Firehouse Crab Boil
Note: We used a 60-quart aluminium pot with a strainer insert and did this over a propane burner outdoors. You could probably get away with a pot slightly smaller, such as a 45- or 50-quart pot, as we had about 6 inches of head space left in ours. This is definitely do-able indoors, but you may need to do it in 2 large pots on the stove and it will probably take quite a while for the pots to boil.
One day before you plan to boil the crabs: If you have a heatproof, submergible vessel that will hold 1 or 2 gallons of water that may be frozen, fill these with water and freeze until frozen solid.
In a very large (40 to 60-quart) pot combine the crab boil, lemons, onions, garlic, and 6 gallons of water and heat over high heat, stirring, until the powdered seasoning has dissolved. Add the crabs, potatoes, corn, artichokes, smoked sausage and hot dogs. (Everything should be submerged in liquid – if not, add a bit more water to cover.) Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Cook at a rolling boil for 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the mushrooms. Cover the pot and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the frozen vessels to the hot crab boil and stir occasionally very gently to facilitate even cooling. This will prevent the crabs from overcooking and will also force them to absorb the seasoning from the crab boil. Let the crabs sit in the water for at least 1 hour before serving. You can let the crabs sit until completely cool, if desired, or you can serve the crabs warm.
Using tongs or strainers, carefully remove the crabs from the pot along with the onions, garlic, potatoes, corn, artichokes, sausage, hot dogs, and mushrooms and spread out on large platters or on newspaper lined tables for folks to enjoy.
Some of the raw ingredients for the crab boil and ugly cake
The cooking setup
The completed boil and chilling process
Retrieving the boil
There is newspaper under the table cloth
Next to eating, dumping the food on the table was the best part
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
Sift the cake flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the vanilla and stir to combine well. Transfer batter to the prepared cake pan and bake until the cake is light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool slightly. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack and allow to cool completely.
Cut or break the cake into 2 to 3-inch pieces. Working on a large platter or in a large serving bowl, place a layer of cake pieces onto the platter and spoon or pour half of the pudding over the cake. Top with the remaining cake pieces and, using your hands, press the cake pieces into the pudding to form a round mound resembling a cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Place the heavy cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl and beat until mixture just begins to form soft peaks. Add the confectioners' sugar and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped cream all over the mound of cake and pudding and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours before serving. Serve with dollops of the remaining pudding.
Place 4 1/2 cups of the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a heavy, non reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a mixing bowl combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the cocoa and the cornstarch and whisk to combine. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and whisk until smooth.
Slowly whisk some of the hot milk mixture into the bowl, then add the contents of the bowl to the hot milk mixture and whisk until completely incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Continue to boil gently until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs and egg yolks together. Slowly add 1 cup of the hot cocoa mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Whisk this mixture into the hot cocoa mixture in the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, whisking constantly, until pudding thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Set aside to cool.
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small saucepan or in a double boiler and, when slightly cooled, whisk the chocolate mixture into the pudding base along with the vanilla. Cover again with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until chilled but still slightly pourable. Use half in the Ugly Cake assemblage and refrigerate the remaining half until thoroughly chilled and serve with the Ugly Cake.
Putting the cake together
Making the ugly cake uglier
We're not in Iowa anymore