After some years (and as some consolation for skipping this year’s trip to Europe), Gourmandistan has returned for the fourth time with Michelle’s family to Dewees Island, an eco-conscious community constructed on an old rice plantation slightly north of Charleston, South Carolina. Accessible only by ferry, Dewees allows no automobiles, has no golf courses, enforces strict building rules focused on maintaining the beach, wetlands and wildlife, bans wedding receptions and/or wild parties, and to our continuing enjoyment seems always mostly empty.
During the week before Memorial Day when we have always visited, one can enjoy long walks on a wide beach, search tide pools, wander salt marshes, see birds, go fishing, find shells and do many other activities without ever seeing another human being, before retiring to one’s lovely rented home.
As the holiday weekend approaches, however, so do the crowds. And by “crowds,” we mean there may be five or six other people on the beach, or perhaps a golf cart will pass by as one contemplates an alligator. As many of these people actually own property on Dewees (as opposed to our temporary renter status), we tolerate them—but we did not invite them over for Frogmore Stew.
Frogmore Stew is a variation of a cooking idea that may be only slightly less old than the idea of eating oysters or shellfish itself—chucking whatever one happens to have netted, trapped, raked or bought into a giant pot of boiling water along with spices, seasonings and perhaps a few other bits of stuff. In New England it might be mostly clams, in Louisiana crawfish, but in South Carolina the boil tends toward shrimp, crab, corn, potatoes and sausage. We got this recipe from Garden & Gun Magazine who got it from Charleston chef Mike Lata, who knows his way around a low country boil. Our somewhat crappy electric rental stove seemed to take forever to heat the water in our huge pot. But once it got going things were fine, as few things are more easy than simmering smoked sausage, corn, potatoes and seafood for a bit. The real hit of our “stew” was the stone crab claws, an almost lobster-rich (but somewhat stringier) meat treat we haven’t encountered in other places.
We’re about to leave Dewees once again, but our stay has been just about perfect. And someday, should we return, we may be more social and seek others to share our stew.