Cookin’ With Rants: New England Awesome
Two questions up front:
1 – Are you hungry?
2 – Do you like shellfish?
If the answer to either is ‘yes,’ then I’d beat you into action to start cooking this awesome gut-buster of seafood awesomehood. This recipe comes to me via a small lady of special acquaintance with deep New England roots. That means this shit is genuine, yo.
First some background. Frogmore stew is of South Carolinian origin. It involves the local shellfish, so there’s a lot of shrimp in it, which is fine. I personally prefer the New England version, which is heavy on bivalves (Google that shit). If you want the Southern version, go here.
But wait, you’re hungry and/or love shellfish. On to our ingredients:
1 bag small-ish red potatoes
2 links kielbasa, Andouille, chorizo or some kind of sausage
3-6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and lopped in half
12 fresh oysters
24 fresh mussels
12 littleneck clams
12 largeneck clams
1 Can Old Bay seasoning
1 Large container, sea salt
1 lb Unsalted butter, melted and clarified with spices
3 cloves roasted, crushed chopped garlic (for butter, add more if desired to pot)
Now that I have your attention, here’s what you do:
Boil the potatoes whole in a brine of 3:2 water-to-salt by volume. This makes salt potatoes, which go well with this dish. When done (fork done), dump the water on some weeds you want to kill. Cook the corn just short of done with fresh water. Brown the sausage in a skillet while the corn cooks. At the same time, carefully wash all your shellfish under flowing water with a stiff brush, and yank all the mussel beards out.
Construction of the boil. Stacking order is very important here. Pay attention.
Add ½ inch of water to the rinsed pot. Put the sausage on the bottom and arrange the potatoes and corn over it. Add 3 to 5 generous tablespoons of Old Bay season to the mix. Heat until the water starts to boil. When ready, add the shellfish in a dense pack on top and lid the pot. Boil until all shellfish have opened and released their liquor. Agitate with vigorous shakes as necessary.
New Englanders will plop a lobster or two on top of all this stack and steam until done as well. This addition might require you to figure cooking times by weight and/or remove the shellfish until the lobster is cooked and red.
Steam the shellfish with the base mix for 10-15 minutes. If you choose to include shrimp, add when the shellfish are nearly cooked, with shells on but de-veined. Remove pot from heat immediately and un-cover. Enjoy the aroma of ocean food awesomeness.
Serving. This dish is usually done on a beach over a campfire. When cooked, the pot is turned completely over a picnic table covered in a thick layer of newspapers, and guests pick, shuck and eat what they wish. Alternately, a very large serving platter will work equally well. Add sides of melted butter seasoned with garlic and Old Bay.
Note – shellfish shells have many uses when the meal is over. I have used them in landscaping as well as Christmas decoration craft projects. I recommend that you NOT discarding them. Even in a compost heap, they add calcium to balance your developing soil. They also work well on the ground under your roof’s dripline to preserve the soil and plant roots.