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[Photograph: Jennifer Davick]

A lowcountry boil is the southeastern coast's equivalent to a New England clambake. Take the fresh shellfish catch of the day, dump it in a giant pot with some vegetables and sausage, and you're more than halfway to a giant feast for you and your friends. The boils I attended growing up were usually full of shrimp, potatoes, and corn, but there can be quite a bit of variance in the pot.

In Rebecca Lang's Around the Southern Table, the lowcountry boil includes crawfish along with the requisite shrimp, but crab would be just as welcome. Generous pieces of spicy smoked sausage bring out the Cajun side of the blend, and a big box of extra-spicy boil seasoning adds even more heat to the mix. Drain and dump the boil out on a table covered in newspapers for a fun mess of a meal.

Why I picked this recipe: Summer may be prime lowcountry boil season, but I couldn't wait that long. There's something about eating hot seafood with your hands that brings sunshine to even the dreariest of late-winter days.

What worked: Lang's cooking method is spot on. The components are layered into a stockpot of boiling water, seasoning, and beer (!) at timed intervals so the potatoes are perfectly tender just as the shrimp turns opaque.

What didn't: Nothing.

Suggested tweaks: If you can't get your hands on crawfish (it's still a bit early in the season right now), you can simply double the amount of shrimp in the recipe. I followed the suggestion on my crab boil seasoning packet and added 4 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water before adding the vegetables.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Around the Southern Table to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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