By Ann Cipperly
Low country or lowcountry boil is an easy way to offer hospitality during summer and fall months following football games. You don’t need fancy dishes as the boil is generally spread out on paper across the table, or it can be served on large platters. While a low country boil can be made in a small batch in a stock pot on the stove top, it can be assembled in a large pot over a propane stand outdoors for serving a crowd. It is fun to hold the casual, one-pot meal outdoors and for keeping clean up easy.
A low country boil is sometimes called Frogmore Stew, after a town on St. Helena Island on the South Carolina coast, which is believed to be where it originated. Frogmore is located near Beaufort and Hilton Head, and the boil is sometimes called Beaufort Stew.
The name Frogmore Stew was given to the dish in the 1960s by one of the owners of the Gay Fish Company on St. Helena Island. Its popularity spread after a photo of the stew was featured on the cover of Gourmet magazine in the 1980s.
Low country boil is a one-pot meal with new potatoes, smoked sausage, corn on the cob and shrimp and sometimes crab as well. The potatoes are added to the pot first, then the sausage and corn with the seafood added last as it requires less cooking time. Different brands of seasonings for shrimp and crab boil are easily found at grocery stores. Some use Old Bay for a richly seasoned boil.
Our son-in-law, Tony, who cooked in a restaurant years ago, makes a flavorful, classic low country boil and adds crab legs along with the shrimp. He has a large outdoor pot on a propane stand that he also uses for boiling peanuts. It is always a delicious treat when Tony makes his low country boil. Cocktail sauce and melted butter are served for dipping the seafood.
We have enjoyed traveling throughout the low country (some call it lowcountry), including Charleston, Bluffton, Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort, Aiken and others in South Carolina as well as Savannah, Georgia, savoring specialty “boils” and other regional seafood dishes. Flounder, crab cakes and shrimp and grits are also popular on restaurant menus, and in Bluffton their oysters are considered some of the best.
Charleston in the low country offers an array of sites to explore throughout the year with some of American’s most beautiful residences. The port city traces its origins to 1670 with stunning architecture among ancient live oaks. With a heart of endurance, the city has survived the Civil War, a major earthquake in 1886 and Hurricane Hugo. The city has been called Little London and, with many churches, The Holy City.
We enjoyed strolling along the Battery to observe antebellum architecture adorned with window boxes overflowing with cascading flora in a city often described as a “living museum”. Side gardens can be viewed through wrought iron gates as Palmetto fronds whisper of another time when Charleston stood as one of the wealthiest and most gracious cities in a young nation.
After touring magnificent gardens and homes, we were ready to try one of the city’s scrumptious culinary choices. Peninsula Grill has been highly rated over the years. Our two shared entrees were lobster and crab cake duo selected from a small plates menu and a sampling of seafood with red fish, crab cake and oysters.
We also shared dark chocolate bread pudding, a traditional bread pudding with raisins combined with chocolate, accompanied with chocolate bourbon sauce. The restaurant’s most popular dessert is a 12-layer coconut cake with pound cake layers soaked in sugar syrup, spread with coconut filling, covered with cream cheese frosting and coated with toasted coconut on the sides (Google Peninsula Grill Coconut Cake for the recipe).
Charleston has many wonderful restaurants. Other favorites are 82 Queen for she crab soup, Charleston Grill for seafood and Hyman’s Seafood for flounder.
Nestled amid lagoons and ancient, moss-draped live oaks with a storied past of wealth and loss, Palmetto Bluff is bordered by maritime forest and framed by 32 miles of riverfront in the heart of the low country.
On a sunny afternoon, Gullah hymns filled the air from the porch at the chapel in Palmetto Bluff. Across the street, we were waiting for a table at Buffalo’s restaurant and enjoyed the time listening to the music. The restaurant is part of Montage Resort and serves fish dishes, sandwiches and salads for lunch. At breakfast, the restaurant offers a biscuit bar with sausages, bacon and other accompaniments.
Another afternoon we visited Old Town Bluffton. Downtown Bluffton has good restaurants, including farm fresh dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients.
For touring the historic district in Old Town Bluffton, I was talked into taking a bike taxi. This is pretty much what you would expect with a seat on back of a bicycle. It would have been better if there had been a bike path, rather than being in the street with cars.
I can’t recommend trying a bike taxi, as I am sticking with leisurely strolling the historic district in the future. Electric bike riding is also on my list of things not to do again.
While traveling to sample regional dishes across the south is not easy right now, we can savor a taste of the low country at home and share it with family and friends. When making a low country boil for a large group, ask a few friends to go in together on the ingredients.
Ann Cipperly can be reached at [email protected]
Tony’s Low Country Boil
This recipe is for a crowd. It can be cut in half or a fourth for cooking in a big pot on a stove top. Tony uses a 15 gallon pot with strainer basket.
3 packs (boxes) Zatarain’s seasoning
1 large yellow or Spanish onion, not sweet (peeled but not sliced or cut)
Combine seasoning, whole peeled onion and lemons with 12 gallons of water. Bring to boil. Remove onion and lemons.
3-5 lb. small red potatoes
18 nibblers (corn on the cob)
3 lb. Conecuh Cajun sausage (sliced into 2 inch pieces)
Boil until potatoes are al den-te.
3 lb. snow crab legs
Boil for approximately 10 minutes
3 lb. shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Return to boil. Turn off. Let sit for five minutes.
Pull drain basket and serve with cocktail sauce and melted butter for the seafood.
Wendy Moynihan’s Low Country Boil
5 lb. fresh shrimp (still in shell – heads off)
1 pkg. small corn on the cob (frozen – mini cobs)
5 lb. red potatoes (cut as needed to uniform size)
6 Vidalia onions (cut in ¼’s)
6 lemons (cut in ¼’s)
3 lbs. Hillshire farms smoked sausage (cut into 2” pieces)
16 oz. cheap beer
Seafood Seasoning (Old Bay)
This boil is made in a large crab pot with a strainer outdoors over a propane burner.
Fill pot halfway with water, beer, onions, lemons and 1 cup of seasoning and bring to a boil. When boiling, add potatoes and sausage; cover and cook until potatoes are almost tender.
Add corn and cook until corn is heated (approximately 5 minutes). Add shrimp and cook, stirring a few times, until the water comes back to boiling (or the shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent). Do not overcook.
Pull strainer from pot and dump entire contents onto a table covered in newspapers. Sprinkle more seafood seasoning as desired. Serve with cocktail sauce. Serves 15 to 20.
Note: I always have empty bowls for the shrimp peelings and extra lemon slices to use on hands to take away the fish smell.
Low Country Shrimp Boil
Recipe is from the Mitchell family. This recipe was a specialty of the late Pete Mitchell. When the Mitchells were in Savannah, Pete did a shrimp boil monthly for their church. When the fellowship hall was built, Pete and another person who helped him prepared shrimp boil for as many as 160.
Shrimp –1/2 lb. per person (shell on, head off, deveined) 31/49 or 21/25 count
Smoked sausage – 1/3 lb. per person cut into 2-inch pieces (Hillshire or Kielbasa or Conecuh)
Corn – 1½ ears per person
Salt-1/2 cup to 1 cup per pot to taste
Zatarain Shrimp Boil in bags, 3 bags per pot
1 lemon, halved, squeezed and tossed into pot
Vinegar, 1/3 cup per pot
Onions, 2 large, quartered Vidalia onions per pot
Pot Sizes for Cooking Shrimp
40-quart pot with strainer basket – 5 to 10 lbs. shrimp
60-quart pot with strainer basket-10 lbs. shrimp
80-quart pot with strainer basket- 15 lbs. shrimp
Fill pot half full with water. Bring to boil; add salt, lemon, Zatarain Shrimp Boil bags, lemon and vinegar. Bring to boil.
Add sausage and new potatoes. Return to boil and cook about 15 minutes.
Add sweet corn and onions; cook for about 10 minutes until potatoes and corn are about done.
Add shrimp. Bring back to slow boil; cook about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring until all shrimp are pink.
Cut heat and let pot sit for about 5 minutes. Drain and pour onto covered pans and serve buffet style.
Or Drain and serve on table covered with newspapers. Everyone stands around and “digs” in for casual dining.
Pour up pot before addition of shrimp and keep warm in covered pans.
Add shrimp to broth and slow boil, stirring for 3 to 5 minutes. Then pour cooked shrimp into separate pan.
This keeps shrimp separated from boil for those who have shrimp allergies.
Wendy’s Savannah Red Rice
¼ lb. bacon
½ cup chopped onions
2 cups raw rice
2 cups canned red tomatoes (do not drain)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. Tabasco
Fry bacon until crisp; remove and place on paper towels to drain. Cook onions in pan with the bacon fat until tender. Add remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat 10 minutes. Place in 1 quart tightly covered casserole and bake at 350 degrees for one hour, stirring with a fork a few times. Add water if necessary. Serves 6.
4 skinless, boneless flounder fillets or other fish
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging fish
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley or capers
Wash fillets in cold water; pat dry. Salt and pepper. Dredge fillets in flour.
Place oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in flat, heavy-bottomed skillet and heat on medium-high until butter melts. Keeping heat on medium-high, cook fish on one side about 3 minutes (more or less depending on thickness of fillets) until browned and crispy. Turn fish and cook on second side about 3 minutes or until browned and crispy. Turn only once.
When fillets are done, remove to serving platter.
Lower heat; add 1 Tbsp. additional butter to skillet. When melted, add lemon juice and parsley or capers and allow to sizzle a minute. Pour over fillets. Serves at once. Serves 4.
Aunt Susie’s Banana Pudding
Mary Ann Swanson
4 heaping Tbs. plain flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine sugar, flour, and salt in heavy saucepan or double boiler; slowly add milk. Heat on medium heat until thicken. Beat egg yolks (reserve whites) and gradually add to hot mixture. Adding a little of the hot mixture to eggs will help to blend better before adding remaining mixture. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low. If mixture is too thick, add more milk. Remove from heat; add vanilla.
1 box vanilla wafers
Layer 1 box vanilla wafers alternating with sliced bananas and pudding mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff, adding approximately 4-5 Tbs. sugar. Bake at 400 degrees just until meringue is brown.
Chart House Mud Pie
½ pkg. Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
½ cup butter, melted
1 gallon coffee ice cream
1 ½ cups fudge sauce
Crush wafers and add butter. Mix well. Press into 9-inch pie plate. Cover with soften coffee ice cream. Place in freezer until firm. Top with cold fudge sauce. (It helps to place fudge sauce in freezer for a while to make spreading easier.} Store Mud Pie in freezer approximately 10 hours.
Serve on chilled plate with chilled fork. Top with whipped cream and slivered almonds.
Jennifer Elferdink’s Shrimp Casserole
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup stone ground white grits
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and cooked
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies (Rotel), drained
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Cook grits in the chicken broth. Stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp and next 3 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes.
Deviled Crab or Crab Cakes
4 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped onion
12 saltine crackers (crumbled)
1 pound crab meat
3 Tbsp. seafood seasoning (old bay style)
¼ cup milk
Melt butter in pan and cook celery and onion until clear. Stir in crackers, crabmeat, milk and seasonings. Place in crab shells and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Can also be made into crab cakes and fried.
Homemade Ice Cream
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla
½ pint whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
¼ tsp. salt
3 cups peaches or strawberries or fruit of choice
Pour 1 cup sugar over fruit and let sit a few minutes.
Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, condensed milk and evaporated milk in mixer; add vanilla, salt and fruit.
Pour in freezer container; add whipping cream (do not whip). Add milk to the line on the freezer and stir well. Freeze. Can mix ahead and store in refrigerator until ready to freeze.
Serve with strawberries
1 cup Crisco or 2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups Swan cake flour or plain flour
5 Tbsp. pineapple or orange juice
¼ tsp. almond extract
Mix Crisco or butter with sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Alternate juice and flour into the mix. Add almond extract. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake one hour at 325 degrees.