Wednesday, August 31 –
Let me start this post by saying there was some really good food from these recipes, there was also some tragically terrible food, but because of good friends and company while cooking it all ended in laughter anyway. This dinner I not only had the company of my Wonderful Boyfriend and Roommate Extraordinaire, I also had the company and help of Sassy Country Girl who not only braved fish, which she doesn’t ordinarily enjoy, she also participated by bringing two desserts and two beverages.
I started with the sauces, knowing that there would be several steps when making these dishes so I wanted to be as prepared as possible. From the top of the list down I made the spice paste, and then the citrus souscaille, and then the mix of ingredients that was to go on the fish. The first thing I noticed was the spice paste made about half of a blender full and the recipe only called for one tablespoon. I can’t handle that much waste, so I prepared myself to find a way to use it later in the cooking process. Then the souscaille came next, and it smelled absolutely heavenly. Last was the mix that went onto the fish, which was also supposed to be “discarded” after sitting for a bit, and I couldn’t handle that kind of waste either. So the creative part of my cooking-brain was kicked into high gear.
My helpers, Wonderful Boyfriend and Roommate Extraordinaire, sat at the table and wrangled the prawns out of their shells and cleaned them and de-boned the fish fillets. I am very, extra thankful that they were there to help or else this dinner would have taken me forever to make. Sassy Country Girl showed up about this time and started blending beverages, which were called Lighthouse Bay Malibu Twister and Barbuda Sands. My thoughts on those? YUM! And more, please. I’ll make sure to put the recipes and links on the recipe page.
So the mix went onto the freshly de-boned fish. The extra spice paste went onto the prawns. The souscaille was set aside for topping the finished product. On to the part that was a whole lot less clear, the stuffed plantains. I have never cooked plantains before, let alone stuffed them, so Sassy Country Girl and I just made it up as we went along. We split them (in their peels), then pulled the flesh away from the sides, and then as she held the split and sides open I put the stuffing in with a spoon. I chose to take the word “blend” in the recipe seriously, so my filling came out as a wonderful smelling sauce. Then we tried to wrap them in plastic wrap, twice each, so that we could heat them in warm water. I made the water hot but not boiling and placed them as gently as I could in the pot so they wouldn’t tip over.
Moving on to the fish and the prawns… I heated two separate pans with olive oil and put the prawns with spice paste in one and the fish with curry sprinkles and the topping still on them into the other. The recipe said it would take about 3 minutes each side but I think it took them a little longer than that. I cooked the prawns until pink and then set aside. I cooked two fish fillets at a time, because that’s what would fit in my pan. After all of the seafood was done and on plates I took the plantains out and unwrapped the messy things as carefully as I could. I quickly heated the tomatoes (I used a mix of red, orange, and yellow cherry tomatoes) and put them on to finish the plates. Dinner was served!
The results of this medley of sauces, spices, and crazy trying-not-to-be-wasteful-improvisation? The prawns were tasty but cold by the time I got to sit and eat. The fish was good, the souscaille was amazing, and the curry was strangely fitting, but I really wish it had been on a better (in my opinion) fish – something like halibut. I think that would have taken the dish from good to great. Cooking it with the mix still on top was a good choice, and the tomatoes on the side were a wonderful addition. The plantains… well… taught me a lesson. That lesson is to NEVER ever use slightly green plantains. Use the yellow ones only. Two of us got slightly green ones and two of us got ripe yellow ones. The green ones were so bad on the first bite that I almost spit it out into my hand to make it stop assaulting my mouth with its horribleness. The ripe ones were so delicious that it knocked my socks off. So we quickly threw the green ones away (NEVER AGAIN!) and split the other two, sharing them around the table. I am definitely taking the leftover sauce for these and making them again this weekend.
The desserts were one part hilariously not-yummy and one part please-give-me-more-delicious. The sugar cakes, as you see in the photo as the blue lumpy cookie-type things, were basically just sugar, coconut, almond flavoring, and blue food coloring. They crunched in your teeth like eating a spoonful of sugar and didn’t taste like much of anything except the coconut and almond. We gave up on them immediately and moved on to the rum-soaked bananas. These bananas were so good I almost went back for seconds. They were banana, rum, brown sugar goodness that we put on top of vanilla ice cream. If we had to do it over again we would have used a little less rum and lime juice (less rum because I misread the recipe and we poured all of the rum in during the beginning instead of splitting it in half for the flambe… oops!).
Things I have learned: Friends make everything better, even terrible things like unripe plantains. I already knew that, but this was just one of those nights where I’m glad to have the people in my life that I do. Never ever use unripe plantains. (Can you tell that this experience scarred me?) Adding lots of different rums together can make delicious drinks – but watch out for making them midweek! Take courage from Sassy Country Girl’s willingness to try fish from an untried recipe. Some of these will be great and some of them not so much, but after 4.5 years of this I will have lots of great memories and new cooking skills.
Recommendations from our sommelier, Leigh Olson: (Even though we didn’t have wine this time I love having her thoughts and notes about pairing, so if you feel more like wine than rum, here’s some good tips for you!) With its unique fusion of Spanish, French, African, Indian and Native American cultures the cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda is quite complex. And this meal doesn’t disappoint when it comes to complexity. This one was a bit of challenge. Let’s see lemon ~ lemon works with wines that show a bit of acidity like an Albarino. But wait now throw in some capers. Also very acidic but these little babies add a little funk to the acidity. Maybe a Rioja Reserva which is aged for 3 years with at least one in oak. But wait! How about a Scotch Bonnet pepper ~ with its 2,500 – 8,000 heat rating on the Scoville Scale. This pepper is what gives Caribbean jerk its distinct flavor. So we have acid, funk and heat. HMMMM. I am thinking a good ol’ German Gewürztraminer. This wine has enough fruit to help put out the fire of the jerk seasonings and many Gs also exhibit flavors of nutmeg and cloves ~ yet another element in the recipe. Yep, I am going to have to go with the Gewürztraminer for this pairing.
- Everyday, Easy Drinker | Martinelli Vineyards Gewürztraminer Russian River Valley
- Step it up | Trimbach Gewürztraminer
- Money is No Object | 2005 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Heimbourg Selection de Grains Nobles (half bottle)
If you can’t find one of these, ask your wine steward at your local grocer. They can be great resources. Just tell them you are planning on pairing with a spicy complex
Fun Facts: Gewürztraminer literally means Spice Traminer. Tramin (where the grape got it name) is the village in South Tyrol ~ yep that would be Italy. And guess what else? They speak German there!
Serving Temp: Mid 40’s – 50 degrees. No wine cooler, no problem. Store your Gewürzt in the refrigerator and pull it out 45 minutes before serving.
Vessel of Choice: Zwiesel 1872 The First Gewürztraminer Wine Glass. Ok, truth be told I am not sure that I would spend $70.00 on one wine glass ~ unless of course Uncle Buford left a couple of mil. But check it out. This really is a beautiful glass!
Antigua and Barbuda
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: http://uktv.co.uk and www.dishbase.com)
Grilled Red Snapper with Citrus Souscaille
For the spice paste:
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small spring onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 Scotch bonnet chilli, seeds and stems removed
- 2 tsp thyme, leaves only
- 2 tsp marjoram leaves
- 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- small pinch ground cloves
- pinch coarsely ground black peppercorns
For the citrus souscaille:
- 1 tbsp spices, paste (see above)
- 1-2 lime, juice only
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley, or Caribbean celery leaves
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the fish:
- 2 limes, grated zest and juice, plus an extra squeeze of juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander, or Caribbean celery leaves
- 4 x 175 g red snapper, sea bream fillets, or 400g king prawns, shelled, deveined
- 1 tsp Madras curry powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tsp butter
1. For the seasoning paste: Tip all the ingredients into a food processor and blend to a smooth paste. This paste tastes best if left for a few days to mature before using.
2. For the souscaille: combine one rounded tablespoon of the seasoning paste with the lime juice, sugar, celery leaves, coriander, red pepper and olive oil. Taste for seasoning – adding more sugar or lime juice if needed. Aim for a tart, tangy flavour.
3. For the fish or prawns: combine the lime rind and juice with the garlic, red pepper, spring onion and coriander and spoon over the fish or prawns and leave on one side for 5 minutes. Remove from its marinade and sprinkle with curry powder just before frying.
4. Heat the oil in a sturdy frying pan set over a medium heat and fry the fish for 3 minutes, skin side facing downwards. Flip the fillets over and cook for a further minute until it flakes easily. If you are using prawns, fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring all the time, over a moderate heat, until they have turned pink. Remove and set aside.
5. Tip the tomatoes into the same pan while still on the heat. Add the butter and sharpen with a squeeze of lime.
6. Spoon a dollop of souscaille sauce over the fish and serve any extra on the side. Accompany with the warmed tomatoes.
- 3 Carrots
- 1 Pineapple
- 1 Green Pepper
- 8 oz. Olive Oil
- 1/2 HD. Cilantro
- 1/2 HD. Parsley
- 3 Mangoes
- 1 Red Pepper
- 2 Sprig Garlic
- 2 TBL. Sugar
- 1/2 Hd. Fresh Basil
- 1 LB. Butter
- 8 Plantains
Directions: Peel and Julienne Carrots, Mangoes, Pineapple, and Green and Red Peppers and Garlic. Heat Pot. Add 3 Tbs. Olive Oil, Carrots, Mangoes & Pineapple. Add Peppers, Garlic, Salt & Pepper to taste. Sautee for 3 Minutes.
Sauce: Blend Cilantro, Parsley, 4 Tbs. Olive Oil, Basil, Sugar, Salt & pepper to taste. Butterfly Plantains. Add all ingredients to the plantains, roll in a plastic wrap, put in hot water for ten minutes.
- 4 large bananas, peeled
- ½ cups brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ cups light rum
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- some butter
Instructions: Split the bananas lengthwise, then in half across. Arrange in a well-buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with the sugar, lime juice, ¼ cup of the rum and the allspice. Dot with butter. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, basting two or three times during cooking. Just before serving, heat the remaining ¼ cup of rum and pour over the bananas, and set aflame.