Seafood boils, accompanied by tubs of ice-cold beer, are great options for making a large crowd of hungry, thirsty guests very happy without spending a fortune. They are quick, flavorful and not overly demanding on the host. Clean up is a breeze when you just dump the whole steaming pile of seafood onto a newspaper-lined picnic table and invite everyone to dig in. The whole event is about casual eating and socializing without pretense or distraction.
Whether it’s a clambake by the Pacific or a fish fry by the Gulf of Mexico, it’s hard to beat a summer seafood feast. A few years ago while vacationing on Cape Cod, a group of us all chipped in on a kitchen clam and lobster bake that was delicious and a ton of fun. This past summer in South Carolina, though, I encountered what may be the simplest and purest form of the seafood one-pot: an authentic Low Country Boil. Sometimes called Frogmore Stew, even though it is not a stew at all, this seafood boil is little more than fresh succulent shrimp, smoky sausage, potatoes and corn, but their flavors meld together perfectly. The scene was classic: outdoors with a big crowd digging into coolers for cold beers or sipping white wine while the boil came together. Our hosts opted for an informal buffet, dumping everything into the middle of tables and guests loading their paper plates with their hands. It was a perfect, hot summer afternoon and guests lingered until well after sundown.
By most accounts, natives of Frogmore, a small town on St. Helena Island off the South Carolina coast, seem to have no recollection of this specific dish as children, so don’t let tradition bog you down here. My version below gives a nod to New Orleans, using Zatarain’s spices instead of Old Bay and Andouille sausage instead of kielbasa. Use whatever you like or what you’ve got and enjoy!
Stove-Top Low Country Boil
Make a simple cocktail sauce using 1 cup ketchup mixed with 1/3 cup prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce and juice from 1 lemon. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
In a large pot, combine 5 quarts of water with 1 3-ounce packet of Zatarain’s Crab Boil seasonings and 1 lemon, cut in half. Cover and bring to a boil (allow 15 or 20 minutes for this step). Add 4 pounds of small halved red potatoes and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add 2 pounds of Andouille sausage, cut into 1½ inch pieces and 6 ears of fresh corn, cut in half crosswise. Cook 5 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender. Add 4 pounds of unpeeled Key West Pink or Royal Red shrimp and cook 2 minutes, until shrimp start to float. Drain immediately and spread out on a table covered with newspaper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with cocktail sauce.
Serves 12 Beverage choice: Ice cold beer or a Chardonnay spritzer