Cooking is part of the entertainment in this Jamaica Beach kitchen
Marshall and Stacey Monroe spend a lot of time in their kitchens — they have two.
One is a commercial kitchen for their Coastal Catering business. The other is upstairs in their Jamaica Beach house, and it’s a special place for them.
“It feels incredibly right,” said Marshall, also known as Chef Marshall. “I felt that way immediately.”
The Monroes bought their house 26 years ago when prices in this West End island community were more affordable. Marshall served as a youth minister for 20 years, including 15 years at Moody Methodist Church in Galveston.
Marshall worked mostly with teenagers in his job at the church. Teenagers like to eat, he said.
“If you want them to show up, you have to feed them,” he realized early on. “And if you want their parents to come, feed them, too.
“I became very creative with working within a limited budget to make a decent dinner. And I became very good at it.”
Marshall grew up around cooking, he said. He was raised in rural Fort Bend County in a house with four children, including his identical twin brother. His mother, who was one of 12 children, always was preparing food for the extended family.
“She wasn’t a fancy cook, but she was an excellent cook,” he said. “l learned to love the nostalgic smell of certain foods cooking. They are comfort foods.”
But with the large family — he has 49 first cousins — came the kitchen chores.
“I washed enough dishes to sink a battleship,” he said.
What he learned from his mother and grandmother was that food has to look as good as it tastes, he said.
“You could say you eat with your eyes,” he said. “If it looks bad, it probably tastes bad, too. One of the secrets to tasty food is to season while you are cooking.”
About 20 years ago, Marshall began a little catering business part-time. Five years later, he launched Coastal Catering as his full-time job. He caters parties, weddings, private dinners and events for up to 500 guests.
But when he’s cooking for himself and family, it’s his Jamaica Beach kitchen that works for him, he said.
The Monroes frequently entertain family and friends and the dining room is close by — the table is good for eating or board games — and is in full view from the kitchen. The long preparation counters give Marshall and Stacey ample room to prepare foods they love.
“It’s not the world’s largest kitchen, but from here I can see everyone while I’m cooking,” Marshall said.
Guests can share in the aromas and sounds of chopping and cooking, he said.
“Because they can see what’s going on in the kitchen, it becomes a family affair,” he said. “The cooking becomes part of the entertainment.”
At the end of the counters is a deep pantry that holds an array of spices and blends, as well as a well-stocked selection of adult beverages. The counters are decorated with a set of four brightly colored canisters and a few small appliances.
One of Marshall’s favorite recipes is an interesting and beautiful beef Wellington, he said. It takes seven hours to prepare, so he doesn’t make it frequently. But he does like to make a chopped shrimp cocktail with a special sauce. He also enjoys making distinctive soups — tortilla or potato — and an array of Mediterranean-inspired finger foods, such as stuffed grape leaves, hummus, feta cheese with cucumbers or encrusted Gouda.
Marshall doesn’t like “heat and serve foods.” Instead, he prefers “shop and cook,” he said.
“Shop for what is in season or cook what you have,” he said. “I like comfort foods because they bring back memories while making new memories. We want our guests to feel at home and break bread with them.”
Marshall’s role as a caterer isn’t far removed from his career with the ministry,
“I am still serving people,” he said.
Super easy cocktail sauce
2 cups ketchup — any brand will do
3-6 ounces ground or prepared horseradish (Marshall likes extra hot)
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh or bottled lemon juice
Whisk everything together, taste and adjust if needed. Too hot for you? Add more ketchup. Not spicy enough? Add more horseradish. Chill.
“The secret to this sauce is not to be afraid of the horseradish,” Marshall said. “Use it.”
Chopped Shrimp Salad
30 medium/large boiled Gulf shrimp, diced (4-5 per person)
1 small English cucumber, finely diced
½ medium red onion, finely diced
2 medium/large fresh jalapeños, finely diced
2 stalks fresh celery, finely diced
1 medium/large red bell pepper, finely diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, medium chop
1 large avocado, diced
This is an easy “to taste” version of a great shrimp cocktail.
Start with good Gulf shrimp shelled and chopped into thirds. Finely dice the cucumber, red onion, jalapeño, celery and red bell pepper.
Rinse cilantro, lightly de-stem and rough chop. Dice and pour lemon juice on avocado. Place shrimp into a large bowl and add almost everything, except avocado. Add that in the end.
Add ½ of just-prepared cocktail sauce and fold together.
Place chopped shrimp cocktail in those rarely used martini glasses or serve atop a bed of freshly chopped romaine lettuce and garnish with a stem of grapes.