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Apps and side dish ideas for crab boil

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I'm having a party next Saturday (June 9) and we'll have about 25 people. We're having a man come in and cook blue crab, littleneck clams, and shrimp. I had thought I'd boil some potatoes and corn to go with and maybe coleslaw? I need ideas for nibbles to set out beforehand and for side dishes. Here are the requirements:

For once, I will NOT have time for much cooking or prep, which is why we've hired someone to come in and cook the main course. I would have liked for him to do all the food, but unfortunately, he really only cooks the fish/crabs he catches, and I did want good, local seafood caught that day, and he was our best option. So I'm in charge of the other food. I have family coming in on Wednesday, and then more family arriving on Friday, so I want to spend my time visiting with them, not cooking and doing a lot of prep work. We'll all be working together on Saturday to set up the back yard for the party, so we won't have much time for cooking,

Thanks for your help!

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  1. How about a big fruit salad, some cornbread, a cucumber salad or maybe a cous cous salad (served cold). For appetizers, how about melon wrapped with proscuitto. Maybe some olives and mozzarella from your local gourmet store/grocery.

    1. Scoozi! Italian Flatbread stuffed with garlic, green onion and Gorgonzola cheese- hot and gooey with a fresh omato basil freca/ YUM.

      Little cups of clam chowder - red and white
      Cheese and scallion scones

      1. My first thought is whether your cook will let you boil the corn and small potatoes (no prep but scrubbing) with the boil as is often done. Second I envision a really "hands on" meal, so I see watermelon wedges, romaine or endive fanned out with ceasar style dressing to dip into, and the cornbread done as muffins or sticks served with melted butter to dip into and squeezable honey. Unless there is a huge gap before the guest arrival and eating, with such a feast I like to keep the beforehand nibbles really light- roasted artichoke hearts (buy bags of pre-cleaned frozen ones), olives, and maybe baked pita chips with tzatziki or hummus.

        2 Replies
        1. re: torty

          I second the corn and small red potatoes here. Truly no work...throw in some sausages and whole mushrooms too. Super easy, and tasty...keep lots of napkins on hand, this is not pretty eating, so may not be what you had envisioned!

          1. re: jennisad

            Oh, I'm getting dishtowels for everyone. It will be a mess.

        2. Crab boils often include smoked sausage. You might want to check whether he's planning on doing that. If not, I'd recommend preparing some yourself. You can boil it with the potatoes. Crab and shellfish isn't all that filling. The sausage can 'fill in the gap' and is traditional.

          With the exception of corn and potatoes, you might want to stay away from side dishes to be eaten alongside the main course. Crab boils are messy, take up lots of room & attention. Any sides that need another plate or bowl and might make eating more complicated and could be largely ignored.

          Consider putting your veggies in the first course nibbles. A nice veg crudite (blanched sugarsnaps are especially easy and can be done ahead of time). Maybe bruscetta too.

          I like the idea of cornbread muffins and chowder.

          1. I've done this numerous times for up to 40 and am pretty happy with the mix.

            I have the guests bring bread and wine (you get some great breads that show). I do herbed butter for early on and they dip in the broth after.

            I take bags of rustic chips and open them up on the newspaper lined tables. A different bag on each table (I usually have three or so) of stuff you can't find at normal stores.

            I also make some garlic aioli, some drawn butter and some veg to cool your mouth (think sweet and cool like snap peas or carrot sticks). Throw artichokes in the boil with potatoes, many heads of garlic with the tops sliced off and a couple of sausages and have at!

            PS - buy some Zatarans or Tony's seasoning and put them in ramikins at the tables. People can sprinkle it upon their food as they see fit.

            2 Replies
            1. re: holy chow

              Thanks for the sausage suggestion. I'll definitely do that. I love the chips and bread idea and you are probably right about the side dishes. With that much hands-on eating, people are probably not going to want to fool with a plate and a fork too. I'll provide dishtowels and a couple of buckets of hand-rinsing water that we can change out periodically. And a hose-off station. I know that when I eat this kind of meal, I'm usually covered.

              1. re: Andiereid

                Oh yeah, one thing I forgot... I always throw a bottle or three of hot sauce on the tables.

                Don't worry about appitizers... there will be plenty of food at minimal work. People will leave happy. Oh so happy.

                Good luck!