Thursday, February 21, 2013

Recipes from Dominica

Do you feel the warm breeze?   The sand between your toes? Smell the ocean? That's right! It's another trip to the Caribbean.

This week we are in Dominca, not to be confused with The Dominican Republic, which is in the same neighborhood but is not the same country.

 Dominica, as you can see on the map below, is another one of those microscopic island nations in the Caribbean.  At 290 square miles it is roughly the same size as Lexington, Kentucky, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in scenic beauty.

Dominica has beaches, rainforests and many rare species of plants and animals. It is also the home of the world's second-largest hot spring: Boiling Lake, which is 60 miles across, reads between 180 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit along the edges, and is actually physically boiling at its center.

Named by Christopher Columbus, who first spotted it on a Sunday (the Latin word for Sunday is dominica; not terribly long on creativity, that Columbus), Dominica was the first British Caribbean colony to have a black majority-controlled legislature. After changing hands a few times it finally achieved complete independence in 1978.

As with all microscopic island nations, it was a bit challenging to find native recipes. The food in Dominica is pretty standard Caribbean stuff, though they do have a special dish of their own called "mountain chicken." Mountain chicken is not in fact actual chicken, but frog—though it's no longer widely eaten because the frogs used for the dish are critically endangered.

I actually considered making mountain chicken for this entry, because I have some frog's legs in my freezer right now. But they're the French variety, and I didn't think they were close enough to the giant frog used on Dominica to serve as an acceptable stand-in. Also because the species is endangered I didn't really want to promote eating it, even though that's not technically what I would have been doing.

So instead of mountain frog I chose this recipe:

Caribbean Reef Chicken
(from Great Tasting Dominica Recipes)
  • 2 broiler/fryer chickens, halved (I just used pre-cut chicken pieces)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 drops hot pepper sauce (I used Jamaican Pickapeppa)
  • 10 oz mango chutney
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • Parsley
and on the side:

(from Search Dominica)
  • 1lb salted cod
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 gloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 blades chive, chopped
  • 4 seasoning peppers, sliced*
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 ½ cup coconut milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp flour (optional)
* In the Caribbean, a "seasoning pepper" is a pepper that is used for flavor rather than heat. But most people living in the Caribbean are fairly tolerant of heat, so to them a "seasoning pepper" is probably still going to have some heat to it. I used red jalapenos, which are fairly mild compared to, say, a habanero.

And for dessert:

Banana and Mango Bread
(also from Great Tasting Dominica Recipes)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 ripe bananas
  • 1 small ripe mango, peeled
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
First the chicken:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the next nine ingredients to make a paste.

Now place the chicken skin side up in a baking pan, and rub the paste all over it. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. (The thickest part of the chicken's thigh should reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees; breasts should be cooked to 165, so you may need to take these out sooner to avoid overcooking them).

Now place the chutney and the rest of the rum in a blender and pulse until smooth. Spoon over the chicken and bake another 3 minutes or until the chutney is heated through. Garnish with the lemon, lime and parsley.

Meanwhile, make the sancoche.

Now to we Americans, it may seem strange to serve a fish dish as a side, but I thought it worked really well with this meal. Here's how to make it:

Wash your salted cod and remove the bones. Do not be afraid. Salted cod is smelly and you may fear you will end up poisoning your family, but be reassured that there is so much salt in a piece of salted cod that you could probably store it on your countertop for several months and not have to worry about it spoiling.  Of course, don't try that because it would be smelly, and also because I'm not a salted cod expert and therefore can't really say that with authority. I got my salted cod from Red Star International in Sacramento and I kept it in the freezer, just to be safe.

Anyway, cut the salted cod up into bite sized pieces and boil for 10-15 minutes. Ignore the horrified screams of your children as they smell the cooking fish. Drain and flake the fish, then set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot and saute the onion, garlic, chives and peppers. Add the curry powder and stir until well-mixed.

Continue to cook for three minutes or so, then add the coconut milk, fish and black pepper. Let simmer for another 5 minutes. If the sauce is a little too thin, mix the flour with a small amount of water and add that to the pot.
Now for the bread. I discovered when I cut my mango open that it had turned brown inside, so I had to make a special Sunday afternoon trip to Holiday market to buy a single mango. Oh the things I will do for this blog.

Anyway, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, stopping when well-mixed but before they curdle.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Now put the banana and mango in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add about half the banana/mango puree to the creamed butter/sugar, then add half the dry ingredients. Repeat until just blended, then fold in the raisins and nuts.

Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans and transfer the batter to the pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Except for the sancoche (obviously) this meal was a hit with both kids and adults. The chicken was wonderfully fruity and flavorful, and the bread was an improvement on typical banana bread—the mango added a nice tang to it that made it extra delicious.

Martin and I both liked the sancoche. It was salty, though, and it needed something starchy to temper it. If I made this again (and I think I might) I would serve it with white rice. Of course, I didn't try giving it to my kids because duh. They wouldn't have touched it, though trying to coerce them to might have made for some entertaining drama.

Next week: The Dominican Republic

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

1 comment:

Copyright 2012 Becki Robins and Palfrey Media.. Powered by Blogger.

Blog Flux

Blog Directory