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Southern coastal comfort foods

I wish I could say I’ll be vacationing by the Atlantic soon, soaking up the sun and feasting on seafood, but I’m not sure. During these uncertain times, the catch phrase “wait and see” is the common response to many questions. So, I’ll wait and hope to see the waves crashing and seafood on my plate. If not, on the bright side, I’ll take comfort in Plan B, creating my own ocean feast at home.

A popular southern coastal dish is Lowcountry Boil, a spicy combination of red potatoes, kielbasa sausage, corn-on-the-cob and shrimp. A one-pot meal, this easy recipe has it all. Served with crusty French bread to sop up any juices, or served with a side of hush puppies hot out of the fryer, this meal screams coastal.

For dessert, sweet and tangy lemon bars are perfect for cooling the palate after a spicy meal.

Lowcountry Boil

1/3 cup seafood-boil seasoning

2 to 3 T. salt

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds kielbasa or smoked link sausage, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces

6 ears fresh sweet corn, halved to make 12 pieces

4 pounds large raw, unpeeled shrimp

Seafood boil seasoning and cocktail sauce for serving

Directions: In large stockpot with lid, bring 5 quarts water and 1/3 cup seafood boil seasoning to a rolling boil. Add potatoes and return to boil, uncovered 10 minutes. Add sausage and corn. Return to boil and continue to cook 10 minutes, or till potatoes are tender. Add shrimp and cook 3 to 4 minutes or till shrimp turn pink.

To serve, drain water from stockpot. Dump contents onto a large platter or into a large granite roasting pan. Sprinkle with more seasoning and serve with cocktail sauce, along with butter for the corn. Crusty French bread loaves or a batch of Hush Puppies (recipe follows) make a nice accompaniment.

Hush Puppies

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 T. sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

Vegetable or canola oil for deep-frying

Directions: In large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. Make a well in the center of mixture.

In small bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk. Add mixture to the well in the dry ingredients and stir only till moistened, about 10 times around the bowl. Fold in onions. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour about 3 inches oil into a Dutch oven, large heavy pot or deep fryer. Heat oil to 375-degrees F. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Make sure they can float freely. Fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side or till golden brown. Allow oil to come back up to temperature before adding next batch. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried hush puppies warm in preheated 225-degree F. oven up to 15 minutes.

Lemon Bars

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling:

2 cups granulated sugar

2 T. cornstarch

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 T. lemon zest

1/4 cup plus 2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 T. butter, melted

Garnish:

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease 13×9-inch baking dish. Beat crust ingredients at medium speed of electric mixer till blended. Pat dough into bottom of dish. Bake 18 minutes till golden.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add eggs and remaining filling ingredients; beat well. Pour mixture over crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or till set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack, about 1 hour.

Sift 1/4 cup powdered sugar over top. Cut into bars. Makes 1 dozen. Tip: If desired, substitute lime juice and lime zest for the lemon.

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