Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil is a classic one-pot meal from the coastal region of South Carolina and Georgia (the Low Country). Also known as Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Boil, Low Country Boil is a simple, yet delicious meal that is a lot of fun to eat. This particular recipe serves about 4, but by increasing the quantity of ingredients, you can feed a crowd. You can even find Low Country Boil calculators online to determine the amount of ingredients you will need to feed a particular amount of people.

This is a basic recipe, but you can do your own thing. I have seen recipes that include crabs, crab legs, clams, green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc… I added mushrooms to my Low Country Boil, as seen in the picture. Serve with crusty bread and cold beer.

Low Country Boil

1 gallon water
1 lemon, halved
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into eight wedges
2 pounds baby potatoes
1 sausage rope (about 14 ounces), cut into bite-size slices
4 ears corn, shucked, cleaned and cut into fourths
2 pounds fresh shelled shrimp

melted butter
cocktail sauce

Bring the water, lemon, Old Bay, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves to a boil. Add the onion and potatoes, return to a boil, and cook 10 minutes. Add the sausage and corn, return to a boil, and cook 10 more minutes. Check to see if potatoes are tender. If so, add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 3 minutes. If the potatoes are not tender, cook a few more minutes before adding the shrimp. Drain and serve on a large platter (or on newspaper in the middle of the table) with melted butter and cocktail sauce.

Okra Pilau

Okra Pilau

People in South Carolina love their rice. A variety of rice dishes are popular in the state, especially in Charleston and the Lowcountry.  At one point in history, the Lowcountry was the center of rice production in the U.S. After slavery was abolished, rice production shifted to the Gulf Coast states, notably Louisiana and Texas. Rice is still an integral part of South Carolina’s agriculture. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the growing of an heirloom long grain rice variety called Carolina Gold. If you have a chance to purchase some Carolina Gold, do so. It’s wonderful.

Pilau (or purloo) is a common rice dish found on tables in the Lowcountry. Just as there are many different ways of preparing the dish, there are also many different names. “Perloo” or “purloo” and “pilaf” being very common. No matter what it is called, the dish consists of rice cooked in a broth, often with meat and/or vegetables for flavoring.

This particular pilau can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetable broth. If not using bacon, heat 2 tablespoons oil to cook the onion and bell pepper.

When choosing okra, pick the smaller pods. The larger ones can be quite tough and fibrous. You can use frozen okra for this dish.

Okra Pilau

4 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 pound okra, stem end removed and chopped or thinly sliced (you can use frozen okra)
3 tomatoes, chopped (or use a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained)
1 cup uncooked long grain rice (try Carolina Gold if you can find it)
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet (that has a lid), cook the bacon over medium-high heat until just crisp. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until tender. Add the chopped okra, tomatoes, rice, and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stir well, then cover. Do not use a spoon to stir the pilau beyond this point. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid has cooked away, about 15 minutes. Fluff the pilau with a fork and serve.

Benne Seed Cookies (Sesame Seed Cookies)

Benne Seed Cookies

Benne Seed Cookies have been a part of my Christmas cookie repertoire for over 15 years now. These nutty little treats are a nice change from traditional holiday cookies. Since moving to South Carolina, I have found out that Benne Seed Wafers are a Charleston, South Carolina food tradition. Slaves brought benne seeds (sesame seeds) over from Africa and they became a part of the Southern food culture. They are thought to bring good luck, which I could certainly use right now. Charleston Benne Seed Wafers are thin. I like mine a bit more substantial, more cookie-like, so I add more flour than the traditional recipes.

Sesame seeds are super nutritious. You can find them in health food stores (bulk bins), Asian (Korean) markets, or order them online from places like Penzey’s.

Benne Seed Cookies 2

Benne Seed Cookies (Sesame Seed Cookies)

1 1/2  cups flour
1 1/4 baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sesame seeds (hulled), divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 cup sesame seeds. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together with an electric beater until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing well.

With your hands, pull off pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Place the remaining 1/2 cup sesame seeds in a small bowl or dish. Dip the top of the dough balls in the sesame seeds.  Place the balls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, seed side up. Space the balls about 2 inches apart in 4 rows of 3. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies a bit.

Bake the cookies in a 350° oven for 6 to 9 minutes (7 minutes is perfect for me) or until the edges just begin to turn golden. Remove the cookies from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

These cookies keep well in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 2 months.


Shrimp and Grits

We moved to South Carolina in July.  Since moving here, I have been honing my southern cooking skills and trying to learn more about the cuisine of this backasswards state.  Grits is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of South Carolina food.  These people LOVE their grits.  On my baby’s first visit (at 9 months) to his new pediatrician, I was told to go ahead and get him started on grits immediately.  I had never cooked grits before moving here and it has taken me several attempts to make decent grits.  I have found that the key to creamy grits is to use at least some milk when cooking them (I use half milk, half water).  It also helps to add lots of  butter  and to stir often while they are cooking.   Shrimp and grits is the quintessential South Carolina dish and one of the first recipes I tried.  There are countless variations, but we really like this particular recipe.  I serve the shrimp and grits with stewed okra and tomatoes and sometimes collard greens.  Very Southern.

Shrimp and Grits

1 pound medium-size raw shrimp (31/40 count)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 bacon slices, chopped
1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Prepared grits

1. Peel and devein shrimp. Toss shrimp with flour until lightly coated, shaking to remove excess.

2. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, and drain on paper towels.  Reserve drippings in skillet.  If you would like to reduce the fat content of this dish, pour excessive drippings into a glass container and only leave 1 or 2 tablespoons in the skillet.

3. Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings 4 minutes or just until mushrooms begin to release their liquid. Add shrimp, and sauté 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute (do not brown garlic). Add lemon juice and hot sauce. Sprinkle with bacon and serve immediately over prepared grits.

Adapted from the Hominy Grill’s Shrimp and Grits found in Southern Living, MAY 2009