I'm from Mississippi. I was raised in Memphis. I feel like understand a good deal about our Southern foodways. I really do have some blind spots, though! The Carolinas in particular remain a culinary enigma to me. I get grits, and fried green tomatoes, and greens, and pimento cheese. I didn't, however, understand how it differed until I sat down with my buddy Ryan Trimm, a terrific chef and owner of Sweetgrass, a Carolina Low Country restaurant here in Memphis.
He explained Frogmore Stew to me, which incidentally doesn't have frogs in it, nor is it really a stew. The version he serves at Sweetgrass is a stew, but it's not typically a stew. Can you see why I would be confused about such cuisine? So, if those are the things that it's not, then what is it? Well, it's basically a shrimp boil with sausage, and the broth is loaded up with Old Bay seasoning. Think of it as a soup that you can eat with your hands. Sounds fun, right?
Traditionally, it's served with cocktail sauce, garlic butter, and rolls. This really is a dish meant to feed a crowd. When it's ready, all of the goodies are picked up out of the flavorful broth and dumped onto a table that has been lined with newspaper. Once it's cool enough to touch, just grab what you like and start dipping the corn into the butter or potatoes into the cocktail sauce. It's all very lively and festive.
So, what's in a vegetarian version of this mythical dish? I chose to throw in some fresh artichoke hearts and stems, which are fun to eat and work well here. I also threw in some vegetarian sausage, which you don't see me use much, but it works great for this application.
Vegetarian Frogmore Stew
1 quart vegetable stock
1 quart water
12 ounces beer (such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay (more for garnish)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 cloves garlic (smashed, divided)
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
salt (to taste)
4 cups red-skin new potatoes (cut in half)
4 ears yellow corn (shucked, cut into quarters)
1 pound vegetarian sausage (such as Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage, cut into quarters)
4 artichokes (trimmed*)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup organic cocktail sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
In a large stock pot over high heat, pour in the stock, water, and beer. Next, cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the pot, then drop the squeezed lemon into the pot as well. This is a rustic dish. Add the Old Bay seasoning, crushed red pepper, 8 cloves of garlic, liquid smoke, black pepper, and sugar. Check for seasoning and adjust the salt to your taste. It may not need any depending on how salty the vegetable stock was to start. Bring that whole mixture up to a boil. Carefully add the potatoes and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the corn, sausage, and artichokes to the mixture. Cook uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Fish a variety of the components out of the broth and into a bowl. Add just a 1/2 cup of the broth for the steam and aroma.
While the stew cools enough to eat, place butter in a microwave-safe dish along with the two reserved garlic cloves. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the butter is just melted. Serve your Vegetarian Fromgmore Stew garnished with a light sprinkling of Old Bay and a pinch of fresh parsley with garlic butter and cocktail sauce on the side. No need for a fork -- just use your hands.
*For the artichokes: Cut off and discard the top 2/3 of the bulb leaving the whole stem and the bottom 1/3 of the bulb intact. (There is very little meat in the top portion of the vegetable.) Using a spoon, scoop out the choke, the fibrous center part of the vegetable. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stem to reveal the tender and edible inside part of the stem. Finally, cut a 1/2 inch off the tip of the stem, stand the artichoke up on the bulb-side, and cut into quarters by running your knife through the stem, heart, and remaining leaves. This leaves you with a few leaves to pull off and scrape out when you are eating the stew, but most importantly, it leaves the heart and stem, the most delicious parts.