Southern Cuisine History: She Crab Soup

She Crab Soup has been a Southern signature dish for decades, bringing warm, rich flavor to kitchen tables throughout Charleston. While local restaurants offer their own versions, this rich and filling soup traditionally consists of heavy cream, blue crab meat and crab roe (eggs) with dry sherry often added as it is plated.

Large numbers of Scottish immigrants began settling in Charleston during the 1700s.  One traditional dish they brought with them was partan-bree, a crab and rice soup. The settlers began to adjust their recipe to incorporate blue crabs because of the abundance in the area.  This Scottish soup served as a starting point, but She Crab Soup as we know it today was not developed until the early 1900s.  As the story goes, R. Goodwyn Rhett, Mayor of Charleston, was entertaining President Taft at his home.  The Rhett’s butler, William Deas, was asked to create a fancier version of their traditional crab soup.  He added the orange-hued crab eggs of mature female crabs, called “she crabs” by fishermen, to give color and improve the flavor, thus inventing the Charleston delicacy known as She Crab Soup.

This delightful and smooth seafood soup is sure to impress your friends and family, try to recreate the Palmetto Cafe’s She Crab Soup with Sherry, or come in and try it for yourself!

Traditional She Crab Soup with Sherry, from the Palmetto Cafe

Ingredients
Butter
Flour
Yellow Onion (minced)
Celery (minced)
Bay Leaf
Thyme (chopped)
Dry Sherry
Milk (cold)
Heavy Cream (cold)
Lobster Stock
Crab Roe (minced)
Crabmeat
Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Quantity
2 oz
2 oz
3 oz
3 oz
1 small leaf
1 tsp
1 oz
3 c
1 oz
2½ c
1 ½ oz
4 oz
To taste
To taste

 

In a heavy gauge pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook the mixture constantly stirring to a golden straw color (appx. 7 minutes). Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Add the milk, cream and half of the lobster stock. Cook 20 minutes. Add the minced crab roe to the remaining lobster stock and combine it with the sherry. Add this mixture along with the nutmeg and seasonings to the rest of the soup. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the crabmeat and cook an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh crabmeat mixed with chopped thyme. This recipe serves 6 to 8 people, bon appétit!

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Southern Cuisine History: Frogmore Stew

Frogmore Stew on NewspaperEvery coastal town seems to have a version of a seafood boil and their own way of making it. Charleston has a great local seafood boil, but the ingredients are as debated as the proper name for it. Locally, you will hear it called Beaufort Stew, Beaufort Boil, or Lowcountry Boil, although it is most commonly referred to as Frogmore Stew – a delicious combination of boiled shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes.

Don’t worry, it does not contain frogs and it isn’t even actually a stew. Unlike its cousins, bouillabasse and cioppino, Frogmore Stew is drained from its cooking liquid and served on a newspaper covered table.

Lowcountry BoilThe name Frogmore comes from the small town on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, SC.  There are many stories about the origin of Frogmore Stew.  One story says that a shrimper in Frogmore was running low on food and couldn’t decide what to cook for dinner. He chose to boil some potatoes, sausage and corn together and added some shrimp since there was never a short supply of shrimp around his home. He soon realized how great the items complemented each other and the recipe was passed around to local seafood restaurants.

Another story alleges the origins of the stew came from Richard Gay, owner of the Gay Seafood Company on St. Helena Island, SC.  The story goes that one weekend while on duty with the National Guard he made the stew in an effort to serve over 100 of his fellow guardsmen.  Frogmore Stew became far more well known after it was featured on the cover of Gourmet Magazine in the 1980s. In 2005, The Travel Channel featured Richard’s brother, Charles Gay, cooking Frogmore Stew in its popular program, Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo.

Although everyone has their own “secret” ingredient to Frogmore Stew, the basic recipe is as follows:

Lowcountry Frogmore Stew

4 lbs. small red potatoes
3 lbs. shrimp, unshelled
1 lb. smoked sausage, (such as Kielbasa) sliced into pieces
6 ears of sweet corn, husked and cut into thirds
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
Bring about a gallon of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and Old Bay seasoning and cook five minutes. Add the sausage and boil for 5 minutes. Then, add the corn and boil another 5 minutes. Lastly, add the shrimp and boil 3 more minutes. Drain and serve.

Some people add in crab or cook the stew in beer. Others add in onions, lemons and/or celery. Our own Chef Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill is currently featuring Frogmore Stew on the menu and it features Crab, Shrimp, Clams, Potatoes, Corn, and Andouille. Whether you cook it yourself or order it at Charleston Grill there is one thing for certain – there will not be any left!

Share your recipe for Frogmore Stew (or whatever you call it) below.

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