In the Lowcountry, the cooler days of winter are perfect for the traditional outdoor dinner party called a Lowcountry Boil. These one-pot dinners are easy to assemble, a welcome casual antidote to formal holiday soirees and a fun way to take advantage of a mild winter day. This dish was originally known as “Frogmore Stew” (no frogs are involved) and occasionally shows up on restaurant menus under that moniker. Lowcountry boils are simple amalgams of corn and potatoes, sausage and seafood. Even if you’re miles from the coast, here’s how to throw your own Lowcountry Boil:
Step 1: Invite Everyone You Know
In the South, the more the merrier is the rule. Guests who bring appetizers to share while the boil gets going, or contribute beer and white wine for the community cooler earn an invitation for next year.
Step 2: Round up Pots
For a big party, you’ll need lots of stockpots. Inviting all the cooks you know is a great way to get those big pots out of their hiding places.
Step 3: Prepare the Table
Traditionally Lowcountry Boils require picnic tables, outdoor tables, card tables or any other type of non-precious table that can later be hosed down. Cover the tables with layers of newspaper. As with oyster roasts, most boils are eaten standing up. You won’t need chairs for everyone, fancy centerpieces or tons of utensils. You’ll just need paper towels and more paper towels. Did I mention paper towels?
Step 4: Assemble the Ingredients
It’s important to use the freshest ingredients you can find. Extra points for buying from local farmers and fishermen. For every dozen people you’ll need:
4 lbs. red potatoes
5 quarts of water per stockpot
1 bag crab boil seasoning
4 TBSP Old Bay seasoning
2 lbs hot smoked sausage in 1″ slices
6 ears corn cut in half
2 lbs mussels
4 lbs large fresh shrimp (devein only if you want)
Step 5: Start Cooking
While guests nibble and catch up, bring water in pots to a boil then add potatoes and seasoning. Cook for 5 minutes then add sausage and corn. Cook 10 minutes then add shrimp. Cook 3 minutes—or until shrimp is pink and mussels are open.
Step 6: Dig In
Put the pots in the middle of the table and let guests serve themselves. You can even use paper plates if you insist on being fancy.
Lowcountry Boils are so popular because they’re relaxed and easy: Assembly is a snap so the cook isn’t stuck in the kitchen while the guests have fun. Also, the meal is ready quickly so nobody goes hungry for long. Clean up is also a cinch—all the paper goes in a recycle bag while tables and kids are rinsed off with a hose.