Ricky Ruffin lives with his wife, Pam, near Bay Springs, Miss. And he’s got all the credentials to prove that he’s Magnolia State all the way.
His great-great-grandfather settled on former Indian land there in Jasper County in 1842. His Ruffin ancestors and relatives were cotton farmers, with the exception of his father, who raised beef cattle.
On his mother, Martha McAlpin’s side, her great-great-grandfather patented land there in the 1850s. But the apple didn’t fall from the tree. While Ruffin is a successful attorney by day, the rest of the time he raises cattle on rye grass and wheat in the winter.
For all the Mississippi in the man, he loves Louisiana. He enjoys the people, who he calls, “my kind of people, who like to have a good time. I love Cajun people. They love to hunt; they love to fish; they love to cook.”
He loves the cooking, which he calls the best in the world. And he loves the fishing, which he considers as good as the cooking.
Four or five times a year, he rounds up a gang of his Mississippi friends and relatives to invade Louisiana, where they head offshore from Fourchon. He loves to catch fish that pull hard: snapper (the bigger, the better), grouper, amberjacks, cobia, wahoo and tuna. “I like offshore fishing; the adrenaline rush of catching a big fish. You can’t get that from speckled trout.”
And he fills his freezers with his share of the catch to satisfy his passion for seafood cookery year-round.
Panéed Snapper with Meunière Sauce
“This one I ate at Randolph’s restaurant in Golden Meadow, La.,” Ruffin said, explaining the history of the dish. “He (Randy Cheramie) used to put pecans in it. I leave the pecans out. We got to be friends because we were going down there to fish twice a month from March to July. He gave me the recipe.
“He would have four specials on Saturday night. The kind of specials he had were the kind of cooking I like. He did a lot of sauces, plus he cooked a lot of the kind of fish I like — amberjack, snapper and lemonfish.”
Randolph’s is closed now: The Cheramie family sold it in 2001 and a few years later, it was permanently closed and the building demolished. But the recipe lives on in Ruffin’s kitchen.
TIP: Where this recipe calls for “Season-All,” Ricky uses his favorite Catalpa Plantation Seasoning. It can be ordered by calling 800-417-9591.
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 tbsp Crystal hot sauce
1 lemon, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 lime, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 pound butter
1/2 cup half & half
2 pounds snapper fillets
1 cup seasoned fish fry
1 cup flour
1 cup grape seed oil
1 stick butter
PREPARATION: Serves 4.
Add Worcestershire and hot sauce to a medium sauce pan. Stir lemon and lime pieces and 1/2 teaspoon of Season-All into the sauce and sauté about three minutes, breaking up the citrus pieces as they cook. Remove the remnants of the lemon and lime pieces, lower heat and add the butter. Do not allow to boil. Slowly add half & half, whisking constantly. When the meunière sauce has thickened, turn the heat off and set it aside. Season the fillets with Season-All. Mix the fish fry and flour in a bowl. Dredge the fish in the fish-fry mixture. Heat the grape seed oil and butter in an iron skillet. When heated, add the fillets and fry until browned. Plate the finished fillets and top them with the meunière sauce.