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Monday, April 16, 2012

Beaufort Stew or Frogmore Stew?


A while back, I was asked if I had any Gullah Recipes. If you don't know what Gullah is, it's an African-American culture that took root soon after the days of slavery. The Gullah settled mainly in the islands along the shores of South Carolina and Georgia, among them: Edisto Island, Coosaw Island, Daufuskie Island, and St. Helena Island. This gave them privacy to preserve their culture and customs; like basket weaving, cultivating rice, trapping and trading especially shrimp.

When I worked for a trucking company in the '90s, I had a driver that was from the islands around Edisto. His 'handle' on the radio was 'Geechee'. This is a word to describe the Gullah dialect, also a word to descibe perfectly how he talked.

On the island of St. Helena, where my Mama began a yearly pilgrimage many years ago, you can find the Gullah settlement of Frogmore. It is a simple crossroads with a two-story white country store on one side and a post office on the other. This is the birthplace of Frogmore stew, a boil of assorted seafood, pork sausage, and corn on the cob. My family in Rimini, SC, has always called this a Beaufort Stew. There is the Louisiana Crawfish Boil and the Lowcountry Boil. The names go on forever, and the fight for the origin of each name does also. I believe that when you get to the 'outer banks' or islands of any southern state, if you look hard and deep enough, you will find the deep hidden cultures of time gone past.

Here is my families way of doing this classic Gullah inspired dish!

•2 crab boil seasoning bags (or more to taste)
•several lemons, halved (optional)
•redskin potatoes (depending on size, 3 or more per person)
•spicy smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch slices (¼ pound per person)
•fresh corn, broken into halves (1 ½ ears per person)
•sweet onions, whole (depending on size, 1 or more per person)
•shrimp (½ pound per person)
•crawfish (½ pound per person) If Elliott's Landing has any left, they go fast!

This is usually done outside over an intense heat such as a propane burner. That's the only way to cook this much food all together! Fill a large steamer pot halfway with water. Add crab-boil seasoning. Add halved lemons. When the seasoned water comes to a boil, add redskin potatoes and onions and boil for 20 minutes; then add 2" slices of spicy smoked sausage and boil for 5-10 minutes. Add the corn and boil another 5 minutes. Then add the shrimp. Cook for 3 minutes. (Don't wait for it to boil again or you will overcook the shrimp.) Drain, and pile on a table.
Serve with lots of paper towels and icy beverages, plus melted butter for the corn, cocktail sauce for the shrimp, and sour cream for the potatoes. ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure to have a bottle of killer hot sauce for the cousin who's gonna say, "Aw that ain't nothin'!" Then pour it to 'em!!!

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