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!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Turkey Tales...

Thanksgiving seems like a distant memory after 10 glorious days in the sunny Caribbean celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. But I do want to share some of our Thanksgiving dinner with you as it was one of the best and most fun holidays in many years! Coming soon will be some unusual recipes from the Virgin Islands including Curried Goat and Chicken Foot Soup...stay tuned!
Dad surveying the turkey right out of the oven.
The Herb Crusted Brined Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy was the best turkey any of us had ever had. Really worth the effort and will become our annual turkey tradition!
You can find the complete recipe on my most recent blog. Here's a shot of the bird with his Herb butter crust ready to go into the oven. I made two diversions from the recipe. #1: I used 2 sticks of butter for the herb crust, rather than 3. That seemed like a lot even for me! #2. I stuffed the turkey with my husband's grandfathers bread stuffing recipe made with sausage, apple, raisons, onion, garlic, and lots of fresh herbs. The cider gravy on this turkey was exceptionally yummy!
Here are the Turkey Roulades all stuffed, tied and ready to roast. These turkey breasts had a traditional bread stuffing and I served them with rich brown gravy (recipe also on the last  blog).


Very easy and can be done a day ahead of time and just reheated on Thanksgiving morning. Bake the sweet potatoes at 375 degrees until very tender. Let cool. Carefully scoop out the centers and mash with butter, a splash of cream, salt and pepper.

Refill the skins. Melt about 1/2 stick butter (depending on how many potatoes you have to top.) Add 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar, dash of salt and about 1/4 cup of pecans. Top the potatoes with the butter mixture and either bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before you reheat them the next day, bring to room temp on the counter and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Even those who say they don't like spinach will probably love this dish. It has a delicious mild and creamy herb flavor! This dish can also be made a day ahead and baked just before your big dinner. If you are doing ahead, wait to top with bread crumbs until just before baking so they don't get too soggy. I doubled the recipe for 7 of us and there were NO leftovers!

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup yellow onions, diced
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pkg. (5.2 oz.) Boursin Cheese
1 pkg. 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of moisture
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. lemon zest
Salt/Pepper/Dash of Cayenne/Dash of nutmeg
2/3 cup coarse bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute onions in 1 Tbsp. butter until soft; about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat onions. Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer for a couple minutes. Stir in Boursin a little at a time until melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Add spinach, parmesan, lemon zest, and seasonings. Transfer spinach to a buttered baking dish.
Combine crumbs, 1 Tbsp. butter, Olive Oil and salt and pepper. Top spinach with crumbs, gently packing down to stick to the spinach. If you are not doing ahead, bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crumbs are golden and sauce is bubbly. If you are doing ahead, wait to top with crumbs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temp and add crumb topping before baking.

We also had a surprise from my nephew, Chris who brought a rich and flavorful pork pie. He got the recipe from a friend's French Canadian grandmother. He has yet to share it with me, but I can't wait as this was a delicious and creative addition to the Thanksgiving banquet.

My brother, Skip and his wife Esther brought 2 beautiful pies: Apple and a Bourbon scented Pumpkin Pie with a very decorative crust.

And I made the...


For the Crust:
Gingersnap cookies, about 20 two-inch cookies broken into pieces (I used Pepperidge Farm.)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1 Tbsp. sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (I used Libby's.)
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 lbs. cream cheese, softened to room temp
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

For the garnish:
About 24 pecan halves toasted with butter and a little cinnamon and brown sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x2 1/2 inch (or higher) spring-form pan.

Make the crust:
In a food processor, process the cookies with the pecans, sugar, salt, and cinnamon until the cookies become fine crumbs, about 20 seconds. Add the  melted butter and pulse about 10 times just until incorporated.
Wrap the outside of the prepared spring-form pan with a double layer of heavy-duty foil to prevent leakage.
Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base and part way up sides of the prepared pan. Use a flat-bottomed, straight-sides glass to smooth the crumbs over the bottom and farther up the sides, but not all the way to the top. Be sure to press the bottom thoroughly so that the crumbs are evenly distributed. Lay plastic wrap over the crumbs to keep them from sticking to your fingers to continue pressing the crust to a thin, even layer. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed (or overnight if doing ahead).

Make the filling:
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has darkened and thickened to the consistency of applesauce, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the mixture into a food processor (I used a blender.) Process/blend for about a minute with the feed-tube open so steam can escape, scraping down the sides. With the motor running, add the chilled cream, softened cream cheese and process for 30 seconds or until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 more seconds.

At this point, I put the filling in a large zip lock bag and refrigerated overnight. If you are baking rght away...
Bake the Cheesecake:
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a larger pan and add hot water to come up halfway on the spring-form pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour. Transfer the cheesecake to a rack (center will be slightly jiggly) and cool to room temp, about an hour. Arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the cake.

1 qt. vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. orange juice or orange liquor (I omitted as I didn't have either on hand.)
2 tsps. pumpkin pie spice

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix with the mixer on medium until well combined. Put it back into ice cream container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

How simple is that?? And doing so much of the dinner ahead of time made Thanksgiving morning very relaxed. I even got to watch a little of the parade!

Hope your day was also happy...bellies filled with delicious food and hearts filled with the love of family!

I am very excited to share some Caribbean cooking with you next time. We are also rolling right into Christmas...I am working on the menu as we speak!

At the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda about to dig into a
fabulous piece of Pan-seared Grouper!
Until then, thank you for sharing another episode of: