Last Saturday was the 2nd annual low country boil here at the A ST house in DC. Overall, the party was a success. I believe there were about 32-36 people in attendance. Since this is a food blog, I’ll focus on the good eats. I went with the traditional South Carolina ingredients: sausage, corn, potatoes, and shrimp. I used smoked beef sausage to accommodate the non pork eaters. I was able to find some fresh SC shrimp at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in DC as well. I was shocked that there was leftover food, but here are the amounts that I went with:
20 lbs of red potatoes
35 mini ears of corn
10 lbs fresh SC shrimp
12 lbs of smoked beef sausage
I halved the potatoes and put them in the bottom of my large outdoor cooker pot. I filled the pot halfway with water and then added the seasonings. For the seasonings, I used about 1.5 cups of Old Bay, 5 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, 3 lemons cut in half, two onions cut in half, and about 50 black peppercorns. Once people began pouring into the shin dig, I fired up the cooker. It took the pot about 15 minutes to get boiling. Once up to a boil, I removed the lid and let the potatoes go for 10 minutes. I then added in the sausage (cut into 1.5 inch chunks). This boiled for 3 minutes. Then I added the corn. 3 more minutes. Last but certainly best, the fresh shrimp went in. My pot was about to overflow, so I had to do the shrimp in batches. The shrimp just needed contact with the hot water for 2 minutes until they become pink. You do not want overcooked shrimp at all. After the crustaceans were ready, the pot was drained in a strainer and dumped onto a newspaper covered table. Good eating commenced. Everything turned out well and perfectly seasoned. Accompaniments were corn bread, lemons, hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and Old Bay. Oh, and tons of cookies.
For next year’s get together, I plan on scaling back on the potatoes (5 lbs less) and increasing the amount of corn and sausage. At the end of the night, everyone was full, satisfied, and slightly inebriated thanks to a massive amount of National Bohemian. Definitely the best way to kick off the spring.
As the weather was quite ripe a few weekends ago in DC, I got bit by the insatiable grilling bug. What I craved was seared meat over a charcoal flame. I turned to the oh so American and oh so delicious staple, the hamburger. I didn’t want just any burger though, for I wanted to make the occasion special rather than slapping down pre formed patties or buying pre ground meat. Lucky for me, my parents found a sweet cast iron meat grinder at a flea market and mailed it to me several months ago. I did a quick spot clean on the thing, and it was good to go. After some home grinding research, I decided to buy a 2.5 lb boneless chuck roast from my local H. Teeter. A chuck roast has a ton of marbling which equals fat which equals flavor. I cubed the meat up into 1 to 1.5″ chunks and trimmed some of the excess fat. The meat then went into the freezer for 30 minutes to firm it up a bit. The parts of the grinder also went into said freezer for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes had lapsed, grinding commenced. At first, I had some issues. I had not trimmed off a lot of the excess fat because I thought it would lend itself to greater flavors. The excess fat was really tough and refused to grind. The grinder got clogged, so I had to disassemble mid procedure, but once I got it cleaned up and I got the fat lopped off the rest of the meat, all went smoothly.
The 2.5 lb roast ground up to about 2.1 to 2.2 pounds of ground beef. The burgers (for which I failed to take a final shot of) turned out excellent. You could certainly tell the difference in the home ground beef. Why grind your own meat? There are several good reasons. Beef ground at a processing plant can come from all different parts of an animal, AND it can come from several different animals in the same package. It’s possible that one package of ground beef can have the DNA of 50 to 100 different cows. Second, by grinding at home, you severly undercut the amount of time that bacteria has to cultivate and grow within the ground strands of meat. This means it’s far less risky to cook the perfect medium-rare hamburger. Lastly, it’s fun, tasty, and it’s a way to make your next cookout unique when grilling an old American standard.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about this dish for quite a while. There is nothing, and I repeat nothing, more comforting than a good buttermilk biscuit. The perfect complement to said biscuit is sausage gravy. For my biscuits, I follow Alton Brown’s recipe to a T. It makes about 5 large biscuits (I’m talking, large enough to make a porkchop on a biscuit sandwich with). The recipe utilizes both butter and shortening as the fat sources which gives it that oh so wonderful texture, sheen, and flavor. Of course, any good southerner will tell you that true biscuits don’t need a recipe. Just take a few cups of White Lily self rising flour, add some butter milk, and a quarter cup of shortening, and your good to go. Either way, these mother f*ckers need to be baked in a greased cast iron skillet at 450 degrees.
I take a few shortcuts for my gravy, but you would never be able to tell. This recipe has been a staple in my household for many years. My mother got it from a friends of hers. It’s been served on countless Sunday mornings pre-mass at church. Rather than make a roux with the sausage drippings and adding milk, I opt for adding two cans of cream of mushroom (condensed) soup to a sauce pan. Once the soup begins to spread out and get warm, I add a half a cup or so of water to thin it out a bit. Once this comes to a simmer, add in some browned breakfast sausage and 4 or 5 chopped up hard-boiled eggs. Let this bubble away until you get your desired consistency. Season with salt and lots of pepper to taste. This gravy is enough to coat 6-8 biscuits. I know, you’re probably sneering at the cream of mushroom soup. Don’t. It’s better than your milk gravy. I promise.