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the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
Besides stunning scenery and super-friendly locals, the one thing that Grand Cayman Island clearly doesn’t fall short on is flavor. While visiting this tropical paradise during the Cayman Cookout, I was fortunate enough to savor some of the very best that the isle has to offer. From just-caught Ahi tuna and Wahoo fish, to locally grown breadfruit and cassava, to small batch rum that’s barrel aged under the ocean, the island-inspired cuisine of Cayman is undeniably distinctive, fresh and vibrant.
Cayman Cookout headlining chefs Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Dean James Max have shared a few of their recipes that capture authentic island flavor, yet can be easily created using ingredients found Stateside. For a true taste of the Cayman Islands at home, try the zesty chicken and mushroom paella that José fired up during his beachfront cooking demo, Eric’s grilled swordfish that he served at the Barefoot BBQ event, or Dean’s refreshing tuna coconut ceviche from the Harvest Dinner at The Brasserie. Bon appétit!
Chicken and Mushroom Paella (serves 6)
Recipe by José Andrés, as served during his Cayman Cookout Demo
Slice tomatoes in half, and grate each on a box grater over a bowl. Discard skins; set pulp aside. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Lightly season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides until deep golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Fry mushrooms until browned in oil and chicken fat. Set aside. Set 18-inch paella pan over two burners at high heat on the stove top, and heat 1/3 cup olive oil. Add tomato pulp and cook until darkened, about 5 minutes. Add paprika and saffron, and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken pieces and mushrooms; add sherry and cook until evaporated. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil.
In a food processor or mortar, puree parsley, garlic and almonds, with a tablespoon or two of water until smooth and stir into pan. Sprinkle rice across the pan and stir until the grains are submerged, then don’t stir again. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, rotating the pan on the two burners to distribute heat. Using a small spoon, test rice and stock and add salt as needed. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 6 minutes. Test rice again. If it is still hard, continue cooking for 2-4 more minutes.
In the final 2 minutes, sprinkle frozen peas over the top and return heat to medium-high, listening for a crackling sound to ensure the bottom is toasting but not burning. Remove from heat, cover with paper towels and let sit for 5 minutes. Use a metal spoon to scrape toasted rice from bottom of pan and serve.
Image courtesy of Creations Unlimited, Cayman Islands
Grilled Swordfish with Fennel & Tomato Vierge (serves 6)
Recipe by Eric Ripert, as served at the Cayman Cookout’s Barefoot BBQ
Grilled Swordfish & Fennel
Season the swordfish fillets with salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence, and olive oil. Reserve. Grill to desired temperature.*Swordfish can be replaced by Striped Bass or Halibut
Place the sliced fennel in a small bowl; dress with lemon vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Top fish with this mixture before serving.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over fish of choice.
Trim and cut tuna into smaller workable portions. Slice tuna into thin strips and small dice.
Dice the peppers (keep seeds for extra spicy) and ginger. Add to the pot with the coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to a low simmer for about 10-15 min. Take off the stove and let sauce completely cool. Strain and refrigerate.
Chop the cilantro; thinly slice the bell pepper and Serrano peppers. Slice the green onions and combine all the ingredients together.
To Serve: In a bowl, add the diced tuna, the ceviche mix and coconut sauce. Mix well and season with salt, pepper and squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve in coconut shells over ice!
Sauté onions and leeks with butter in a small stockpot until soft. Add the chopped garlic and lightly sauté. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh from the squash and add it in the mixture with the honey and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream and bring the soup back to a boil. Season with clove, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend the soup in your bar blender, strain, and reserve. The soup can be held in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Cayman Land Crab
Brown butter in sauté pan, once golden remove most of the oil and leave browned butter solids. Heat pan on medium heat and sauté seasoning pepper and chives for 3 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add land crab quickly sauté crab for 2 minutes. And season with salt and pepper.
Place the warm land crab equally in 6 serving bowls. Spoon a tablespoon of cream next to the crab. Pour the hot soup in the bowl and garnish with the chives.
Image courtesy of The Brasserie
While headlining the Cayman Cookout last weekend, culinary power duo Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain commanded a beachfront stage at the Ritz-Carlton to teach an audience of epicureans some fundamental cooking techniques—from roasting a whole chicken and making pasta, to mastering a classic French omelet and grilling a perfect steak.
According to Bourdain, most people murder their steaks on a daily basis. His impassioned plea was that the crowd, at the very least, would walk away knowing how to properly treat their meat.
And while most of us Northerners won’t be firing up the grill anytime soon, those in warmer climates (or brave souls willing to bear single digits!) should get the barbecue basics down before their next steak craving hits.
Steak grilling tips à la Eric & Tony:
Bring to temperature. “Take your steak out of the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking it. This way, you will be able to sear the steak nicely, get a nice crust, and have the insides cook to your liking. If you don’t do that, you can burn the outside and the inside can still be raw. Bringing the meat to temperature is very important.”
Get your grill hot. “You want to be sure your grill is nice and hot before throwing your meat on there, but you don’t want the flames to be roaring and destroy your steak. Don’t go crazy. It’s more about how it tastes on the inside, and not about how it looks on the outside.”
Don’t mess with it. “After you throw it on a reasonable fire, leave it alone. Don’t poke it, don’t stab it, don’t start peeking into it by jabbing holes in it! If you must move it, move it once—45 degrees, thereby giving those perfect checkerboard grill marks that make steaks look so sexy. Beyond that, you don’t want to flip it over, and flip it back over…no good will come of it.”
Let it rest. “The single most important thing that everybody gets wrong, generation after generation…they take a perfectly good rare or medium-rare steak off the grill, and cut right into it prematurely. They figure that steak served hot is better. It isn’t! A steak should rest for about 5-7 minutes after you take it off the grill. It won’t become cold, but the muscle will start to relax and become tender. And all the blood and juices start moving around and settling in really interesting ways. That’s the way to go.”
What do you think of Eric & Tony’s techniques? Any other steak tricks you’ve learned?
Check out my gallery here for more images of Eric, Tony and the Cayman Cookout crew.