Sip & Savor

Southern Cuisine History: Frogmore Stew

Every 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.

The 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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