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What sides should I make for my annual crab boil?

Hounds, flex your creative muscles!

My husband and I are getting ready for our third annual crab boil for 4th of July, and I need some ideas of new sides to make. This is a potluck, so we always end up with a ton of random stuff from steaks and hotdogs and frito pie to kalbi "sushi" and peach cobbler. Usually, I make the following:

crab boil (which has potatoes and shrimp and veggies and all that normal junk)
NC style pulled pork with sandwich fixings
Guac
Chips/Salsa
Store-bought potato salad
Grilled corn
giant bowl o alcoholic punch (tbd by husband.)

This year, I have more time leading up to the actual day so I'd like to make some more exciting stuff, however we have a few limitations.
1) We live in NYC and, while our apartment is pretty big, we don't have a TON of counter space or fridge space. For this reason, things like salads that can be room temp-ish are good (bowls take up less footprint) and things like deviled eggs are not good.
2) I will have basically no time on the 4th to actually cook anything we we spend the morning hours picking up crabs/lobsters/kegs/ice etc. So make ahead STRONGLY preferred.
3) It's going to be hot, so using the oven on that day is not ideal but can be done in advance.
4) I am a good enough baker of easy stuff (muffins, biscuits, brownies, etc) but not of pie crusts or anything overly sensitive.

So basically I'm looking for some interesting, make ahead, doesn't-need-to-sit-on-a-tray types of dishes. We expect about 45 people, but it doesn't need to feed that many.

What would YOU like to eat at a crabboil!?

 
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  1. One of my all time favorite meals is steamed Dungeness crab, a big green salad, hot sourdough bread, and a glass of chardonnay.

    1. Seeing as you're having crab and pork I'd like a nice fennel salad.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Paprikaboy

        Ooo this is a good idea! I always forget about fennel and am surprised by how much I like it. Do you have a specific recipe you like?

        1. re: CarmenR

          Usually I just slice it as thinly as possible and toss in a vinaigrette and shave on some parmesan and maybe a few torn basil leaves.Sometimes add thin slices of chargrilled courgettes. Obviously may want to adapt it a little to go with the crab.

          1. re: CarmenR

            I love fennel and citrus - blood orange, grapefruit, etc. A little something bitter, like endive or radicchio, also goes well. Toss it all in a vinaigrette and you're good to go (and this is fine room temp-ish, doesn't need to be fridge cold).

        2. That picture looks good enough to eat!

          Do you serve cole slaw with the pulled pork?

          I might add bread and sliced watermelon and/or grapes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tara57

            I do! I get supermarket coleslaw for authenticity sake (growing up in NC we didn't *do* gourmet slaw!)

            We do usually have bread as someone generally brings roughly 5 lbs of cheese...

          2. Your boil looks great!! Looks like you have more or less the traditional boil - but I noticed that there are potatoes in the boil and then a side potato salad. You could consider putting other veggies in the boil. Cauliflower is really good, seems to adsorb the flavors well. Also green beans, asparagus, orange beet chunks, whole peppers, mushrooms near the end, etc.If there are a lot of purists coming, then that might not work. I get tired of the typical potatoes, sausage, and corn in our crawfish boils, so I always add something non-traditional. You already have a varied mix. I guess that's from last year?

            Plus, you will have 20 other side dishes that the guests will bring!

            1 Reply
            1. re: rudeboy

              I'm guessing many of the guests are from New York City and haven't gotten anywhere near bored with the traditional ingredients.

            2. I have, to very good effect, contrasted cold items against the crab. A standard 1950's cheater's tomato aspic (see any spiral-bound cookbook from the Eisenhower era) or a daube glace (see any creole cookbook--you can cheat with Knox gelatine. For the Fourth of July, who cares?) I'll put the jelied things in ice cube trays and make a few dozen of them in advance. They will melt in ahurry so have some means of keeping them cold.

              Also, gazapcho works or I've used cold watercress soup, or a cold spinach and lemon cream soup. Anything for the contrast.