Southern cooking usually brings to mind dishes like fried chicken or catfish with hushpuppies, po' boys and black-eyed peas in the "deep south," not to mention Louisiana's beignets, gumbo and andouille sausage. What few people think of is the Lowcountry cooking of South Carolina.

The Lowcountry is roughly a triangle that runs along the Atlantic coast and reaches about 80 miles inland. Charleston and Hilton Head Island are its best-known spots. Starting in the 17th century, this semi-tropical, wet, coastal plain was colonized by the English, French Protestants and Sephardic Jews. It is quintessential plantation country, devoted to growing long-grain rice. It is also a land of fishermen, hunters and sailors.

Many of its British settlers came from the Caribbean, bringing slaves from there or directly from West Africa to work the Carolina Lowcountry plantations. Part of the heritage created by the slaves was a local language called Gullah. They also produced more African influence on the cooking of the Lowcountry than you find in Louisiana and other plantation regions.

If Lowcountry cooking seems unfamiliar, think of tomato-red Spanish rice. What Lowcountry cooks call tomato pilau is typical of the region's down-home cooking, and also uses lots of seafood, particularly cooked with a seasoning called crab boil. Frogmore Stew, named after an ancestral home in England, is a good example of shrimp cooked with crab boil. This spiced, though not necessarily spicy, blend includes mustard seed, clove, allspice and bay leaf. It compliments the sweet flavor of shrimp and crabs. Adding rice makes it more of a pilaf-style stew. A touch of chipotle adds flavor akin to that of the hot smoked sausage that Lowcountry cooks use.

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Southern Shrimp Stew

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Makes 9 servings.

  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt-free crab and shrimp boil
  • 2 ears fresh yellow corn
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large celery rib, cut in 1/2-inch slices
  • Pinch ground chipotle chile powder, or to taste
  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
  1. Place water and crab boil in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add corn and cook uncovered for 3 minutes at a moderate boil. Add shrimp and cook 3 minutes more (liquid may not return to a boil). Remove corn and set aside. Remove and shell shrimp, cover and set aside. Cut cooled corn from cobs and set aside. Strain liquid, reserving 6 cups.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saut� onion and celery until onion is translucent, 4 minutes. Add chile pepper, rice, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups reserved liquid. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is tender but still soupy, about 35 minutes. (Add more reserved liquid if needed.) Stir corn and shrimp into the stew. Heat at a low simmer until warm. Serve with parsley as garnish.

Nutrtional Information Per Serving:
146 calories,
2 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
19 g. carbohydrate,
13 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
347 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Bread/Starch, 2 Low-Fat Meat