“The best way to eat crabs, as everyone knows, is off newspaper at a large table with a large number of people.” Laurie Colwin
A crab boil is one of the easiest summer entertaining parties to host. Low on stress and high on fun, I make mine even easier by ordering the crabs already cooked, encrusted in Old-Bay style seasoning and picked up piping hot, right before guests arrive. Where we live these red-shelled beauties are Maryland blue crabs from the Chesapeake. Their Latin name, Callinectes sapidus, means beautiful swimmer. Their flesh is sweet and succulent and they are in season now. Aren’t they gorgeous?
I heap the crabs up on a newspaper covered table (layer 4 to 5 sheets) along with boiled new potatoes, lemon wedges, corn-on-the-cob and butter in ramekins, for dipping. We like to pile some Cape Cod Kettle Chips on the table too! And voilà, one of summer’s easiest and fun entertaining ideas. With a newspaper tablecloth and the eating done with your hands, this party practically cleans itself up! Let’s get crackin!
Because crabs are messy to eat, we give each guest a kitchen towel as a serviette. They can be bought by the dozen pretty cheaply online (Amazon) or at Ikea, about $1 apiece. I tied a wooden crab mallet with a picking fork on each towel with twine for a nautical touch. The long dish towels can double up as bibs. Have wet wipes and extra rolls of paper towels available too. Small sharp knives help crack open the shells. Scatter some around the table too. The centerpieces were casual summer garden flowers arranged in crab meat cans. Ask your fish monger to save you some. My local Seafood USA kindly rinsed some cans out for me to take.Hurricane lanterns offer candlelight as the sun goes down and their candles are nestled in seaglass in the same blue as the crab cans.
At the bar, a large hurricane was dressed in nautical-inspired coiled twine, seashells and starfish. Dessert utensils were nested in a Nantucket basket handbag. The hardest part of this party was feeling like I had nothing to do to get ready for it!
This party is easily adapted for a few guests to a crowd. Per person, I planned on:
- 2 ears of corn, cut in 3 segments (tossed in salted butter right before serving)
- 6 small red bliss new potatoes (tossed in salted butter right before serving)
- 4 large crabs (women will eat less, men will eat more but this number usually works well)
- lemon wedges
- 1 ramekin of melted butter, add garlic if you like. Optional. Some purists say no butter with crabs! It can be used to dip the potatoes or the corn too!
- handful of chips
We had several kitchen trash bins set near the table so shells and cobs could be easily tossed as guests enjoyed dinner. Soiled newspaper sheets can be tossed as you go or folded over. There is just something about a party where everyone sits around a table, uses a hammer to get at to their food and eats with their hands that makes everyone relax and ignites conversation.
Happy summer entertaining!