Sunday, December 22, 2013

Caribbean Style!

My husband and I recently returned from 10 glorious days in Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.

We rented an adorable cottage right on the beach in Leverick Bay called The Coffee and Tea House. This gave me an opportunity to experiment with some Caribbean cooking. But first, let's start with a cocktail which you can easily make at home.


This is a delicious twist on a Pina Colada! Mix 2 ounces rum with 1 ounce Guava-Pineapple Juice and 1 ounce of Cream of Coconut. Stir and serve over ice. As beautiful as it is refreshing!

The most exciting dish I made was Chicken Foot Soup. Many have asked me why. Chicken Foot Soup is very popular throughout the Caribbean. I have never made it and the Feet were readily available in local markets so I thought...why not. I bought mine from Veronica, a charming woman originally from St. Vincent, at Buck's Market, a short drive from our cottage. Also an avid cook, she told me Chicken Foot Soup is very popular there as well. The Feet I used were quite large so had lots of 'meat' on them. I have to use the term loosely as it is not exactly meat, but fleshy gelatinous bits that are quite tasty!
To start you must remove the toe nails. This was not a fun job as you literally cut off the end of each toe which is a little creepy, but the want-to-be butcher in me persisted and I got the job done.

I had a rich chicken stock in the refrigerator I'd made earlier in the week which made putting this soup together very easy.
1 1/2 Qt. Chicken Stock
2 large golden potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), peeled and cubed
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce or more if you like it really spicy*
Big bunch of fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Feet missing their nails.
*I had a local pepper sauce that I took home in a doggie-bag from a restaurant and it was super hot and spicy so a little bit went a long way! You can also use fresh cayenne or goat peppers.

Wash the Chicken Feet (trimmed of their nails) thoroughly in cold water and let soak in salted water for about an hour. While they are soaking, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the cubed potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper and saute until just golden-about 5 minutes stirring occasionally so potatoes don't stick. Rinse the Chicken Feet and pat dry. Add to the veg and stir to slightly brown the Feet. Add a big bunch of fresh thyme (tied with kitchen string) and the hot sauce. Add the chicken stock and turn heat down to a very low simmer. Cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Remove the bunch of thyme before serving. This soup is better than you might think and gets even BETTER the next day!

Here's another Caribbean favorite. Unfortunately no photos, but the recipe is easy and delicious and unlike the Feet all ingredients are easily accessible. I will illustrate with some beautiful shots of Virgin Gorda.

4 chicken thighs with bone and skin on
Flour for dusting the thighs-about 1/2 cup
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (or more to taste)
1/2 packet Sauzon seasoning  (in Latin section of your super market)
2 Tbsp. curry powder (Flavor changes considerably depending on what type of curry you use. I used Jamaican style Badia brand-something I picked up at Buck's Market.)
1/2 cup Cream of Coconut
1+ cup Chicken Stock
View from the deck of our cottage.
Rinse and dry the chicken thighs thoroughly. Coat with 1/2 cup of flour shaking off excess. Heat Olive Oil in a skillet until very hot. Brown chicken thighs on both sides. Remove thighs and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add diced onion, garlic, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper, curry powder, Sauzon seasoning coconut cream and saute. This will make a paste. Return the thighs to the pan and coat all sides of the thighs with the curry paste. Add Chicken stock and stir until well blended. Add 1 Tbsp. butter. Reduce heat, cover skillet and cook for about 1 1/2 hours until chicken is very tender. Check seasoning and add more curry, hot sauce, salt or pepper as needed. Also add more water or chicken stock if necessary as it cooks.

We visited Road Town in Tortolla, a short ferry ride away from Virgin Gorda, and met a lovely woman at a fabulous bakery called Honey N Spice Bakery and Pastry Shop. Myrna does much of the cooking and runs the restaurant. She was our gracious host for breakfast.

The chef, Ansony Salmon is a 'Culinary Arts Gold Medalist Pastry Chef' and it is easy to see why once you taste his food. That morning we had two different little pies that were scrumptious.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and we had it first there many years ago sauteed with eggs and salt-fish for breakfast. This time Chef Salmon's recipe brought it inside a beautiful pocket of savory pastry. I chose the Callaloo loaf which was equally delicious. I first had Callallo in Grenada as a soup and cannot get enough of it. Somewhat like spinach, it is rich, flavorful and extremely popular throughout the Caribbean. Most countries have their own special way to prepare Callallo. Again, this time is was made as a little loaf. Back to my own Virgin Gordian kitchen...

I love curry and used it many different ways. This next recipe is for curried goat, but I am going to try it at home with beef short ribs.

1 1/2 pound goat-bone in cut into 1-2 inch pieces
Flour for dusting the goat-about 1/2 cup
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 large golden potatoes-chopped, but do not peel
2 Tbsp. curry
1/2 tsp. hot sauce or more to taste
1/2 packet Sauzon seasoning (in Latin section of your super market)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. butter
Fresh thyme
About 2 cups water, or more as needed
The Baths in Virgin Gorda.

Dredge the goat or beef short ribs in flour shaking off excess. Heat 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil in a heavy saucepan and brown the meat. Add the onion, garlic, potatoes and all spices and stir until coated. Stir in 2 Tbsp. butter. Add 2 cups water and a bunch of thyme. Reduce heat to low simmer. Cover and let stew for 3 hours stirring occasionally until the meat falls off the bone. The potatoes will disappear as they are so well done making the sauce rich and thick. This dish is great on its own or served with a spicy rice. Also excellent the next day!

Lunch out at the Bitter End Yacht Club was a special treat.

That also is a ferry ride away from Gunn Bay. I enjoyed a delicious Seared Grouper with a Chipotle Aioli, Red Onion Jam, Red Potatoes Poached in Butter and Frizzy Greens with tiny cubes of zucchini, red pepper, red onion and corn. Spectacular!

Of course I needed a beverage to accompany my meal...

I did not ask what exactly was in this frozen lemony cocktail so more research is needed, but let me tell you it was absolutely yummy!

We loved Virgin Gorda and having a kitchen in the Caribbean for the first time was a thrill! What a beautiful island; warm and generous people; and trade winds keeping the temperature at perfection. I can hear the gentle surf rolling in as we speak...

Christmas is just 3 days away! 
I hope you are enjoying the magic of the holiday!
Here's to another 20 fabulous years my love!

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