Before we get into talkin’ bout shrimp let’s chat a little about exactly what the term ‘Lowcountry’ means because it’s certainly a treasured area in this country’s vast variety of regional cuisines.
According to John Martin Taylor, author of Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking, Lowcountry is an area that stretches along the South Carolina coast from the Savannah River in Georgia north to Pawley’s island encompassing about 80 miles of low-elevation land.
Anything north of that is referred to as Upcountry. Think saltwater marshes and Spanish moss hanging from oak trees and you’re talking Lowcountry.
The names of native Lowcountry dishes are as colorful as the fresh, local ingredients that go into them ie. She-Crab Soup, Shrimp & Grits, Chicken Bog, and Hoppin’John. Rich with crabs, shrimp and other fresh fish much of this area’s cooking is focused on seafood and creole spices. Lowcountry is a lighter, brighter and more veggie-and-seafood-centric than what’s typically associated with Southern cuisine. Particularly prominent on the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, it’s strongly influenced by Afro-Caribbean cooking.
So back to the colorful names given to dishes in this area. You gotta’ love the Cajun spice blend I found to use in this dish… ’Slap Ya Mama’… no PC going on in the Lowcountry!
The shrimp or Lowcountry boil is also known as ‘Frogmore Stew.’ No, it does not contain any frogs – it gets its name from the very small coastal town of Frogmore. Also known as Lowcountry boil, it is a one pot dish of shell-on shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes and spicy sausage all boiled together with Cajun spices then piled onto plates or more often strewn across a newspaper covered table where everyone eats from one large pile of spicy goodness. This is the go-to dish when families and relatives get together. In fact, the Costco deep fried turkey rigs were originally invented in the south to cook large batch Lowcountry boils over a kick-ass, propane-fueled burner. So if you happen to have one that you use for your annual Thanksgiving dinner, as I do, you can now get more for your bucks spent by having a couple backyard, Lowcountry boils!
Before we go to the recipe I want to highly recommend buying shell-on shrimp, preferably ones that have been deveined, which are normally available but you may have to ask for them. They are also known as ‘EZ Peel” shrimp. Reason being that there’s tons of flavor in the shells that are infused into the shrimp themselves as well as into the boiling liquid helping to flavor everything in the pot. If not, you can use non-deveined shell-on shrimp but you’ll just have to deal with the occasional one being filled with grit… not appetizing but not fatal. For those who can’t deal with the whole ‘peel & eat’ process, yes you can use peeled and deveined shrimp but you’ll miss a little flavor, and more importantly, some of the fun in eating this dish. This boil calls for cooking everything in a highly seasoned broth which is then drained off and discarded, which to me seemed like a waste so I saved some of it and quickly added some whole butter, minced garlic, fresh thyme and more Cajun spices and it ended up being a great dippin’ broth for the shrimp and potatoes. If this sounds good to you I would suggest making this broth ahead of time substituting some canned clam juice instead of the boiling water so you don’t have to scramble around at the last minute trying to pull this together. You can also serve cocktail sauce or a spicy aioli as dipping options to make things even more exciting for your guests. Paired with a crisp white or rose wine or ice cold beers and you’ve got some good, finger lickin’ eatin’ here. Ready?… here we go!
Recipe – Lowcountry Shrimp Boil
Note: Serves 4
» 12 each Small red-skinned potatoes
» 4 each Fresh corn, shucked and cross-cut into 2” pieces
» 1 pound Andouille sausage, crosscut into ¼” slices
» 2 pounds 21-25 size, EZ peel shrimp – (this will give you about a dozen per person, which should be plenty)
» 1-1/2 quarts Water
» 1/3 cup Old Bay Seasoning
» 1 can Beer
» 1 TBS Chopped parsley
Ready for a Creole bath
Place the water, beer and Old Bay in a large stock pot and over high heat bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook about 10 minutes. Add corn and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Then add shrimp and sausage and cook for about 3-4 minutes more. Drain everything and pile onto serving plates or a newspaper lined picnic table. Sprinkle a little more Old Bay and parsley over the top and prepare for some finger lickin’ goodness.