When my daughter was in high school, I drove her and a friend down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for spring break. While we were there, a friend insisted we go to Lucy Buffet’s Lulu’s Gulf Shores, a bayside beach restaurant. I was pretty sure, no make that positive, that this would be some kind of not-so-good-but-my-brother-Jimmy-is-a-major-celebrity type of place. The good thing, I thought when we sat down in the very crowded main dining room was that we could see dolphins frolicking out in the water from our screened in, over-sized window. That would make the bad food worth it.
Okay, so I totally misjudged what Lulu’s was all about. The food was delicious, whatever was fried was done just right—not greasy or heavy—and there were plenty of other options on the menu that were delicious like the crab melt, Crazy Sista’s Juicy Pot Roast Sandwich (yes, indeed, pot roast), gumbo, Lulu’s Jerk Chicken Quesadillas and, of course, this being the south, fried okra and fried hushpuppies (both of which were wonderful). I was given a copy of her cookbook, Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine & Conversation with Lucy Anne Buffet (Grand Central Life & Style) that included a foreword by brother Jimmy. Crazy Sista is Lucy Anne’s nickname. Now Buffet also has restaurants in Destin, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and several other cookbooks including LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life and Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life. Many of the zippy recipes are the same with new ones added. For the fried oyster recipe Dave requested, I included Mama’s Favorite Oyster Loaf. Instead of oysters, you can use fried shrimp or even fried veggies instead.
The recipe calls for making a lot of the ingredients such as her Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles and Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal. I’ve included those recipes, thinking you can plop the pickles in the refrigerator and eat them at other times and save the left over cornmeal mix as well. But if you’re in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want to make it simple, you can just find comparable ingredients at the grocery store. And since it’s good to have an accompaniment, I’ve included Lulu’s recipe for Sweet Tomato Pie.
The following recipes are from LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life by Lucy Anne Buffet (Grand Central Life & Style, $20).
Listen to Lucy talk about Gumbo Love.
Mama’s Favorite Oyster Loaf
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 quart oysters
4 (8-inch) New Orleans-style French bread or 1 baguette, cut into four pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons butter, softened
Mayonnaise to taste
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickle slices (recipe below)
Hot Pepper Sauce
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Fried oysters (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Fry oysters in batches and place cooked oysters in oven to keep warm.
Slice bread horizontally, about three-fourths of the way through, leaving one edge intact.
Spear a little butter on inside surface of French bread and toast. I like to place mine face-down on a warm skillet or grill.
Spread mayonnaise on toasted read.
Layer lettuce, tomato slices and pickles on bottom side of the bread. Top with fried oysters, using about eight oysters per sandwich.
Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.
Cut into halves or quarters depending upon the bread you’re using and serve.
Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles
1 (1-gal.) jar whole kosher dill pickles, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup peeled, halved, and sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 medium-size yellow onions, thinly sliced
20 garlic cloves, sliced in half lengthwise
8 cinnamon sticks
Place all the ingredients in a big ol’ stainless steel bowl or large plastic food-safe container with an airtight lid. Using your hands, toss well. Cover and chill overnight. The pickles will reduce in volume, so the next day you can place in a very large jar or several small airtight containers for easier storage.
Refrigerate at least 1 week before using, turning topsy-turvy every day. Pickles are ready when sugar has dissolved and all dill flavor has vanished. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.
Perfect Fried Oysters
Make Lulu’s Crazy Crying Cornmeal (recipe below) or use regular cornmeal.
6 cups peanut oil or enough to fill a skillet, about 2 inches deep
1 quart oysters, drained
Heat oil in cast iron skillet to 355 degrees or heat until a little flour flicked into the oil sizzles
Taking a few oysters at a time, dredge through cornmeal mixture coating thoroughly.
Gently drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown turning once or until they float to the top. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose white cornmeal
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well.
Sweet Tomato Pie
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pastry for 1 pie crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 cup shredded Parmesan
4 green onions, including the green part, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 large red tomatoes, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in ribbons
2 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle flour over work surface and roll pastry dough to fit a 7-by-11-inch baking dish, making sure dough comes up the sides of the dish. Poke bottom of crust with a fork in several places. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sugar; sauté until onions are very brown and caramelized. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is cooked through and tender. Remove onions and garlic from skillet and let cool.
Using a food processor, process cream cheese, mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, mustard, Parmesan and green onions until well mixed.
In the cooled pie crust, layer half the onions, cream cheese mixture, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and Gruyere. Repeat. Bake for 35 minutes or until pie is bubbling and top is browned. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
Serves 4 to 6
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Pinot Gris or any other crisp light white wine
1/2 cup peach-flavored vodka
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 fresh pineapple, chopped into cubes
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
2 fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 mango, chopped into cubes
1 (8-ounce) can ginger ale
In a very large pitcher, combine the wine, vodka, sugar, and fruit. Stir well. Let the ingredients steep in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours (the longer, the better).
Add the ginger ale and ice cubes about 30 minutes before serving.
Place a strainer over the mouth of the pitcher and pour to order. Garnish with any leftover fruit, such as more of the pineapple, lemon, strawberries, and mango.