ABOVE Setting out to sea means lots of fun and games with friends, as well as delicious, easy-to-cook meals for all. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau
When Martha and Kenny Muscat go cruising along Mobile Bay in their custom wooden boat, heads turn. The /usr/friendly, as it is called (Kenny cofounded local computer company CPSI), is a real looker with classic lines and loads of personality. Kenny’s brother, Joe, built the tiny troller by hand on top of a lobster boat hull they purchased out of New Brunswick, Canada.
The ship was designed to allow its passengers to enjoy the outdoors with windows and doors that open to let warm breezes and sunshine flow in and out of the wheelhouse. Kenny admits he’s a shade kind of guy, and with a covered flying bridge up top for driving in calm seas, there’s plenty of that, too. The 35-foot vessel is the picture of classic nautical design, with a dark green hull, teak railings and lots of wood below deck, and a touch of shiny brass here and there.
Over the last decade, the Muscats have traveled from the boat’s homeport at the Grand Hotel up and down Mobile Bay and beyond, inviting their kids, grandkids, friends and relatives on board. They often take overnight trips to Sand Island, The Wharf at Orange Beach and even an annual week-long trip to Apalachicola. As with most boats, quarters are close, with the tiny bunkbeds, master berth and “head” practically on top of one another. With that in mind, the Muscats make sure to travel with friends who are easygoing “boat” people.
The Muscats have found the perfect cruising guests in Margaret and Billy Seifert, above, whom they’ve known since high school. Both couples grew up in Mobile but now reside on the Bay in Point Clear and appreciate the slower pace of life on the /usr/friendly. Margaret grew up on Dog River, and Billy loves life on the water, so finding their sea legs is not a problem. The crew of four often takes weekend-long excursions together, eating, drinking and laughing over a game of dominoes late into the night.
Martha makes entertaining at sea look effortless. She always asks guests to bring a snack to share on board and then plans the rest of the meals using simple recipes that can be prepped ahead of time and served up in the tight galley kitchen. The boat has only a small refrigerator, one gas burner, a microwave and toaster oven, so meals need to be uncomplicated. Martha is an accomplished cook but admits that on the boat she takes shortcuts she wouldn’t at home. She has compiled a list of recipes over the years that are crowd-pleasers but don’t require a lot of work or perishable ingredients. These quick and trouble-free recipes will no doubt be appreciated in landlubber kitchens, too. Here, she shares some of her go-to’s.
Muscato White Sangria
The perfect cocktail for sunsets and dominoes, this sangria goes down easy.
1 ounce Skyy brand blood orange vodka
1 1/2 ounces sour mix
4 ounces muscato white wine
1. Put raspberries in the bottom of a glass and top with ice. Pour vodka, sour mix and muscato over the top and serve. Serves 1
/usr/friendly Shrimp Creole
This dish was made for life on the boat — fresh local seafood cooked with easy shelf-stable ingredients in the electric skillet and toaster oven of a boat kitchen. Kenny loves to make it for guys-only fishing weekends on the Bay. Serve it with his addictive Butter-Toasted Saltine Crackers, below.
25-ounce can Blue Runner brand shrimp Creole base
1 can original Rotel
1 pound medium shrimp, headed, peeled and deveined
2 cups cooked white rice (Success microwave rice works great on the boat.)
1. Simmer the shrimp Creole base in a skillet for 15 minutes until it is reduced by a third.
2. Drain Rotel and add to the skillet. Return to a simmer, then add shrimp. Heat until shrimp are cooked, 3 – 5 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and serve immediately over rice. Serves 4
Butter-Toasted Saltine Crackers
Kenny’s sister, Betty Wilson, always made these crackers to serve with her gumbo. They are the perfect salty boat snack.
1/2 sleeve Saltine crackers
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1. Cover the baking pan of a toaster oven with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
2. Preheat toaster oven (or regular oven) to 250 degrees.
3. Lay saltines on the pan. Top each cracker with a dab of softened butter. Place pan in oven and toast for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Serves 4.
Chile Cheese Breakfast Casserole
To make cooking on the boat a snap, Martha mixes the dry ingredients ahead of time in a plastic zip-top bag. You can also assemble this dish two hours before baking and keep in the refrigerator. They serve this casserole with smoked link sausage from Farm Fresh Meats in Robertsdale and fresh berries marinated overnight in Chambord.
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.
4. Grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and add the batter. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until puffy and brown and the center is firm. Serves 8.
Dan’s Hot Dog Chili
Martha says there’s no sense in making one batch. It freezes well and will be enjoyed quickly, so double up! They got the recipe from their friend’s brother, Dan, who lives in Pennsylvania where this local bar food is served on hot dogs, hamburgers or on a bun by itself.
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium onions, diced small
2 1/2 cups (or 1 20-ounce can) tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1. Brown ground beef in a heavy pot. Drain the excess fat.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Add more red pepper flakes, if desired.
3. Serve warm on top of hot dogs or hamburgers. Garnish with your favorite toppings. Serves 12.