Leave it to me to complicate a Carolina staple. Although I was born in the South, I wasn’t born in South Carolina, meaning that classic dishes like Chicken Bog, Hoppin’ John, and Lowcountry Boil were new to me. Coming to the Carolina table as an outsider gave me the freedom to enjoy it all unbiased—and the freedom to tinker.
Legend attributes the origins of Lowcountry Boil to a National Guardsman from Beaufort who needed to feed 100 of his fellow soldiers quickly and simply. The stew he invented—called Frogmore Stew after his hometown—is similar to a New England clambake or a Louisiana crawfish boil: the best of the region’s shellfish and specialties cooked together in a large pot and poured onto a communal table to enjoy.
The first time I tasted Lowcountry Boil, I found myself wondering how it would taste if it weren’t boiled. I submit that quartering potatoes and tossing them on a sheet pan to hang out in the oven for an hour is hardly any more work than tossing them in a pot—with far better results. The potatoes come out burnished and bronzed with Old Bay; the sausage crisps and swells in the oven like it never will in a pot of water. Both make a delicious base for mounds of steaming shrimp and sweet corn. In the South, everyone has her own take on food traditions. Maybe this is mine: a little different, a little irreverent, and I’d argue, a little tastier.
Deconstructed Lowcountry Boil
2 lemons, quartered
4 lbs. petite red potatoes
4 lbs. large shrimp, unpeeled
2 lbs. smoked sausage
8 ears of corn, shucked and sliced in half
1 bag Zatarain’s Spicy Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab boil
(or similar seasoning)
¼ cup melted butter
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Old Bay seasoning
Louisiana-style hot sauce
3 Tbs. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 .Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Quarter potatoes and toss generously with olive oil and Old Bay seasoning to taste on two large sheet pans. Slice smoked sausage diagonally into 1 ½-in. pieces, add them to the sheet pans, and stir. Place sheet pans in oven to roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until potatoes are tender, yet golden and crispy. Season with salt.
3. Meanwhile, fill a large stockpot with about 6 quarts of water. Add Zatarain’s seasoning packet, along with 3 Tbsp. of kosher salt, and two lemons, cut into quarters.
4. When the sausage and potatoes are almost ready, bring the seasoned water to a rolling boil. Add corn halves and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook for another 3 minutes, until pink. Drain in a large colander.
5. Whisk fresh lemon juice into the melted butter and add hot sauce to taste. Pour into a small bowl for serving.
6. Cover your serving table in newspaper. Spread out the crispy, roasted sausage and potatoes and then carefully pour the boiled shrimp and corn on top. Season everything to taste with more Old Bay. Enjoy with cocktail sauce, lemon butter sauce, and Louisiana hot sauce.