Saturday, July 21, 2018


My son Daniel and his wife Eli, who recently moved into a big house near Atlanta, Georgia, enjoy big Sunday afternoon open house parties. The kitchen is the hub of the house. I think they chose the place especially for the kitchen with granite-topped center island.

Family and friends gather in the kitchen (it was raining outside) to peel and eat shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn. The tall kid in the blue t-shirt is my 13-year-old grandson, Lucas. He loves shrimp!

That’s where Daniel spreads the contents of an enormous pot of Low Country Boil—shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes cooked in a spicy broth. Guests gather around to peel and eat the shrimp. We had Low Country Shrimp boil twice while I was visiting, first for the day Spain lost to Russia in the World Cup (sadly) and again for the World Cup final, won by France (yay). I made Andalusian gazpacho for friends and family to sip while the great pot boiled.

Daniel lifts steaming basket out of the boiling pot.

Spread out on the kitchen's center island, shrimp boil is a hands-on feast.

Shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn--a meal in a pot.

The gazpacho gave me the idea to try a shrimp boil back here on the Costa del Sol. I had to make a few substitutions and adaptations. Without that huge pot with slotted basket (it came with a gas-fired ring for cooking on the deck), I couldn’t really prepare a boil for upwards of a dozen people in my kitchen. But, using my largest stainless-steel stock pot, I made a pretty good spread for four to six guests. Here’s how.

SHRIMP (gambas, langostinos, gambones, prawns). The ones we had in Georgia were raw, frozen, shells-on, no heads. They magically split open in boiling, making them super-easy to peel. In Spain, I bought frozen jumbo shrimp with shells and heads and removed the heads. Sorry to report, they did not split open—but hands-on shelling is part of the messy fun of this meal.

SAUSAGE. A typical low-country boil, depending on whose low country it is (Georgia, Carolina or Louisiana), contains smoked kielbasa sausage and/or spicy andouille. In Spain I chose chorizo picante, a spicy red chorizo that is made with smoked pimentón, and bockwurst, a smoked sausage. Slice the sausages before adding to the pot.

America in summer! Corn on the cob is a delight.
CORN. On the cob, Cut ears in half before adding to boil.

POTATOES. Use small red and yellow potatoes. They need to fully cook in the approximately 25 minutes of boiling.

SPICES AND HERBS. In Georgia we used packaged spice blends especially for shrimp and crab boils. There are various brands and mixes, usually with paprika, cayenne, garlic plus “spices.” The unnamed secret spices may include coriander, mustard, ginger, mace, allspice. Some, but not all, include salt and MSG. At my local market, I bought a spice blend for making gambas al pil pil (sizzling shrimp, also known as gambas al ajillo). It contains pimentón (paprika), salt, garlic, cayenne, parsley, bay, black pepper, thyme and cumin plus potenciador del sabor. Yes, “flavor enhancer” is MSG. If you like really spicy-hot flavors, add lots of the spice blend.

FLAVORINGS. Salt is essential. I suggest you taste the liquid after adding spices and salt. Add more if needed. Lemon, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and beer are other suggested additions.

SERVING. Drain the ingredients (that’s where the perforated basket is useful—you just lift it out of the big pot). Otherwise, use a big colander. Indoors or outdoors, spread a table with newspaper and dump the shrimp, potatoes, corn and sausages out. Provide paper towels and bowls for shells and corn cobs. Icy-cold beer and Spanish cava go great with shrimp boil. Dipping sauce is optional.

At home on the Costa del Sol--a shrimp boil with a few substitutions. Dipping sauce is made by blending the cooked garlic cloves with mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice.  It's great with the potatoes and corn.

A la española-- shrimp boil with a side of gazpacho.

Andalusian gazpacho pairs perfectly with low country boil of shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn.

Low Country Shrimp Boil
Olla de Gambas y Salchichas

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients for shrimp boil.
14-16 cups water
¾ cup beer
2 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons spice blend
1 lemon, quartered
2 bay leaves
2 pounds small potatoes
1 onion, quartered
1 head of garlic, top sliced off
1 pound sausages, sliced
3-4 ears of corn, halved
2 pounds raw shrimp without heads

Place water and beer in a large pot. Add salt, spice blend, lemon and bay leaves. Bring to a rolling boil. (Taste the liquid for salt and spice.) Add the potatoes, onion and garlic. Moderate heat so water continues to boil gently. Cook 8 minutes.

Add sausage. Keep water bubbling and cook 5 minutes.

Add corn. Cook 8 minutes.

Test the potatoes with a skewer to see if they are tender. If they’re ready, add shrimp. Cook 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Use a large colander to drain off water.

Serve the shrimp and other ingredients on a large platter or spread out on newspapers.

Another sauce that would go well with the shrimp boil, Romesco.
Recipe for gazpacho.
Recipe for Sizzling Shrimp (Pil Pil).


  1. Sounds delicious! I like that you can adapt a US tradition to (soon) become a classic Spanish one.

    1. Richard: Surprising how similar pil pil spice blend is to Louisiana crab boil spices!