Summer Feast 6-29-2011

Get it while it’s hot.

Put together your guest list. It’s time to plan your summer party.

We know you can look the part, but now it’s time to see if you can cook the part. During the summer, the best food and the best times are often had in backyards. Whether your backyard is a beach, a lake, a lawn, or a balcony in the city, you’ve got an incredible opportunity to throw a bash full of local flavor. We’ve picked some of our favorites. Perhaps you’ll have a different opinion. But as long as you don’t do like this guy, your summer feast will likely be remembered as the high point of the summer.


“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

—Henry James


The New England Clambake.

Before the U.S. was a country, Native Americans were having clambakes, and if something’s been a tradition for that long, it must be good. For the best experience, have your clambake on the beach. There’s nothing quite like eating on a blanket in the sand with a crisp sea breeze and the crashing surf for atmosphere. But the food’s the thing, of course, so if you end up having yours in an apartment with a sounds of the ocean playlist coming from the stereo, we’ll understand.

What you’ll need:

• A beach, or a large steamer pot if you have your clambake at home
• Clams, lobsters, corn, potatoes, onions
• Firewood—rocks optional
• Wet seaweed and burlap bags

How to do it:

• To start, dig a pit in the sand and make a fire, lined with stones
• When the rocks are good and hot, remove as much ash as you can from on top of them; or, if you’re just using a fire, let it burn down to red-hot coals
• Next, layer in the food—first, clams and lobsters; then, potatoes, corn on the cob, and onions
• Put wet seaweed on top, and some wet burlap bags on top of that, and let it steam for about two hours



The Mid-Atlantic Crab Feast.

Although it’s not quite the all-day affair the clambake can be, the backyard crab feast is an event where you should plan on spending an entire lazy summer afternoon. Picking a blue crab and making sure you get all that tasty backfin is something you don’t want to rush. The main thing to consider when having a crab feast is how many to order. A bushel will generally feed about 10 to 12 people, depending on the size of crabs––you can always make crab cakes if you’ve ordered too many. And be sure to toss a football around when everyone’s done.

What you’ll need:

• A large steamer pot
• Blue crabs
• Large tin of Old Bay seasoning
• Fresh, sweet corn on the cob

How to do it:

• Cover your picnic table in newspaper
• Lay out mallets, table knives, melted butter, and extra Old Bay
• In batches, steam crabs in a mixture of water, vinegar, beer, and Old Bay
• Crabs take about 20-30 minutes to steam and will turn bright red when done and ready to spread out on a picnic table
• Provide plenty of cold beer



The Louisiana Crawfish Boil.

Another great backyard affair is the crawfish boil. There’s something about it that puts a smile on everyone’s face. Maybe it’s the spices. In Louisiana they like their crawfish spicy, and we mean spicy, so for authenticity don’t be afraid to turn up the heat. And while you’re at it, cue the zydeco playlist to add to the Cajun atmosphere. You’ll know your boil was a success if everyone starts talking like this.

What you’ll need:

• A large pot with a strainer insert
• An outdoor propane burner
• Crawfish, and be sure to ask your supplier for “purged” crawfish (Just trust us.)

How to do it:

• Cover your picnic table in newspaper
• Spice the water in your pot with a mixture of hot sauce, shrimp and crab boil liquid concentrate, cayenne pepper, and salt
• Boil the crawfish in batches for five minutes, then turn off the burner to let them soak up the spices for 15 minutes
• Strain crawfish and then spread them out on your picnic table
• Pluck a crawfish from the pile, give it a twist, and enjoy that delicious tail meat


The tradition begins.

We’ve provided the basics here to give you an idea of what each of these feasts entails. You’ll also benefit from doing an online search to get all the specifics you need to know. There’s no need to worry, though, if you want to have a crawfish boil in Boston or a crab feast in Los Angeles. Seafood suppliers will ship next day, coast-to-coast, so having what you want when you want it is no problem. But be prepared to be asked if you’re going to do it again next year. Because throwing a backyard bash is something that can quickly become a summer tradition.

TAGS: Cajun | Chevy Chase | Clambake | Clams | Crab Feast | Crawfish | Henry James | Justin Wilson | Lobsters | Louisiana | Maryland Blue Crabs | Mid-Atlantic | National Lampoon's Vacation | New England | Old Bay seasoning | Randy Quaid | Summer Feast | Wedding Crashers | Zydeco

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