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Frogmore Stew

photo - Lee Bros. Frogmore Stew Come October in the South Carolina lowcountry, when the shrimp season overlaps high blue crab season, it's time to make Frogmore Stew!

Named for Frogmore, South Carolina, a town of about ten thousand people in the low-lying wetlands between Beaufort and St. Helena Island, this stew quite literally seems to have emerged from the marshes: it puts shrimp and crab front-and-center, and it's often served by outdoorsy characters, at hunting stations, fish shacks, and boatyards. And more than any other stew, Frogmore (which is also sometimes referred to as Lowcountry Boil) lives up to the spirit of one-pot dining, with whole, shell-on shrimp, split crabs, corn-on-the-cob, and smoked sausages bobbing around in a richly-concentrated shellfish broth.

Frogmore Stew is designed to be consumed outdoors, where its messiness seems less onerous, but if the autumn weather's too chilly where you live, bring the party inside; this dish gets people in an upbeat, fun-loving mood the way a good soundtrack does, and for that reason, we often serve it indoors with clean dish towels for napkins, sheets of newspaper to protect the table, and plenty of waster bowls for the shrimp shells, crab shells, and spent corncobs. For a rare treat, be sure to suck on the shrimp before peeling them - the legs and shell hold tons of flavor!

Below, we provide a simple variation that makes this rustic stew a more elegant dish for a white-tablecloth dinner. Whichever way you choose to serve it, Frogmore Stew is guaranteed to bring warmth and festivity to your home this Fall.

What to drink: A tart white like an Albariño or even a Muscadet would be the right match for this stew's marriage of shellfish and smoky sausage; if it's wintry outdoors, open a medium-bodied, fruity red like Beaujolais Villages.

  For 6 people
Time: 1 1/4 hours

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked pork sausage, Cajun andouille, or kielbasa (see Sourcery, page 258), cut on the bias into 1 1/4-inch-thick pieces
  • 2 serrano, Thai, or other dried red chiles, trimmed, slit down their sides, seeded, and flattened
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 large onions)
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) fish or shellfish broth, or Atlantic or Bar Harbor brand clam juice
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay or other shellfish seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 live blue crabs or 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3 ears fresh corn, cut into 6 pieces
  • 6 whole canned plum tomatoes, drained and crushed
  • 2 pounds large headless shrimp (26 - 30 per pound), shells on
  • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

    1. Heat the oil in an 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the sausage. (Don't overcrowd the pot; if you have a narrow-bottomed stockpot, cook the sausage in batches.) Sear until golden brown along the sides, then turn and brown on another side, about 6 minutes total. Remove with tongs and reserve in a medium bowl. Add the chiles and gently toast in the oil and sausage fat until they discolor and release some of their fragrance, about 30 seconds on each side. Add the celery and onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
    2. Add 2 cups broth to the pot. Using a wooden spoon, stir in tight circles, scraping up any caramelized brown bits from the bottom. Bring the broth to a boil and boil until reduced by one quarter, about 6 minutes. Pour the remaining 6 cups broth into the pot, add the shrimp boil, salt, and bay leaves, and cover. When the broth simmers, turn the heat to medium-low, uncover, and simmer vigorously while you clean the crabs.
    3. Using tongs, drop 2 live crabs at a time into the simmering broth and cook until their shells turn bright orange, about 2 minutes. Transfer the crabs to a colander set in the sink and run cold water over them. Add the next 2 live crabs to the pot and repeat until all the crabs have been cooked. As each cooked crab becomes cool enough to handle, remove the face (the strip on the front that encompasses the eyes and the mouth) with kitchen scissors. Then slip your thumb in the gap created between the top and bottom shells and pull off the top shell, exposing the feathery gills. Discard the top shell and the gills. Turn the crab over and slide the tip of a knife beneath where the cape of shell tapers to a point; lift the bottom shell off and discard. (If you find any orange crab roe, add it to the pot.) With a cleaver (or with your hands), split each crab down the middle and drop both halves in the stew. Repeat until all the crabs have been returned to the pot.
    4. Add the potatoes and continue to cook until they have softened a bit but are not yet fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn, tomatoes, and reserved sausage, along with any juices it may have released, cover, and increase the heat to medium-high. When the stew comes to a vigorous simmer, reduce the heat to low, uncover, and continue to simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the tine of a fork easily pierces the potatoes. Add the crabmeat, if using, and the shrimp, stir to distribute them throughout the stew, and simmer about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
    5. For optimal flavor, refrigerate for 24 hours, then reheat the stew gradually, over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Serve in large bowls, garnished with the lemon slices.


    Make Frogmore Stew for a sophisticated affair with these three short steps: 1) cut the corn from the cobs before adding the corn to the pot; 2) peel the shrimp (and devein them, if you prefer) before adding them to the pot; and 3) after you add the shrimp, add one pound of lump crabmeat and discard the split crabs.
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