In his foreword to this revised edition of his sister’s cookbook, LuLu’s Kitchen – A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life, Jimmy Buffett explains how important cooking is to his family. He describes his father’s hurricane preparations as including an all important run to pick up some lobster. As someone who has survived a hurricane or two let me tell you, that is devotion. Clearly this same devotion has been passed down and shows strong in this cookbook.
Cookbook however isn’t really a great word for this collection of tips, memories and recipes. Full of awesome photos and mouth watering recipes, this book is more like what I would expect to read if I hung out in Lucy “LuLu” Buffett’s kitchen and just took verbatim notes about our conversations while cooking, which apparently is how LuLu intended the book to feel. LuLu is more than generous with her thoughts and ideas, sharing not only the recipes and how-to information but her philosophy, tips and “clues” as well. It is everything you will need to make these recipes your specialties too.
After introducing you to her family, herself and her restaurant, LuLu then gets down to the important part, “How To LuLu”. She explains how she got into cooking, the “10 Things I Absolutely Know About Cooking”, the “10 Ingredients For A Happy Life” and then the all important 5 mainstays to cooking a la LuLu. After all that, you are then sufficiently prepared to take on the luscious recipes included.
Check out this amazing recipe for LuLu’s Summer Seafood Gumbo:
Dehead, peel, and devein shrimp. Reserve heads and shells for later use. Pick through crabmeat carefully for shells. Refrigerate shrimp and crab until ready for use.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Drop tomatoes carefully into boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. Skins will slip off easily. Remove cores and coarsely chop tomatoes over a bowl to retain as much juice as possible. Set aside. (If using canned tomatoes, I cut them up in eights.)
Place chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, and okra in separate bowls. Set aside.
To make the roux, heat vegetable oil or bacon grease in a 10-quart heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, gradually add flour, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk roux , adjusting heat as necessary to keep from burning. This may take 25-35 minutes or until your arm feels like it is about to fall off and the roux is a dark mahogany color. Be careful; if the roux burns, you will have to start all over again!
Carefully add chopped onions to roux and continue stirring with a large wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. Onions will sizzle and steam when they hit the hot roux so caution is advised. Seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.
Add bell peppers and continue stirring for another 2 to 3 minutes; add celery continue to stir constantly for another 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture should now resemble a pot of black beans.
Add tomatoes and stir well.
Slowly add the heated stock.
Add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Bring gumbo to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.
Add okra and bring back to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat again to maintain a slow simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or a day (until okra has lost its bright green color and is cooked down like the other vegetables). If gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If too thin, continue to simmer uncovered.
At this point, you can cool the gumbo. It's always better the day after it has been cooked, although I've never had a complaint when I served gumbo the day I made it. Remove from heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then place pot, uncovered, in an empty sink. Fill the sink with water and ice around the stockpot. Stir gumbo every 15 minutes to move the liquid to facilitate cooling. Gumbo will spoil if cooled improperly. (At the restaurant, we have cooling cylinders that look like baseball bats that are frozen and placed in the middle of five-gallon stockpots.) When completely cool, refrigerate it, uncovered, for a couple of hours before placing it in an airtight container.
Reheat gumbo slowly to simmering. Thirty minutes before serving, add green onions, parsley, and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add shrimp and crabmeat. Mix well. Cover and turn off heat. Let sit for at least another 15 minutes while seafood cooks. It will stay hot for a long time. Adjust seasonings and serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.
Lucy Buffett is a restaurateur of the award winning, fun-loving LuLu's which serves more than one million guests a year at two locations, one in Gulf Shores, Alabama and the other in Destin, Florida. Lucy has also been recognized for her tireless work on behalf of sustainability and the environment. However, the greatest passion of this self-proclaimed gypsy rebel and reluctant entrepreneur is cooking good food for the people she loves. LuLu's Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life (formerly Crazy Sista Cooking) is her first cookbook and is full of recipes and stories that made her restaurant the famous destination it is today. You can find more information on Lucy at www.LucyBuffett.com and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.