Best Cook: Downriver Picnics
When Laurie Lufkin was little, her folks would buy subs from the local deli, the family would all
pile into a boat with drinks, a big pot, and a bag of steamers, and they’d head downriver to the vast white dunes of Crane Beach. Her father owned the marina here, and her grandparents lived across the Essex River. “We’d boil up the clams and eat them right there on the beach,” she says. Now Laurie goes down to the beach with friends in her own little skiff, puttering along the river, past the marshlands and Hog Island, out almost to the open ocean. “I’m so lucky to live so close to one of the most gorgeous places on the planet,” she says.
Inspired by her mother and grandmother, Laurie has perfected the art of beach picnics. Some days, she barbecues chicken ahead of time, packs it hot into her cooler, lined with foil, and closes the lid. “It’s still hot when you get to the beach,” she says. Another trick is to pour boiling water into a drink cooler, add hot dogs, and close the lid. “When you get there, the hot dogs are done,” she explains. Today she’s packed mint-fresh iced tea, her couscous-and-shrimp salad, and lemon thyme cookies.
Laurie is well known here for her culinary skills; she’s the star of her own cooking show on a local cable channel. In 2006, she entered her “Toasted-Pecan Toffee Cookies” in a contest at the Topsfield Fair–and won. From then on, it’s been win, win, win. Last fall, she took the grand prize of $10,000 in Hood’s second annual New England Dairy Cook-Off with her “Buttermilk Pumpkin Cakes with Sour Cream Apple Caramel & Dried Cranberries.”
Laurie’s daughter, Lily, age 10, sometimes does her own segment on the cooking show. Recently, Lily’s “Secret Strawberry Pie” (with a chocolate crust) ended up on YouTube: pretty darned cute and, like everything her mother creates, mouthwatering, as well.
Check out Laurie’s blog for more recipes, food news, and commentary: laurielufkin.wordpress.com