Happy Birthday, America

Here we are, four weeks plus gone by when I like to blog weekly.  My family, nearly every member, has had extensive health challenges which have precluded blogging and even writing, yet it seems imperative that I pause this 4th of July to reflect on the blessings this country has afforded us and to send out positive vibrations into a universe, seemingly precarious, yet still predominantly good.  I’m working on my wood fire cookbook and I mostly want to wish you good eating, good fellowship, and to share one of our favorite summer recipes.  Happy birthday,  America, imperfect grand experiment that you are.  May you continue to provide that melting pot of culture and ideas of which our forefathers dreamed.

Johnny’s Favorite Seafood Boil

 Seafood boil.jpg

These ingredients can be changed up to whatever sounds good in your pantry, but this is a good place to start and works just as wonderfully for a plain shrimp boil whenever you are making a shrimp cocktail.


  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 sprig fresh tarragon
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoons garlic powder or steak seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 lemons, squeezed (juice reserved) and the rind plus 4 wedges for garnish
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6-8 quarts of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 pounds medium (about 30) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail segment left intact
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 2 lbs. prepared mussels
  • 3 ears of garden sweet corn cut in thirds
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage or smoked chorizo or combination of each
  • 2 lbs. redskin potatoes cut in medium sized chunks
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Drawn or melted butter


  • In large 14 or 16” lodge pot, combine all the spices, the lemon juice, white wine, water and bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Next add the potatoes and boil for 15 minutes, followed by the sausage for five minutes.  Add the seafood in any combination that appeals to you.  (If you buy bagged mussels you can add the plastic bags at the same time you add the seafood and open and add them at the last minute.)  Cook seafood approximately 5-10 minutes until shrimp is pink.  While seafood is cooking, melt butter in small cast iron frying pan (they make very cute tiny ones) and prepare or open cocktail sauce (I make mine ahead and bring it jarred:  chili sauce, large amounts of horseradish, lemon juice, and a dash of Worcestershire). 
  • Strain in a colander or clean fish net. Discard the cooking liquid and seasonings. Dump entire contents back into the pot.  Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.   If you like you can pour the butter over the entire mixture and serve cocktail sauce on the side or just have everyone dip into the melted butter also on the side.  Put a huge serving spoon into the pot and let everyone serve themselves.





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