A Shrimp Boil is any kind of recipe that involves using boiled shrimp in combination with vegetables or other ingredients and cooking them into a coherent dish. There are many different types of shrimp boils that are of a Cajun variety and many are spicy, but shrimp can be prepared in any number of ways that can complement any favorite dish when cooked in a boil. Some recipes and some of those dining on them might prefer that the shrimp be shelled, but some of the tastiest shrimp boils involve leaving the shell on so that it traps in flavor and keeps cooking juices in contact with the shrimp itself. Some more expanded shrimp boils may also include other types of seafood such as crab legs or clusters, and clams; there is simply no limit on creativity when it comes to making a good shrimp boil.
When boiling shrimp it is important to keep in mind that when thawed they do not take very long to cook thoroughly. This is especially true with small shrimp, and to a lesser degree with jumbo shrimp. There is also the added option of cooking the shrimp in just plain water and perhaps with a bit of butter, or to cook the shrimp in a type of seafood stock for a distinct flavor. The choice often depends upon what other ingredients are going into the dish, but in all cases if the shrimp is to be added to another component in the boil and cooked to a further degree, cook them almost to the point of completion separately. Once they reach this point they should be drained and further prepared to be added to the other ingredients.
Some shrimp boil recipes include corn on the cob and potatoes, onions, and sometimes even mushrooms. Potentially any combination of vegetables or even other meats can be added to the boil, as well as any base sauce flavoring. In a shrimp boil that includes other seafood such as clams it may be necessary to cook them to completion before adding them to the rest of the dish, always be aware of these cooking time variations when multi tasking the preparation of the various ingredients. Basically everything else that can go into a shrimp boil will take longer to cook than the shrimp itself so it is best to start those ingredients first, especially if potatoes are to go into the final product.
If a base sauce is being prepared for the other ingredients to be cooked in, whether a tomato based sauce or otherwise, the shrimp should be allowed to simmer in it for a bit in order to absorb the flavor of the sauce. In some shrimp boils the dish itself can be built from the sauce up, slowly simmering a broth and diced ingredient combination while boiling in meats or larger ingredients.
Perhaps the simplest type of shrimp boil is to make what is essentially a steamer bucket. This involves using a tall pan filled with boiling water, an appropriate amount of butter and seasonings for flavor, adding the ingredients, then covering over low heat from a boil to a simmer to produce a steaming effect. A steamer pot shrimp boil can be easily made including jumbo shrimp, crab legs, clams, crawfish, or any other number of ingredients. The finished product can be served with a choice of butter and garlic sauce or another preferred dip.