This summer my husband and I vacationed in Rhode Island with our friends Dolores and Steve. Dolores is a Long Island girl who knows her way around fish; she’s particularly fond of seafood boils, which I’ve enjoyed at their house several times. We talked about making a classic version but decided to do it on the grill instead: We’d try wrapping the ingredients up in individual-serving foil packets and let them steam over the fire.
It ended up being great fun. We started by placing a sliced red potato in the center of a large sheet of heavy-duty foil (about 16 inches long), then put crab claws on the top of that, followed by 5 to 6 shrimp, and finally a handful of littleneck clams. We broke shucked ears of corn and placed them on either side of the seafood. The whole thing got a generous sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning (Dolores kept telling me to add more, and she was right—about 1 teaspoon per packet), a tablespoon of butter cut into bits, a shot of white wine (again Dolores’s excellent suggestion) and two thin lemon slices. And instead of including sausage in the packets, we decided to put it directly on the grill (linguica, since we were in Rhode Island).
Next came the crimping of the packets. Dolores insisted that there needed to be good height over the center, so that there would be room for the steam to collect, then condense and fall back onto the food. We ended up with kind of a foil fan affair. (My goal for next year is to add a swan’s neck at one end!) We used a gas grill that had seen better days. We put the packets and sausage over direct heat, with the burners up as high as they would go, and it still took the better part of half an hour for the potatoes to cook through.
With the mingling of the seafood juices, the wine, butter, and Old Bay, the final flavor was fantastic—especially the potatoes, which soaked it all up. And the char on the sausage was a great complement. We did agree that the seafood got overcooked because of the extra time the potatoes needed, and next year we’ll parboil the slices for a few minutes before building the packets. And we might try Alaskan king crab legs cut into smaller pieces (to make them fit) instead of the steamed crab legs they had at the fish store—they’ll be a lot easier to eat, instead of messing with a cracker. Vacation cooking—especially with a friend like Dolores—doesn’t get much better!