This iconic Coast family loves their food so much that they have an annual gumbo competition. So much that they’ve updated their classic cookbook.
The O’Keefes, who recently lost their patriarch, Jerry, have a new edition of “Cooking on the Coast,” which was first published in June 1994. The updated and revised cookbook brings new recipes together with favorites that have withstood the test of time and trends.
“Jeff deserves the credit for prodding us to do a new edition,” said Joe O’Keefe, who edited and designed the revised cookbook. “Nobody expected it to have this longevity.”
The original cookbook relied heavily on the collected recipes of Jerry, his first wife, Annette, and their 13 children and their spouses, with classics such as gumbo and jambalaya.
“My mother had always dreamed of putting together a family cookbook,” Joe O’Keefe said. “She had assembled recipes but couldn’t find the time or team to do it.”
He was working for Foreign Affairs magazine in New York at the time and took the recipes his mother had gathered and put them into booklet form.
“I sent it to her stapled together. She called me up. ‘Oh, honey, I think you misunderstood! I expect to see this book on bookshelves,’” her son recalled. “I found a little publisher in Tennessee that specializes in family cookbooks, and we made a true and proper cookbook from this shoebox of recipes.”
The cookbook did well, leading to a second printing in November 1994.
This revised edition brings another generation into the mix as well as more exotic fare. O’Keefe stressed that the cookbook is “truly a collaboration, a family effort.”
“It’s a reflection of how people’s tastes have changed over 20 years. It’s access to more diverse and exotic foods, and it reflects the geographic spread of the family since then,” he said. He mentioned Will & Mimi’s Moroccan Vegetable Stew, submitted by Will and Mimi Ward; Will Ward is his nephew. “And there are other things, like Emily’s Feel-good Kale Salad (submitted by Emily Neustrom) and Venison Jalapeno Poppers (submitted by David Huval Jr. and David Huval III). Twenty years ago, poppers were just coming on the scene. It’s a reflection of changing times and tastes.”
The new book contains more than 275 recipes, about the same number as the original. That means some didn’t make the 21st-century cut.
“A lot of those recipes were from a previous generation. There were a lot of casseroles, the kind that involved dumping a can of soup into a casserole. Not anymore,” he said. “We tried hard to get more of the next generation in, and they responded with great enthusiasm. They submitted a lot of pictures and recipes.”
Of course, classics such as Oysters Bienville, Mama’s Sauteed Squash, Redfish Courtbouillon, Baked King Mackerel and Swiss Steak are still there.
Not all of the recipes are literal recipes. Jeanne Michelle O’Keefe submitted a “recipe” her father, John Michael O’Keefe, wrote several years ago for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “This is a kid’s first recipe,” it notes, then explains in loving detail how to make the sandwich of every kid’s and every waiting pet’s dream.
“Jeanne made the case for it,” her uncle said. “She said maybe it’s not the perfect recipe, but it captures her dad’s spirit. It’s quirky and it captures her dad’s spirit.”
The cookbook, at $19.95 hard copy and $16.95 eBook, is available at cookingonthecoast.com starting Wednesday. Hard copies are available locally at Paper Moon, Copper Pelican, The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Quality Seafood and Desporte’s Seafood in Biloxi; Barnes and Noble in Gulfport, and The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center, The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Martha’s Tea Room and Poppy’s in Ocean Springs, Jeff O’Keefe said. A book signing is scheduled for Dec. 16 at Barnes and Noble. All sales proceeds for Cooking on the Coast will go to the O’Keefe Family Foundation, which donates primarily to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.
Joe O’Keefe offered Mama’s Dirty Rice, one of his mother’s favorite recipes, as an example of the classics in the cookbook. The recipe feeds 25 to 30, which any O’Keefe might tell you is a small gathering. “We like this dish to be very spicy. Good for holidays, and to put in small casseroles for friends as a gift,” Rose Annette O’Keefe notes with the recipe.
Mama’s Dirty Rice
Rose Annette O’Keefe
1 pound ground beef
2 slices beef liver, diced
1 pound ground pork
2 cups ham, diced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 large onions, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 bunches green onions, minced
1/2 cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons black pepper
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 bulb garlic, minced
9 cups long grain rice
3 quarts water
In large pot, brown beef and pork thoroughly. Add chopped vegetables and mix well. Then add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper seasons and garlic at last. When well blended and simmered down, add rice and water, mix well. Cover with tight lid and cook over medium low heat. After 20-30 minutes, uncover, stir well, add more water if rice is not tender. When rice is done, cover and keep warm until time to serve. Serves 25-30.