One of the new gals at work is from California, and I have taken it upon myself to play Southern Tour Guide to help her settle in. For convenience, let’s call her Becky.
Becky and I have gone to museums and the theater, canal cruises, cultural festivals and SEC games—the full gamut. There is no dearth of activity in our area, so our orientation schedule has been pretty packed.
“We will leave no stone unturned!” I told Becky.
Becky smiled politely…and then I think she rolled her eyes.
I am on a mission.
Part of this mission means hosting a lowcountry-ish shindig. Every newbie to the South needs to experience frogmore stew. My first assurance to Becky was that despite its catchy moniker, frogmore stew contains no frogs.
I continued, “Becky, I would be remiss in my duties as tour guide if I failed to explain what is meant by “lowcountry.’ ” So I sat her down, put my arm around her shoulder, and started to spin my yarn:
“Becky, the lowcountry, in geographic terms, is a coastal region of Georgia and South Carolina. But much more than geography is the rich culture of this area. Part of that culture is the food, rooted in the flavors and cooking techniques of the Gullah people. Take one bite of a Gullah dish and you’ll understand that their food is an expression of love for those they hold dear. Lowcountry Boil is a paragon of that love language, ranging from intimate to epic one-pot feasts of regional shrimp, spicy sausage, sweet corn and fluffy potatoes, surrounded by family and friends.”
“I think I understand, Wise One. Thank you for the enlightenment.”
I tousled her hair. “Now run along, you little scamp.”
People are all about the conviviality of the beautiful boiled bounty, especially during shrimp season.
Georgia’s shrimp season opens around mid-June, right around the summer solstice when the baby shrimpies move out of their estuary nurseries and into offshore waters. They are harvested from June to August, when the waters are warm. Those beautiful Georgia shrimp taste like baby lobsters.
You may have noticed that, once again, I am throwing a recipe your way that precludes prissy people. This is another one of those elbow-deep dinners which requires a little work from your guests: they must peel their own shrimp (gasp). It is absolutely necessary to use shell-on shrimp because the shells infuse the shrimp with sweet, briny hints of the ocean. Guests can toss their shells on the fancy disposable table cover you’ve provided. Offer plates, condiments, forks, and warm, wet hand towels, but a lot of that will go untouched. C’est la vie.
About your boil—Make sure you have enough water to cover all ingredients and to allow them to freely move at a rapid boil. For flavor, we like to add a bottle of beer, several onions, a garlic head or two, and about a ½ cup of seafood boil seasoning per gallon of water (plus more seasoning if you sprinkle it on your boil).
So here’s how to plan your grocery list (per person):
- ⅓-½ pound* of fresh wild caught, shells-on shrimp, depending on your eaters
- 2-3 2” pieces of sausage
- 1 ear of corn, halved
- 2-3 red potatoes
*If you have leftover shrimp, throw them in a gumbo or over some grits. Mmmm-mmmm-MMMM!
- Make sure your water is at a rapid boil before adding ingredients. You will do this at each step until adding the shrimp. Say it in your head: always.bring.to.a.boil.
- Do not overcook the potatoes.
- Thaw your shrimp before adding to the boil. You can do this by running cool water over the shrimp for 15 minutes or so.
- Do not overcook the shrimp.
- Do not peel the shrimp. It is essential that you cook them in their tasty little suits of armor
Lowcountry Boil makes quite an impression and is so hands-off for the hosts. We use a 20 quart pot atop our gas cooker, but a stovetop will also work. Prep everything in advance, set a timer for adding ingredients, and chat up your friends all the while keeping vigil over your pot. (Timing is oh, so important.) Finally, when the shrimp turn pink, drain your booty and toss everything on the table. I usually leave such brawny tasks to The Man (and the guys who gather around the shrimp pot like they do the grill). I think it’s a primal instinct. Man like fire. Adorable.
Provide loads of cold beer for your crowd. If serving wine, fruity rosés or Beaujolais will pair nicely. And remember, you can never go wrong with bubbles.
If you make this Lowcountry Boil, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and tag #nakedepicurean on Instagram so we can celebrate together!
Low Country Boil aka Frogmore Stew (for 8-10)
- 2+ lemons, quartered
- 2+ bay leaves
- 2+ tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 1-2 boxes of Old Bay seasoning
- 3-4 pounds small new potatoes; halve or quarter potatoes if large
- 2-3 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 2″ pieces
- 4-6 sweet or yellow onions, peeled and quartered
- 8-10 ears of corn, shucked and halved
- 4 pounds fresh wild-caught large shrimp, shells on
- handful of green string beans (for color)
- 1-2 heads of garlic, cut horizontally in half (for flavor)
- beer (optional; for flavor)
- hot sauce
- cocktail sauce
Fill stockpot with water. Once the water is rapidly boiling, add lemons, bay leaves, peppercorns, seasoning, and beer. Return to a rolling boil. Add potatoes; return to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add sausage, onions, garlic and green beans; return to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add corn, return to a boil, and cook about 5 minutes more or until corn is cooked and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Add shrimp and cook (no need to return to a boil), stirring gently, until shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain. Toss on a paper-covered table (or a platter, if you’re fancy). Dust with more seasoning if desired, and dig in!