Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spicy Foods Week Continues...Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil, Featuring Earl Campbell Sausage

Growing up in Houston during the Luv Ya Blue era in the late 1970s, I was a huge fan of the Houston Oilers football team. My favorite player on the team was #34: The Tyler Rose…Earl Campbell. I remember watching Oilers football games with my Daddy when I was in junior high and marveling at how powerful his legs were, and how easily he literally ran over the competition. Even at age 13, I knew I was watching sports greatness. To this day, he’s one of my favorite Houston sports legends. These days, he’s also legendary for something else: his delicious Earl Campbell Sausage products. You see...after retiring, Mr. Campbell started a sausage company. 

Earl Campbell Sausage was founded in 1990 and is made in Waelder, Texas. It comes in several varieties, including: Hot Links, new Hot Links with Cheddar, and Polish Kielbasa smoked sausage. I recently received a package containing all three varieties to sample and share a recipe that can be used for upcoming Spring/Summer parties…or tailgating when football season comes back around next Fall! We were already big fans of the spicy Hot Links – we love to slice them up and cook them with scrambled eggs for making breakfast tacos. They also make a quick weeknight dinner when sliced and added to your favorite red beans and rice mix.

As much as I enjoy the original Hot Links, I have to say that the new Hot-n-Cheddar Links links take the Hot Links to the next level thanks to little pockets of cheese that flavor every bite you take. I used them to make an easy appetizer for our Oscar party last weekend. I cut the Hot-n-Cheddar Links into bite-sized pieces and rolled them in strips of puff pastry that had been brushed with honey mustard. Then, I baked them until they golden-brown. They were fantastic: flaky pastry, juicy sausage bursting with spicy cheese flavor, and a sweet-tangy kick from the honey mustard. They were so good that I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture to share before everyone devoured them. If that’s not a positive testimonial, I’m not sure what is!

I used the Polish Kielbasa to share a special recipe with you…I considered several options as I cooked away with the sausage in my kitchen, but ultimately decided to showcase it in a favorite Southern Summer dish: Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil. The technique is easy – but the key is to use the best ingredients you can find! Smoky and flavorful smoked sausage, fresh corn on the cob, Texas wild-caught shrimp, organic red potatoes…and spices. Lots and lots of spices! 

This is Spicy Foods Week at The Weekend Gourmet, after all!! If you’ve never taken part in a shrimp boil, let me show you how simple and fun it is. The spice in this recipe comes from a combination of Old Bay seasoning and a boil-in-bag of Zatarain's Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil. That 1-2 combination will give you all the spice you can handle...I promise! I scaled this recipe down to serve 2-3 for a simple dinner, but it can easily be doubled -- or even tripled -- to serve larger crowds. Feel free to add crawfish if you like...those work really nicely in this boil as well!

Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp Boil
A Weekend Gourmet Original...inspired by several sources

Step 1: Fill a large pasta pot with a colander insert with water. Optional: add one can of your favorite beer. Add 1/3 cup Old Bay Seasoning, 1/3 cup salt, and one pouch of Zatatarin’s Crab and Shrimp Boil. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. When the water is boiling, add one quartered onion and 9 baby red potatoes that have been cut in half. Boil for 8 minutes. Add one link of Earl Campbell Polish Kielbasa cut into 2-inch pieces and three smashed garlic cloves. Cook for 5 minutes.

Step 2:  Add the juice of 1 lemon, the add the squeezed lemon halves to the pot, along with  3 ears fresh sweet corn that have been cut in half. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat and add 1 lb. large shrimp that have been peeled and the tails left intact. Give the pot a stir and let the shrimp sit in the hot boil for 4 minutes. This will poach them so they are cooked perfectly…not rubbery or overcooked.

Step 3: Lift the colander and drain the boil into the pot. To serve, you can place a bit of each ingredient in bowls…or you dump it onto a platter and serve family style. For outdoor parties featuring double…or even triple…batches, spread newspaper on a picnic table and spread the boil onto the newspaper. Feel free to serve the shrimp boil with paper towels, hot sauce, and melted butter on the side.

This is good, simple eating…and pretty healthy too! The Earl Campbell Polish Kielbasa gave the boil a nice, smoky flavor. The sausage pieces were juicy and full of meaty flavor. Speaking of flavor…the combination of Old Bay and Zatarain's shrimp boil gave everything the perfect spicy jolt – even the potatoes were flavorful and spicy! The shrimp came out perfectly cooked, with just enough spice. This is a complete meal – but garlic bread is an especially nice accompaniment.

Disclosure: Earl Campbell Sausage sent me a package of their products to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed are all my own.

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