Catch of the Day Fish Tacos. CONTRIBUTED BY: St. Martin's Press
Photo: HANDOUT
Photo: HANDOUT

‘The Beach House Cookbook’ offers easy breezy vacation recipes

The subtitle of “The Beach House Cookbook” by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is “easy breezy recipes with a Southern accent.”

For anyone who’s cooked for even a small crowd during a beach vacation, those words are as soothing as the sound of waves lapping against the shore on a summer evening.

If you don’t know, Andrews is a New York Times best-selling author and “Beach Read Queen” notable for a string of summer novels, including “The Weekenders,” “Beach Town,” “Save the Date” and “Summer Rental.”

But I know the longtime Atlantan by her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck, and from her former job as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Back in those days, I always looked forward to stopping by the annual New Year’s Day open house Trocheck and her husband, Tom, hosted at their home in Avondale Estates.

The hospitality and treats extended from a lively backyard oyster roast to the dining room table groaning with such favorites as Tom’s herb-cured gravlax and Kathy’s Southern Living-tweaked grits ‘n greens casserole.

In recent years, the Trochecks have moved the New Year’s party to their Ebbtide beach house on Tybee Island.

Kathy Trocheck (aka Mary Kay Andrews) prepares her Beyond the Grave Chicken Salad at her home in Avondale Estates. HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM
Photo: For the AJC

But the recipes for those tried-and-true dishes followed with them, and made it into the cookbook, along with a host of others that recall Trocheck’s memories of growing up in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a lifetime of vacations along the Gulf and Georgia coasts.

What’s more, the practical beauty of “The Beach House Cookbook” is the way it’s arranged by seasons and occasions, with each chapter offering a list of recipes meant to make a complete meal.

One of my favorite sections, simply titled “Catch of the Day,” features some truly Tybee dishes, like the fish tacos the Trocheck family favors at Sundae Cafe and Tybee Island Social Club.

“Tybee Fish Tacos started as Tom’s fried ‘fish bites,’ which he’d make from whatever fish he caught that day, to serve at get-togethers at Ebbtide,” Trocheck told me recently. “Then it morphed into fish tacos with the addition of my grandmother’s vinegar slaw and the Baja-style dressing.”

Another recipe for frying up fresh corn fritters illustrates how Trocheck likes to streamline the cooking process to allow more time for entertaining.

“Why heat up oil and make a mess twice?” Trocheck asks. “If we’ve got a big crowd and the weather’s good, we’ll pull out the propane cooker, but you can totally do this on your stovetop. With a fish fry, we’re super casual, so we’ll drain things on brown paper sacks.”

One of the most fun and evocative recipes in the book, Frozen Key Lime Pops, also doubles as a neat timesaver that can be made ahead.

“This recipe was definitely an experiment,” Trocheck allows. “I tried dipping the finished bars in a variety of chocolate coatings, but never found ‘the one,’ so left it off the final version. If you don’t love graham cracker crumbs, you could change that up, too. Try crushed pretzels for a salty, crunchy vibe. Or you could get the hit of chocolate by using chocolate graham crackers for the crumbs.”

Overall, Trocheck likes to play with recipes and change them to suit her whims. She likens it to “free-styling,” a similar process she uses to inspire the characters and plots in her books.

“Cocktail hour starts early, and there’s always dessert; otherwise, there are no hard-and-fast rules for beach house cooking,” she says.

Speaking of cocktail hour, another new cookbook of sorts, “Beach Cocktails: Favorite Surfside Sips and Bar Snacks” by the editors of Coastal Living (Oxmoor House, $25), makes a perfect companion to “The Beach House Cookbook.”

In it, you’ll find inspiration for everything from Tiki bar classics to newer takes on cocktails made for vacations among the sun, surf and sand.

FOOD RECIPES

These recipes from “The Beach House Cookbook” are an easy breezy way to put together a casual Tybee Island-style fish fry. Add whatever sides you favor, including Old School Mac ’n’ Cheese, which you’ll find in the book.

From “The Beach House Cookbook” by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)

COCKTAIL RECIPES

These recipes from the new “Beach Cocktails” book include a boozy Bahamas classic, and a sophisticated take on the classic margarita.

From “Beach Cocktails: Favorite Surfside Sips and Bar Snacks” by the editors of Coastal Living (Oxmoor House, $25).