executive chef and co-founder of Southerleigh Hospitality Group in San Antonio. At Southerleigh Haute South, he makes a Southern-style boil using shrimp sourced from the Gulf of Mexico and kielbasa sausage as an ode to the restaurant’s Texas roots.
“We have one very simple move that makes our shrimp boil a standout,” he says. “It’s common to peel the shrimp, dunk in butter, and then add seasonings, but I noticed my fingers were coated in the best part — the mix of the seafood, butter and seasoning. I thought, ‘Why not combine all of these elements into one bite?’ So I decided to blend the seasonings into the butter and toss the entire thing together straight from the pot. The result was this beautiful mess of flavors all in one.”
When making the boil, Balfour likes using 16/20 size shrimp with the heads removed. “The shrimp need to be cooked in the shell to achieve the perfect texture and flavor, so this size lends itself to being worth the peeling process,” he says.
More pro tips: When choosing shrimp, you want them to be bright and free of any ammonia smell, with hard shells that aren’t slimy. Balfour says that shrimp hold up well to the freezing process, so if there’s any doubt about the fresh shrimp available near you, it’s always safe to score the frozen kind. “As for sausage, many shrimp boils call for andouille, but I find that a nice Texas-made kielbasa gives a better balance of flavor, and the smoky, peppery taste goes well with the spice of the boil and breaks up the repetitive heat-on-heat taste.”
When making a seafood boil at home, you can serve the bounty straight from the pot, or you can dump the contents onto a large tray — something deep enough to contain all the corresponding butter and juices.
Balfour also likes serving it with lots of lemon wedges on the side, additional butter, a remoulade for dipping and drinks. “Beer is a must, something light and bright to quench the spice of the boil, like a light lager or wheat beer,” he says. We knew we liked this guy.
Southerleigh Haute South’s Galveston Shrimp Boil
- ¾ cup Old Bay seasoning
- 1 bunch celery, chopped
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 3 red bell peppers, chopped
- 5 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 links sausage, cut into thirds
- 2 ears corn, cut in half
- ¾ cup melted clarified unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons blackened fish seasoning
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
In a large pot, add 2½ gallons of water. Add the Old Bay, celery, onions, peppers and salt to the water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the shrimp, sausage and corn to the seasoned water, and cook until the shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix cooked shrimp, sausage and corn with clarified butter, blackened fish seasoning, nutritional yeast, softened butter and hot sauce. Toss until the butter is melted and the seasonings evenly coat the boil.
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