Caribbean Potato Curry

The ingredient list for this recipe is somewhat lengthy, but chances are good that if you’re making this sauce,

you’re already working on other Caribbean dishes, and you have most of what we’ll use.  The best example of ‘other Caribbean dishes’ that use almost the same ingredients would be Jamaican jerk wet rub http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/jerk-marinade.html.  One of my all – time favorites to make and cook.

Caribbean flavors are of course tropical flavors, and have a lot in common with those used in Polynesian cooking, southeast Asian cooking, Indonesian cuisine, and Indian cuisine.  Coconut milk, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, hot peppers, green onions, garlic… it’s wonderful, and your home will smell like a spice store while you’re cooking.

Which isn’t a bad thing.

This particular ‘curry’ is somewhat of a cross between Indian and Thai curry.  It’s the best of both worlds and 100% Caribbean.  A chicken base is made and reduced, coconut milk is added and the whole thing is simmered in a rich blend of spices and herbs until thick and balanced.  White yams are gently cooked and added a la minute with sliced scallions.  It’s a perfect side dish for any feast in the islands.   I can almost hear the steel drums in the background.  It can also easily become the star of the meal- add chicken thighs, shrimp, lamb or goat (which is traditional Caribbean) and it becomes an intense and complete ‘stew’.

To simplify the recipe, I have broken it down into 3 easy parts:

  • The Base
  • The Sauce
  • The Finish
Viewed in its entirety, the process is complex and tedious.  Looked at individually, each step is easy and manageable.

Caribbean Potato Curry.

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time:  2 hours
Yield:  Enough for 4

Ingredients:

1/2 lb chicken backs, wings, bones or giblets
1/2 onion, rough chop
1 carrot, rough chop
1 rib celery, rough chop
1 knob of ginger, thick sliced
2 dry or 3 fresh habanero or scotch bonnet peppers
3 green onions, rough chop plus 2 thin sliced for finishing
1 tbsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cumin
4 each cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbsp whole dried corriander seed
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp curry powder
2 medium sized white sweet potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1 tbsp siracha hot sauce
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup white wine
kosher salt
vegetable oil

Method:

Step 1, the base:

In a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, begin browning the chicken.  When nicely browned, add the onion, green onion, carrot, celery and ginger.  Brown the vegetables with the chicken.  Add the white wine, the allspice, corriander, cumin, cinnamon and peppers.  Reduce the wine by 3/4.  Add enough water to almost cover everything.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Strain the whole thing, return the broth to the pot and reduce again by half.  This is the base.

Step 2, the sauce:

Place the base over high heat and quickly reduce until slightly thick (there won’t be much liquid left, which is perfect).  Add the coconut milk, lime juice, siracha, curry powder and a good pinch of salt.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low (coconut milk over high heat will quickly boil over making a mess).  Simmer slowly until thick.  This is the sauce.

Step3, the finish:

Place the potatoes in another sauce pot, barely cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt.  Bring to a simmer and simmer until fork tender.  Drain well.   Add a little oil to a saute pan and begin cooking the potatoes.  Season again with a little salt.  When the potatoes begin to slightly brown, add the sauce and reduce heat to low.  Cook over low heat until thick and the potatoes are tender.  Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Add scallions and serve right away.

Best served with jerk chicken, steamed rice, simmered greens, beans and red stripe beer.

Enjoy.

Salsa Verde

Another great condiment.  Otherwise known as green, or tomatillo salsa, salsa verde is primarily used as a condiment for many of our favorite Mexican or Latin American dishes.  But its applications go far beyond its traditional function as a condiment.  For example, add a little salsa verde to a saute pan, loosen it with some chicken stock and use as a base for shredded chicken and tortilla chips.  Use salsa verde as a finisher for sauteed chorizo and peppers, or grilled skirt streak with sweet potato fries.  Its versatility comes from its incredible natural flavor and ability to stand alone or work into sauces.

Tomatillos may look like small green tomatoes, but they reside in the nightshade family, and are more closely related to the gooseberry than anything else (the nightshade family includes several species of plants ranging from flowers to tobacco, most of which are bitter or poisonous to eat – the tomatillo lies on the bitter but palatable end).  Raw, they’re bitter, hard to digest and sour to the point of inedible.  Tomatillos always need to be cooked before consumption, which leads us, as cooks, to the discussion of flavor profiling and building.

Why boil when you can grill?

Salsa verde’s flavor, in my opinion, relies half on production technique and half on natural flavor.  I recommend grilling and slightly charring as many ingredients as possible, to impart that wonderful smokey grilled flavor into your salsa.  It’s easy and fast to make, stores well, and is a great addition to many meals outside the realm of Mexican cuisine.  Try it the next time you grill chicken or steak!

Salsa Verde with Grilled Chorizo and Tortilla chips

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time:  25 minutes
Inactive cook time:  30 minutes
Yield:  Enough for 4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups peeled tomatillos
2 poblano peppers
2 jalapeno chilis
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced in half
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice of 3 limes
kosher salt
3 links raw spicy Mexican chorizo sausage
4 cups tri-colored tortilla chips
sour cream
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Method:

Have a grill prepared at high heat.  Toss the tomatillos, peppers and onion with the oil and a little salt.  Place them on the grill along with the sausage.  Let everything char evenly.  Let the peppers char completely on all sides.  Remove from the grill and let cool slightly.  Remove the stems, seeds and most of the skin from the peppers (a little skin is okay).  Place the tomatillos, peppers, onion, cilantro, lime juice and a decent pinch of salt in a bar blender.  Blend until smooth.  Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.  Platter everything with sour cream on the side for garnish.

Serve right away.

Best served with guacamole, black bean puree, cheese sauce and chili.

Enjoy.

Whole Wheat Bread

Aside from the lengthy recipe description, this bread is very easy.  It doesn’t take long to make, is healthy (relative to most other breads out there) and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives, and so on.

That is, if you dare eat bread.

Bread is getting a bad reputation these days.  They contain glutens (gasp!), have lots of refined carbs, sugars, fats, and depending on what literature you read, it may seem like eating 1 slice of bread may in fact kill you.  The enemy of the diet…  It’s clearly not good for you.

Our food choices, like everything else in life, are our choices.  If you want to lose weight, and cut back on eating, control your diet and exercise.  Taking pills and going after fads will never get you the results you want, until you discipline yourself to not take shortcuts and do the work.  We know what foods are good for us, we know when we over eat, and we know when we should cut back.  Eating half a pizza and a quart of ice cream before bed will not help us lose weight.  We all know this, and yet a lot of people do it.  Cutting back on refined carbs, especially if you’re dieting, is smart.  No argument.  But being smart about what we do, eating in moderation, diligently following a plan is smarter.  Once a week or before a big workout, a slice of refined carbs may contain more health benefits than not.  It’ll give you the boost of energy you need to push through a workout, kicking your metabolism into high gear.  You may want the low fiber surge just because you’ll get the energy when your body needs it the most.  And my homemade wheat bread is great for that.     

Bread, especially homemade bread, is not bad for you.  It’s not a superfood, but you could do a lot worse.  If you want to eat bread and want to be smart about it, this recipe may be your ticket.  Put the work into it, make it your own, and enjoy it in moderation.  You may find you like the process of making the bread more than the bread itself!

Whole Wheat Bread

Prep time: 1 minutes
Inactive cook time:  approx 2 hour
Cook time:  45 minutes
Yield:  2 moderately sized loaves

Ingredients:

1 package or 1 1/2 tbsp quick rising powdered yeast
1 cup warm water (not hot!)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup organic stone milled whole wheat flour
1 cup high gluten bread flour
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp granulated sugar

Method:

Put the water in a small warm bowl.  Mix in the sugar until fully absorbed.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until foam begins to form.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook attachment.  Run the machine, mixing the yeast into the sugar/water.  Turn machine off.  Pour the organic whole wheat flour in, and run the machine on low for about 30 second to incorporate.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.  We do this because the whole wheat flour will take longer to absorb liquid than bread flour.  This gives the flour an opportunity to fully absorb liquid before we introduce other ingredients.  After the 15 minutes, add the salt, oil and half the bread flour.  Run the machine at medium speed.  The dough should begin pulling from the sides of the bowl.  If it is too wet (and it probably will be) add more bread flour.  Keep adding until the bread dough forms and begins pulling from the sides.  At this point, run the machine at medium speed for about 5 minutes.  This fully develops the glutens, which is essential for good bread.  After 5 minutes, remove the bowl from the mixer and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let sit in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.  Gently work dough down (folding, or punching) and form into 2 equal sized loaves.  Gently wet the top of each one and loosely cover with plastic wrap.  Heat your oven to 425.  When bread is proofed (loaves will be slightly larger, and when you gently press them with your finger, the dent remains and doesn’t pop back out), score the bread with a sharp pairing knife (1/4 inch deep) and transfer to the oven.  Bake until deep golden brown.

Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature.  You never want to serve right away; there is too much steam in the bread, slicing into it just after baking will release the steam, giving you slightly wet and poorly textured bread.  Letting it slowing temper to room temperature allows the bread to re-absorb the steam, and naturally release what it can’t absorb.

Reheat bread in a 300 degree over, or serve right away.

Enjoy.

Wonderful Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most delicious, versatile and beloved roots.  They take so many cooking techniques well and go well with so many ingredients.  So, for this post, dedicated to potatoes, I am choosing something I love, a little off the beaten path, delicious and packed full of flavor.

Regarding the actual cooking of potatoes, there are a few golden rules to follow:  First and most important, potatoes do not like water.  Water logged potatoes are devoid of their starch, flavor, and consistency.  Removing too starch prohibits the potatoes from absorbing flavors, seasonings and ingredients we want them to.  Do not over boil!  Once cooked, drain right away!  Do not over cook!  If you are using a ‘wet’ cooking method, use as little water as possible, try not to boil and do not over cook.  Second, incorporating some sort of roasting technique will reduce the amount of salt and additional seasoning needed.  Roasting concentrates their natural flavor, usually only requiring a dash of olive oil and sea salt to finish.  And last, be very careful choosing the variety of potato for your dish.  An Idaho russet potato is not best for mashing (too starchy), but is best for baking.  Yukon gold potatoes are not best for baking, but are best for mashing.  Okinawa sweet potatoes are great for roasting and purees, but have a very distinct flavor and color, not appropriate for every application.

This recipe incorporates a ‘combination’ cooking technique.  We begin with gently simmer the potatoes in water, followed by roasting.  It’s easy, has great flavor, is low maintenance, and is hard to get wrong!

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  1 hour
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

1 lb baby yukon gold potatoes, cut into quarters the long way
3 tbsp lite soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 leeks, white part only, thin sliced and well washed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Method:

Heat an oven to 350.

In a small, heavy bottom sauce pot, barely cover the potatoes with cold water.  Add a large pinch of salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until just barely fork tender.  Drain well.  Return the pot with potatoes to the heat and cook for about 30 seconds to dry the potatoes.

Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl.  Add the leeks, sesame oil, soy sauce, olive oil, and a liberal amount of kosher salt and pepper.  Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place in oven for approx 1 hour.  Let cool slightly and serve right away.

Enjoy.

Zucchini Bread

I love zucchini bread.  It’s a cross between traditional bread and pastry, is moist, flavorful, freezes well and is absolutely delicious.  As far as baked goods go, this is easy.  This recipe is taken directly from the Hotel’s bake shop, has been made thousands of times, tweaked, perfected, and I can say, is excellent.

Zucchini Bread

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield:  about 6 small loaves

Ingredients:

1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 lb shredded zucchini

Method:

Heat an oven to 350.  Have several loaf pans ready, well sprayed with pan spray and lined with parchment paper.  Make sure to spray the parchment thoroughly as well.

Combine the oil, sugar and eggs in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Run at medium sweet until well combined.  In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Run at low speed until just combined.  Add the vanilla and coconut and continue to gently mix.  Add the zucchini last.

Pour the mix into the prepared loaf pans and bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Enjoy.

Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple – al fresco dining

Al fresco dining is a very nice and inviting way of saying outdoor dining, implying a pleasant, comfortable temperature, calm ambiance, and an altogether serene and refreshing atmosphere.  

California cuisine can be a cross of many things, but the general idea is fresh, light, healthy items, prepared in way that will satisfy you, yet leave you looking forward to your next meal.  Peak season king salmon grilled with a wasabi vinaigrette, served over a salad of avocado, roasted peppers and organic frisee is a great example of ‘classic’ California cuisine.  A lot of fusion has been associated with California cuisine due to the influx of Japanese, Chinese, Mexican/Latino and Middle East cultures, which I guess you could say is the ‘cuisine of California’, and not necessarily ‘California cuisine’.

I am making the distinction between the two, because when we (chefs) think of California cuisine, one of the foremost thoughts we have is cuisine that can be enjoyed in an al fresco setting.  Pleasant, inviting, relaxed, fresh, delicious, big flavors, low fat, low carb.  We employ such cooking methods as grilling, ‘plancha’, or steaming.  We think of great flavor combinations and vibrant colors (edible flowers are a large part of the arsenal).  We want you to enjoy every aspect of the experience without a pretentious setting, without pretentious food, allowing you to relax and enjoy your wine or cocktail.

Grilled Shrimp with grilled pineapple, avocado, squash ribbons and lime/kaffir vinaigrette

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time:  5 minutes
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

24 U-12 Mexican white shrimp, peeled (tail on) and deveined
1 large ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini squash
juice of 3 limes
zest of 3 limes, very fine chop
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
5 each kaffir lime leaves (if you cant find these, substitute 1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed)
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 pasteurized egg yolk
1 shallot, minced
1 cup olive oil (does not need to be extra virgin)
1/2 ripe pineapple, sliced into thin rectangles
fresh snipped herbs (chives, parsley, dill, tarragon)
2 cups organic rocket arugula
kosher salt
black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Method:

In a small non-reactive sauce pot, gently heat the vinegar and lime juice with the kaffir lime leaves and lime zest.  Slightly reduce, remove from heat and let come to room temp.  This will infuse and concentrate the flavors.  Strain.  Place the liquid in a bar blender, add the shallot and agave nectar and season with salt and pepper.  Add the egg yolk and turn the machine on.  Very slowing drizzle the oil.  Reseason and reserve for later.

Mix the paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper together.  Reserve.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash and zucchini into very thin ‘ribbons’ and reserve.

Heat a well oiled grill to high heat.  Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.  Lightly season with shrimp and pineapple with salt, pepper and the spice mix.  Begin grilling.  Quickly blanch the squash ribbons (this will only take about 20 seconds in the boiling water, any longer and they will fall apart!).  Transfer the squash and avocado a mixing bowl.  Once the pineapple has been charred on both sides, add that to the mixing bowl as well.  Add the arugula to the bowl, a few of the snipped herbs and a light drizzle of the vinaigrette.  Lightly season with salt and pepper and toss well.  Transfer to a serving platter.  When the shrimps are done, arrange them on top of the salad.  Drizzle a very small amount of the remaining vinaigrette on top and garnish with the remaining snipped herbs.

Best served with crisp white wine, like Pinot Grigio, grilled ciabatta bread with olive oil, hummus and olives.

Enjoy