Country of the Week: USA / Low Country Boil
The best part about doing a Low Country Boil are the looks you get when you dump a big pot of food on the table. My kids thought I went crazy, but no, I just went Low Country.
Have you ever been to a Low Country Boil? I first heard about this culinary phenomenon from our friends in Atlanta who, I think, attend one every Christmas. So when I was pondering fun foods to make for our imaginary journey through the South, this seemed like a great idea.
While looking for an authentic recipe, I learned that this dish was originally called Frogmore Stew after its creator Richard Gay, a National Guardsman from Frogmore, South Carolina. Legend has it that Gay created Frogmore Stew in the 1960s when he had to come up with something to feed his 100 fellow serviceman. Frogmore eventually disappeared from the map and the stew became known as Low Country Boil. (Or maybe people realized that “Frogmore” isn’t the most appetizing name for a stew.)
Nearly every recipe I came across for the classic Low Country Boil lists the main ingredients as shrimp, smoked sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes. Some versions also contain mussels, clams, oysters, or crab. The seasonings vary quite a bit, but the one ingredient that’s always used is crab boil seasoning, a mix of spices such as mustard seeds, coriander, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill, and allspice. Zatarain’s makes a crab boil seasoning, but I’ve been a fan of Old Bay ever since our trip to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where we celebrated turning 40 and ate enormous quantities of boiled shrimp.
One thing I read explained that while the Low Country Boil is popular in large part because you can’t mess it up, a lot of recipes are too bland. So I combed through a bunch of recipes looking for the most commonly-mentioned items and this is what I came up with.
Low Country Boil
4 quarts water
1 can beer
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
4 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
1/3 cup Old Bay Seasoning mix
8 small red potatoes, cut in half
2 lbs. smoked sausage (kielbasa or andouille, cut into 1-inch pieces)
8 ears fresh corn, cut in half
4 lbs. fresh shrimp, large or jumbo
In the largest pot you have, bring the first seven ingredients to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook at a slow boil for about 5 minutes or until they begin to get tender.
Add the sausage and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook for another 7 minutes. Add the shrimp in their shells and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are just pink. (Don’t cook the shrimp any longer than 4 minutes or they’ll get rubbery.)
Drain the liquid and serve in a big bowl or mound everything on a newspaper-covered table. You can use paper plates if you must, but no utensils!
You can add a salad and a nice crusty loaf of bread or biscuits.