If you are sitting down, Lois Scheyer will feed you. It’s really not even necessary that you sit — just that you be there. She loves food, loves cooking, loves feeding people.
That’s the explanation of how the photo shoot for this column turned into a luncheon for 10 lucky guests. The menu is a Scheyer classic — the seafood platter for which she is famous. It is remarkably simple, albeit not inexpensive to make: You buy the seafood fully prepared from your favorite fish market, whip up a few sauces, arrange everything beautifully on a big platter and sit down to feast.
For this occasion, Scheyer served homemade gazpacho as a first course; French bread and “Russian Salad” as side dishes; and an elegant pistachio cheesecake for dessert. It happened the Monday after Thanksgiving, but the concept would make an equally festive lunch or supper anytime during the holiday season.
Scheyer says her passion for cooking comes from having an appreciative husband. “Stuart Scheyer raved about everything I made. It was like going for applause — the more he applauded, the more I loved to cook,” Scheyer says. The praise continues to this day, 59 years later. So does the teasing.
The way Stuart tells it, “Lois never made a simple dinner in her life. There is no such thing as entrée-starch-veggie. Whether she is feeding four or 40, a typical Friday night dinner starts with two soups, two salads, two entrees plus a pasta for the children plus innumerable starches and sides. And inevitably, we find at least one forgotten item in the fridge or the oven.” (For this meal, it was butter unmelted in the microwave.)
Lois Scheyer wishes everyone would catch the joy of creating food and that it wouldn’t be looked upon as a chore. She celebrates “the nurturing quality of feeding people you care about.”
“I love taking nothing and turning it into something really special,” Scheyer says. “I love the process, the smells, the tastes, the color. It’s an art form for me; I love everything about it.”
What does she like least? “There’s nothing that I don’t love about it. Even cleaning up. I like the feeling of everything being done and put away,” she says.
Lois Scheyer’s Seafood Platter for Ten
5 steamed lobsters, halved
Juice of two lemons
30 jumbo shrimp, deveined and cooked with tails on
10 Alaskan King Crab legs (12” long, if available)
20 oysters, shucked
10 stone crab claws
5 lemons, halved and wrapped in cheesecloth
3 bunches radishes
Arrange seafood on a large platter; sprinkle lemon juice over all. Garnish with radishes and lemons. Serve cold with sauces. You may also offer melted butter.
Scheyer stuffs the lobster cavities with “Russian Salad,” which she describes as “your favorite recipe for home-made potato salad with the ingredients cut into very small bits.” All the seafood may be purchased already cooked from a good fish market. Lois Scheyer uses and recommends Walt’s Fish Market (4144 S Tamiami Trail, (941) 921-4605)
3 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup mayonnaise
4 cloves garlic, pressed or mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Finely chop basil leaves in a food processor.
Add mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice and process until combined. Sauce should be green.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
½ cup Dijon mustard
1 cup Mayonnaise
Whisk ingredients together to combine.
Buy Crosse & Blackwell or another good brand and add lemon juice and horseradish to taste.
To see Lois Scheyer discuss her seafood platter, see video below.