“’Oh, yes, yes, in there,’ said Toad impatiently. ‘I’d have said anything in there. You’re so eloquent, dear Badger, and so moving, and so convincing, and put all your points so frightfully well–you can do what you like with me in there, and you know it. But I’ve been searching my mind since, and going over things in it, and I find that I’m not a bit sorry or repentant really, so it’s no earthly good saying I am; now, is it?’”
Two things before we begin. The recipe described herein is indeed not “Toad Hall Stew” but rather “Frogmore Stew”… a wonderful dish whose origins trace to South Carolina low-country. The variations of the recipe are many. But essentially it is a one pot dish based on shrimp, sausage and corn on the cob. Once again I have selected a version for its ease of assembly and its superb tastiness.
Next… as the above quotation bears witness, I am a big fan of Wind in the Willows. There is something that has always drawn me to the character of Mr. Toad… a gentleman of high birth, living in a grand home, enjoying a life rich in leisure pursuits, dressing impeccably, a gracious host, full of bombast and knowing how to set a fine table.
“There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger’s origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.”
So forgive me for deceiving you as to the name of the recipe. But of this I have no doubt… it is a dish worthy of Mr. Toad. This would be a repast that could grace the back patio of Toad Hall. I can see Toad extending his hospitality to Rat, Mole and Badger… the friends enjoying the informality of the fare, watching the setting sun kiss the river bank, talking of adventure and sipping a chilled Rosé.
The wine choices are several. Crisp to fuller whites would work. Alsatian Pinot Blanc or Riesling come to mind. Albariño from Spain would be a great choice, and if you are set on Chardonnay, select a more mineral driven version such as Chablis or Pouilly-Fuissé. A lighter red would also be fun… a slightly chilled Beaujolais from one of the Cru’s (Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie & etc.) would be the ticket. Rosés for sure. My favorites come from Provence; but for Toad Hall Stew I am choosing a fuller style of Rosé of Tempranillo from Rioja.
Bodegas Olarra Reciente Rosé ’12 (Rioja, Spain)
100% Tempranillo. Cold soak macerated prior to allowing natural yeasts to begin converting sugar to alcohol, ensures the fresh elegance of fruit is retained in the finished wine. A classic saignée method employed by the producers in Provence for their Rosé’s. Crisp and fresh, this salmon colored wine is delicious offering up rose petals, hints of orange rind, raspberry and strawberry. Clear, dry finish with a bright level of acidity making the wine a perfect accompaniment to anything served from your barbecue grill. Or, excellent as a refreshing apéritif on a sunny afternoon!
Toad Hall Stew
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
A goodly amount of ice
4 quarts cold water
¼ cup OldBay seasoning
1 Tbs. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Yellow onion, diced
1 garlic head, halved crosswise
2½ lbs. small red potatoes
4 ears of corn, shucked, each cut into 4 pieces
2 lbs. smoked sausage, cut into 1½-inch slices
2 lbs. medium shrimp, deveined, in the shell
1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
2. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the water, OldBay seasoning, the 1 Tbs. salt, celery, onion, garlic and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced, 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Add the corn and sausage to the pot and simmer until the corn is tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer until opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings with salt.
n.b. I used a Vidalia onion. I switched to jumbo shrimp (sorry, medium shrimp aren’t worth the effort). I also don’t devein shrimp (just a nuisance step that I find totally without merit).
The world has held great Heroes,
As history books have showed;
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!
The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr. Toad!