Living in Florida is a chef's dream. People come from all over the world to enjoy the weather, beaches and seafood that we often take for granted. The Florida waters offer a bounty of fresh seafood -- from shrimp to stone crab, spiny lobster, local clams and countless species of fresh fish.
Some of my fondest memories of growing up here in the Sunshine State involve friends and family gathered around the table with a meal that was just pulled from the water in the day's catch. So, I'm literally boiling over with excitement to tell you about a true "one-pot wonder" that is perfect for your next gathering.
I'm referring to a dish known by several names, which generally depends upon your place of origin. The "Low Country Boil," originally known as "Frogmore Stew," was said to be created by Richard Gay, a National Guardsman whose family owned a seafood company in the community of Frogmore on St. Helena Island in South Carolina.
One evening, they needed to prepare a meal to serve 100 soldiers. The men liked the dish so much that they named it "Frogmore Stew" but the name was later changed to "Low Country Boil." It could be considered the Southeastern Coast's equivalent to a New England clam boil.
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In many places, summer is prime low-country-boil season, but here in Florida, I prefer to wait until it cools off a little until say, the beginning of October. That being said, I am hosting a Low Country Boil with live bluegrass music by the Bradenton Junction Band on Oct. 2 at Renaissance on 9th. The event is open to the public, and the more the
merrier. Cost is $20 for nonmembers/$18 SEC members. RSVP by Oct. 1 to 941-749-0100 or visit renaissanceon9th.org.
Low Country Boil
2 whole garlic bulbs
1-2 bags Old Bay or Zatarain's Spicy Crab Boil
Beer, to taste
4 onions, quartered
8 ears of corn, halved
3 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
5 pounds red skin or creamer potatoes
3 pounds shrimp, shell on
3 pounds live crawfish
3 pounds Florida clams
Starting with the garlic and lemons, cut in half and add to a large pot of water. Next, add a couple cans of beer and the Old Bay crab boil bag(s), and bring to a boil. For more of a New Orleans-style boil you can use Zatarain's spicy boil bag and more crawfish. When using live crawfish, be sure to purge them in cool water with salt to remove any sand or dirt before adding to pot.
Add onions, smoked sausage and potatoes. Continue boiling, and once the potatoes are fork tender, start adding the seafood. Clams will take longer to cook and should be added first. Crawfish in the shell need about 10 minutes to boil and then turn off the heat and let them soak in the broth and absorb the seasoning. The shrimp will only take one to two minutes to cook, so add them last and do not let them overcook.
This is normally done outside with a large pot placed over a propane burner like a turkey fryer and if you have a pot with a removable strainer it will make the job much easier. After it is drained, typically it is poured out onto a picnic table covered with newspaper, with bowls ready for discarded shells. Serve with hot sauce, lemon wedges, cocktail sauce and melted butter for guests to use as desired.
I also prefer to serve baskets of hush puppies and freshly made coleslaw as an accompaniment. Now, add a group of friends, some good music and beverages, and it's a party.
Serves 10-12 hungry folks.
Chef David Meador, executive chef at Renaissance on 9th, can be reached at email@example.com.