Food & Drink

GET THE ‘LOW DOWN’

It’s summertime and cooking should be relaxed and effortless. The menu for our Fourth of July picnic fit into the simple category and couldn’t have been easier. Our low country boil, sliced ice cold watermelon and creamy homemade ice cream topped with a fresh blueberry sauce was easy to prepare, fun to eat and a hit with the whole gang.

Low country boil, a.k.a. Frogmore Stew, is a popular Southern dish and has as many variations as there are cooks. The Frogmore name is misleading because there are no frogs in the dish and it is not really a stew (although Michelle, my cousin, gave me a delicious Frogmore soup recipe that includes most of the same ingredients as the low country boil). Frogmore Stew was named after the town where it originated – Frogmore, S.C., which is a small fishing community on the coast. I read that Richard Gay, owner of Gay Fish Company and a resident of Frogmore, is credited with coming up with this stew. Over time, the name of this dish has changed from Frogmore Stew to low country boil or Beaufort Stew.

The basic low country boil is a simple combination of large unpeeled shrimp, hearty chunks of smoked sausage, corn on the cob and red new potatoes simmered in a broth seasoned with Old Bay and Crab Boil. However, blue crabs, crab claws, crawfish, clams, quartered onions, carrots, lemons and beer are tasty ingredients that can be added to the mix.

The preparation of this dish is simple and easy to create for a crowd.

This is how I figure the quantity needed per person: three pieces of corn, two to four sausage chunks, three to four potatoes and one-fourth pound of shrimp. The shrimp are cooked with their shells on and served peel-n-eat, or, if you prefer, you can substitute already peeled shrimp.

Shuck the corn (I pop them in half to make mini ears), wash the potatoes, and cut the sausage into two inch chunks and there you have it.

We generally prepare our one-pot meal in a large pot outdoors on a gas burner; however, there have been times I prepared a smaller quantity on the stove indoors.

The traditional way to eat this dish is to dump it out onto a newspaper-covered table and eat with your hands. I place sheets of waxed paper over the newspaper as well as giving everyone their own piece to serve as a place mat (that way the food doesn’t lay directly on the newspaper). Make sure you have plenty of butter, cocktail sauce, napkins or paper towels to pass around. I usually have a shaker of Old Bay seasoning on the table in case anyone wants to add more spice to their food.

The best part about this dish is the cleanup. Simply roll up the waxed paper and leftover scraps inside the newspaper and throw everything away. Kids love this recipe because they can choose what they want to eat, and they get to eat with their hands.

Don’t toss away all the tasty broth from your boil. Save and freeze a portion of it; the liquid makes a great base for jambalaya.

Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly, can be reached by e-mail at downhomecook@gmail.com.

LOW COUNTRY BOIL

Crab Boil, 2 teaspoons per quart of water

3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning (or more to taste)

2 to 3 pounds small red new potatoes

5 ears corn, husked and popped in half

2 pounds fully cooked smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces (I use turkey sausage)

2 to 3 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled

2 lemons, quartered

Butter

Cocktail sauce

Fill a large stockpot with approximately 3 to 5 quarts of water. Place the seasonings (adjust to taste), potatoes and corn in the water and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the size). Add the fully cooked sausage and shrimp to the pot; cook covered about 3 to 4 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp, they will get rubbery. Drain and serve. Pass the lemons, butter and cocktail sauce.

Makes 6-8 servings.

FROGMORE SOUP

1 large onion (1 cup chopped)

1 pound red potatoes (about four medium)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half

1/2 pound kielbasa or smoked sausage (I use fully cooked smoked turkey sausage)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 can (32 ounces) chicken broth

1 can light-bodied beer

1 1/2 cups frozen yellow corn kernels

2 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1/2 pound peeled medium shrimp, defrosted if frozen

Black pepper or Tabasco Sauce to taste

Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Set aside. Cube the unpeeled potatoes and set them aside. Cut the chicken breast into small pieces and set aside. Slice the sausage in half lengthwise and then cut each half into one-fourth-inch thick slices and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the onion, potatoes, chicken and sausage. Stir and cook for three to four minutes or until the onion is tender and the chicken is no longer pink on the outside.

Add the broth, beer, corn and Old Bay seasoning. Raise the heat to high. Cover and bring the soup to a boil. When the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium and maintain a low boil.

Continue to cook for about five minutes or until the potatoes are just becoming tender. Add the peeled shrimp and cook for another three minutes, until the shrimp are done and the potatoes are fork tender. Add black pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste.

Remove the pot from the heat and ladle the soup into bowls.

Serves 6.

BLUEBERRY SAUCE

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the water and lemon juice and mix well. Add the blueberries to the mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir two minutes more.

Transfer to a bowl; cool. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate one hour or up to two days.

If chilled, let stand at room temperature thirty minutes before serving. Serve over ice cream or pound cake.

Makes 3 cups of sauce.

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