Bites of Passage

Switching it up for Memorial Day, Southern style


I have written about Memorial Day and the food that generally goes along with the holiday weekend before. For years, it has been simple: Fire up the barbecue, hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans…. But this year, I wanted to change things up a little bit and keep my family and friends guessing.

A recent chef’s conference in Atlanta has rekindled my love affair with Southern cuisine, especially in its most rooted forms. Southern cuisine is mostly “un-fussy.” That is why I’m taking a turn for a more Southern approach to my holiday menu. Take good care of a few simply great ingredients, add a minute amount of hands-on crafting, and you have it: a feast deserving of the praise you will receive.

Frogmore stew (or low country boil) originated in the Frogmore community on St. Helena Island, Georgia. I wonder what they were thinking when this dish was invented, but I can tell you my thoughts on its popularity. It’s made in one pot. If you do any kind of entertaining, you already know how great this is on its own.

You need exactly zero utensils and plates to serve.

There are no rules when it comes to ingredients you want to add (or omit).

You can eat it standing up.

Still need convincing?

It can be prepared the day before, and served in under an hour the day of. Now, that’s a Memorial Day feast I can get behind – all served with a cold beverage of your choice!

You’re going to need a few items of course: a large table, lots of old newspaper, a trash can, handi wipes, and a pot and burner big enough to boil three gallons of liquid. (A turkey fry rig works wonderfully here.)


2 crab or seafood boil seasoning

Old Bay (about 2 T per gallon of water, plus additional for sprinkling on your finished boil)

15 lemons – 10 sliced for the pot, plus five more to serve on the side

Small red potatoes – 4-5 per person

Sausage (8 ounces per person): use your favorite here; I prefer spicy andouille cut in two-inch chunks

Shucked corn cut into chunks – one ear per guest

Jumbo shrimp about 6 per person

Any additions like crabs, clams, chicken legs or thighs, lobster, crawfish, etc.

Cocktail sauce

Melted butter

To Cook:

Bring two gallons of water to a boil with the old bay and lemons in it. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer 10 minutes, then add the sausage. (If you are using crabs, lobsters or chicken, add them here as well.) Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Add your corn and simmer an additional eight minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cover, still simmering an additional three to four minutes or until clams open and shrimp are cooked.

Strain out with basket strainer, and dump on a newspaper-lined table (this should be done with an emphatic cheer from your guests). Season with a sprinkle of old bay and scatter your lemons out. Serve with cocktail sauce and melted butter.