Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Low Country Boil, All-American Alternative to July the 4th BBQ.

By Laura Medina

Before Americans settled, conquered, and commercialized the interior lands for raising cattle and growing fields of corn and wheat, they landed on the beach and feasted on seafood for their earliest holidays, like Independence Day, our July the 4th.

Last Sunday's Low Country Boil was Chef Susan Goin's Tavern's idea of an experiment.  What she and her new chef, Amy from Columbia, South Carolina, may subconsciously did was celebrate July the 4th on a the country's earliest settlers celebrate their July the 4th, harvesting whatever they dragged out of the ocean then boil the heck out of it on the beach.  This, my friends, was the earliest July the 4th meal, the Low Country Broil.

Sure, our Yankee cousins may have their "Steamers" but since Charleston was America's first "cosmopolitan" city, their Low Country Boil can lay to claim as the earliest July the 4th celebration.

Let's get back to the future, Chef Susan Goin said this Sunday night's Low Country Boil was an unexpected success.  She was pleased by the number of people turning out.  She was more amazed by how these "urbane" Westside Los Angelenos are willing to dig deep into the seafood pail and get their hands dirty cracking and peeling crab legs and crawfish.  It was a nice change of pace from the usual formalities at Tavern and other Los Angeles restaurants in its circle.

Remember, the 4th of July is about celebrating and feasting on indigenous produce and meat that represent American culture and watermelon.

Plus, you can't think of anything more refreshing and cooling (and good for your skin) than Watermelon Salad with Tomato, Mint, and Feta Cheese.  This scribe swears, if you travel skip and hop to Charleston right now, this is the same type of salad you'll be nibbling on right now in the city's trendiest restaurants. For real.

The real dinner didn't until two iconic All-Americana dishes hit up together, none of that stuffy formalities you get from the French.  Nope. You're hungry and ready to chow down.

Charleston's/Lowcountry's signature dish, Shrimp & Grits with Caledonian Blue Prawns, House-cured Tasso Ham, and pickled Green Tomato was comfort-home creamy and heart-warming.

Soon after, the real feast appeared.  The waiter carried a steaming pail of crab legs, crawfish, corn on the cob, Andouille Sausage,  and potatoe, the classic Low Country Boil at its most traditional and at its most down-home.

As this scribe's chef dad would say, "Dig in."

Tavern's wait staff was impressed by this scribe's cracking and peeling skills in regards to crustacean like crabs and crawfish.  This scribe simply calls this "childhood." Yet, it's funny to watch uppity Los Angelenos chomp their dental veneers on cement-like shells and failing to get at the sweet meat.

Plus, this scribe was knowing.  A Low Country Boil is no place to wear your Versace or your Chanel.  Best to wear your favority Splendid tee or tank and jeans to best absorb all those yummy shellfish juice being splattered at you.

You can't go more "colonial" than Cornmeal Cobbler with Blueberries and Buttermilk Ice Cream, the earliest American ice cream because at that time, that's all they had...Buttermilk.

Getting down and dirty at Tavern's Low Country Boil was a real family time where everyone feasted on history. 

Since the ingredients are attainable and the methods aren't fancy, you can do what this scribe's mom does every Christmas, make your own Low Country Boil.

This recipe was lifted from ultimate New South guide, Garden and Gun Magazine from a Charleston chef, Mike Lata.  Look on the bright side, you ain't burning yourself over a flaming grill and you're not burning the BBQ sauce either.   Copy and Enjoy....

Mike Lata's Frogmore Stew
    ½ cup (at least) Old Bay Seasoning
    16 small new potatoes, about 1-inch diameter, rinsed but not peeled (about ¾ lb.)
    ½ lb. smoked sausage (kielbasa), cut into 16 ½-inch-thick coins
    2 medium sweet onions, peeled but not trimmed, quartered lengthwise from stem to root
    3 ears fresh corn, shucked and  cut into thirds
    16 largest available fresh shrimp, preferably white Carolina shrimp with head on (you may want more depending on size of shrimp)
    8 stone crab claws (about 2 lb.)
Bring a large stockpot (at least 12-quart) of water (filled 2/3 of the way, about 9 quarts) to a simmer. Add Old Bay and simmer to infuse. (The water should be abundantly seasoned and aromatic.)

Add potatoes, sausage coins, and sweet onions, and bring to a lazy simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Keeping water at a lazy simmer, add corn, and cook until kernels are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and crab claws, and cook until the shrimp becomes pink and white (instead of opaque), about 5 or 6 minutes. Strain solids from cooking liquid, and transfer them to an oversize platter.

Serve with soft butter and olive oil (for potatoes and corn), sea salt, Tabasco, and cocktail sauce. Lemon wedges and chopped hot peppers (like jalapeƱo) are also sometimes served as accompaniments.

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