Thursday, December 29, 2011

Frogmore Stew a Southern Delight

Some call it “Frogmore Stew”, even though there really aren’t any frogs in it. Legend has it the name came from the birthplace of Richard Gay. He created it from an old family recipe when asked to cook a meal for 100 hungry national guardsmen using regional ingredients. Frogmore itself is a community on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. And the name of the stew is variously referred to as “Beaufort Stew” or “lowcountry boil.”

In South Carolina, “lowcountry” refers to its central and southern coastline, including the Sea Islands. Here, the culture and cooking draws from its Southern, European, Caribbean, Native American and African roots. Lowcountry boil originated with the Gullah people of these Sea Islands, who are descendants of the East African slave trade. They and have preserved much of their culture and cuisine for visitors to enjoy today.

Along the East and Gulf coast of the US there are a number of seafood boil recipes. The star of the show is locally harvested shellfish.

Lowcountry Boil

4 pounds small red potatoes

5 quarts water

1 (3-ounce) bag of crab boil seasoning

4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

2 pounds kielbasa or hot smoked link sausage, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces

6 ears of corn, halved

4 pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Cocktail sauce (optional)

Add potatoes to large pot, then add 5 quarts water and seasonings. Cover pot and heat to a rolling boil; cook 5 minutes. Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Dump onto a newspaper covered table. Serves 12. To serve more—find a bigger pot.

Crab, onion and butter are sometimes added. Whatever you call it, this one-pot wonder is tasty and satisfying!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Valdosta Bar-B-Que

Before you even see the smoke, your nose picks up the rich, luscious scent of barbeque chuffing out of more than a dozen cookers. Tents shield the grill masters from the intense South Georgia summer sun, while a sprinkling of chairs compete for a few patches of shade. In the background a local musical group, The Groove, sets the tone of a southern style family reunion.

It’s the 16th annual Downtown Barbeque Competition in Valdosta, GA sponsored by the 100 Black Men organization, a local chapter of the national organization focusing on achievement, scholarship and mentoring of youngsters in the African-American community. It’s one of several fund raisers they hold throughout the year.

Stroll the grounds of the Lowndes county courthouse where thousands of visitors stop to sample a variety of grilled ribs, pulled pork, smoked butt, chicken and even deep fried alligator. There’s Carolina mustard sauce, baked beans, funnel cakes and bottled water for sale. You can even buy Nirobi African sculptures, paintings and watercolors.

Zach & Zoei’s Bar-B-Que uses a smoker named “The Praiser” which produces tender, savory chicken and meaty ribs. The name originated as an acknowledgement of the blessings the griller had received from the Lord that enables him to produce his tasty creations.

Another of the 16 competitors whose tent lines the sidewalk is Sam’s BBQ, (this year’s 1st place winner). One bite of a delicious rib and munchers will understand why he can add the new trophy to the collection on display in the corner of his tent.

Never had ‘gator? Frog legs? Gizzard? There’s a chance to sample bites of these local delicacies at the Gator’s Rib Shack display, whose entry won 2nd place in the Commercial Category.

Come hungry and early to enjoy the food and family fun that keeps folks returning year after year to this annual fund-raising event. My plate is empty now, and I can't wait for next year's cook-off, which should be scheduled for early August.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Agrirama - a Tifton Treasure

Sit too close to the front and you’ll get soaked. An old steam engine tugs 2 open-air wood cars lined with bench seats around a 95-acre park. Each time the engineer blows the whistle, a cloud of steam belches from the stack. It cools quickly sending a splash of water onto the dozen or so passengers riding behind it. That’s just one of the fascinating attractions of Georgia’s Living History Museum in Tifton, Georgia.

Agrirama is the story of life in rural Georgia—sharecropping, collecting and distilling turpentine and so much more. If you spend the day exploring the living outdoor museum, you may catch sight of a mule harnessed to a plow; a blacksmith hammering out a horseshoe, or children dripping freshly made ice cream down their arms in front of the old time drug store.

Wander through six areas: the National Peanut Museum to see actual machinery used in cultivating and harvesting crops; a rural town, the Museum of Agriculture; an 1870s farm complete with butchering shed, barn, cabin and well; an 1890s progressive farmstead and see a cotton gin, syrup shed and sugar cane grinding area, or visit the industrial sites complex.

Agrirama also offers educational workshops for schools, churches or scouts giving visitors the opportunity to dress in the costumes of the 1890s. Want to learn how to corn is ground into meal? Visit the 1879 water-powered gristmill. You can purchase a bag of cornmeal at the country store to take home. See how turpentine is made at the Turpentine Still. Learn how to sew and quilt, set a 1880s farm table. Or seed and card cotton, all under the helpful eye of friendly guides and staff.

For more information about Agrirama, visit their website at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Uptown Ducks

Most ducks fly, but this one arrives at the table on a rolling wood cart. Crisp tawny skin stretched taut over glistening brown meat falls neatly into juicy-sweet slivers as the server wields the carving knife, stripping the duck in 90 seconds. I want to snatch a slice with my chopsticks while nobody's looking. But everyone is watching the tableside show--and wishing they too had ordered the Beijing Duck at Sun Wah BBQ on Chicago's Uptown/Edgewater neighborhood.

Rows of fully cooked poultry hang in the front window, and you'll see a whole roasted pig being carried out to the open kitchen just inside the front door. Along the far wall is a tank of live fish. The scent of pork BBQ, fried rice, and pickled vegetables wanders through the 4,000 sq. ft. dining room. Here you can celebrate the Chinese New Year in February, or pick up a Thanksgiving turkey to go. Want to try fried pig's intestine or salt baked chicken? Save room for the best egg rolls in town.

Founder Eric Cheng moved Sun Wah BBQ from New York's Chinatown to Chicago's Argyle St. in the spring of 1987. By 2009 his family's expanded operation moved around the corner to accommodate 4 times as many customers. Kelly, the oldest daughter and general manager, frequently stops by your table to oversee service and quality.

If you don't have time to visit Hong Kong for lunch or dinner, Sun Wah brings the authentic flavor and cooking style of China to Chicago. Visit their website at

You won't find Beijing Duck on the menu so if you want to try it call 773-769-1254 at least an hour ahead to get your cart rolling.