Island food, Mon!
Caribbean cuisine ranges from simple traditional food that is served as a home cooked meal to fancy gourmet food that is served at luxurious tropical resorts. One thing that all Caribbean food has in common is that there is no shortage of great flavor.
I have worked with many Caribbean cooks and resort chefs in the past. While in Florida, I once worked with a good chef from Barbados. I assumed that the chef learned his trade in Austria, because he had an heavy Austrian accent. The chef always stated that he was born and raised in Barbados, but everybody knew what the story was.
Florida is a haven for immigrants. Most immigrants do have legitimate documentation that allows them to enter this country legally. Others have no documentation or they have legal problems that disqualify emigrating into countries that do background checks. Those who cannot enter this country legally have two options. Jumping ship and living under the radar is one option. The other option is to establish a new identity.
There are dubious characters in the underworld who specialize in forged identification papers and identity cards. There are also corrupt government officials in small countries who will provide false identity documentation for a substantial contribution to their political campaign fund. A person can assume a new identity on falsified papers, then emigrate with few questions asked.
Apparently the Austrian chef did whatever he had to do to exit Barbados and emigrate to America. Everybody knew he assumed a false identity and no questions were asked, because these things took place all the time. At least the caucasian chef had sense enough to chose an anglo saxon name for his new identity, rather than assume a hispanic or African name. Those who receive stolen identity paperwork often get stuck with a name that does not fit. A white immigrant who has the name "Emilio Botswana" surely will draw questions from immigration officials.
Anyway, the chef from Barbados had a flare for bringing Caribbean resort food to a higher quality level. He made a few sauces and accompaniments that were not commonly seen in Caribbean cuisine. Items like Curry Rouille and Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets are common in european cuisine, not tropical island cuisine.
Last year I did some cooking at the Le Cordon Bleu Technique Restaurant in Las Vegas. The saute station that I ran was responsible for the fish special du jour everyday and the fish selection was usually salmon. The restaurant overstocked mangos one week, so I made a large batch of mango chutney. Mango chutney on bronzed fish was popular in Florida many years ago, so I decided to run a salmon special with this preparation.
Apparently Las Vegas customers had never experienced such a thing and they were interested in this fish special du jour. The Bronzed Salmon with Mango Chutney special outsold every item on the regular menu that night. In fact, 95% of the restaurant's clientele ordered the Bronzed Salmon with Mango Chutney Special! The other cooks in the kitchen ended up playing cards while I did most of the evening business. That felt pretty good, because it showed that I still had the magic touch.
I remembered how the Chef from Barbados added exciting flair to his entrees by placing unexpected accompaniments on the plate that required a degree of skill to make. Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets look impressive when served as a starch. Customers who expected potatoes or rice were pleasantly surprised. The big crisp hollow cheese flavored fried beignets of pâte à choux pastry certainly added a nice touch to the plate and the customers were impressed.
This recipe makes about 3 cups of chutney!
Boil 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
Add 3/4 cup of cider vinegar.
Add about 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar.
Taste the liquid. The mixture should taste like a balanced sweet and sour flavor. Adjust the amount of sugar or vinegar as necessary.
Reduce the liquid over medium high heat, till it just starts to become a very thin syrup consistency.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Add 1 chopped peeled apple.
Add 2/3 cup of chopped onion. (The apple and onion will help to create pectin to gel chutney.)
Simmer till the apple and onion become very tender. Add water as necessary to keep the syrup base a very thin consistency at this point.
Add 1/3 cup of minced dried fruit. (Dried cherries, cranberries, prunes, white raisons or dark raisons are best for making chutney. The dried fruit adds extra depth and flavor. This is not a dark fruit chutney, so so don't add too much dried fruit. I used a few dried cranberry and raisons to make this batch of chutney.)
Add 3 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger.
Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Add 1 tablespoon of thin chiffonade strips of fresh lemon zest.
Add 2 finely chopped green onions. (Only use the white sections of the green onions.)
Add 4 minced cloves of garlic.
Add 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper.
Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
Add 2 finely minced seeded jalapeno chile peppers.
Add 2 cups of small diced peeled mango.
Add 1/3 cup of mango puree or mango juice.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of allspice.
Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
Add 1 pinch of Indian yellow curry powder.
Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil over medium heat.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Simmer the chutney, till it reduces and thickens to a rich jellied fruit preserve consistency.
Place the hot chutney into an uncovered storage container.
Cool the chutney in a refrigerator.
When the chutney becomes cold, cover the container.
Allow the chutney to sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for 3 days to 2 weeks. It takes time for the flavors of a chutney to mellow and meld!
The chutney can be kept in a refrigerator for nearly 6 months!
Bronzing Spice Mixture:
Place 3 tablespoons of garam masala into a mixing bowl. (Garam Masala is known as North Indian warm spice mix.)
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric.
Add sea salt.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
Add 2 teaspoons of ginger powder.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of flour. (The sugar helps the bronzing spices to lightly caramelize the highlights of food and the tiny amount of flour helps the spice mixture to stick to the meat.)
Mix the ingredients together.
Dijon Key Lime Mayonnaise:
This recipe makes enough for 2 portions!
Place 1/3 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of key lime juice.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
Add 1 small pinch of white pepper.
Mix the ingredients together.
Place the Dijon Key Lime Mayonnaise in a container and chill.
Pâte à Choux and Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets Information:
Beignets can be fried or baked, but frying is the classic preparation. Beignets are basically a shape, just like croquettes are a shape. The definition of the shape can vary. Beignets can be ball shaped, shaped like quenelles, shaped like triangles or any number of fancy shapes. Classic easy to recognize Pâte à Choux shapes are round cream puffs and oblong éclairs.
Pâte à Choux can be difficult to understand and make, yet it can also be looked upon as being ingeniously simple to make. Pâte à Choux is usually shaped and baked in an oven, but it can also be deep fried.
The sudden exposure to high temperatures causes the moisture in Pâte à Choux to steam and the pastry expands rapidly, while at the same time the egg pastry quickly seals and a crisp crust is formed. The combination of rapid steam expansion and rapid pastry crusting results in a light crusty pastry that is hollow in the center.
Finished Pâte à Choux can be filled with pastry cream, chantilly cream, whipped cream, mousse and even savory preparations. A cheese flavored standard Pâte à Choux can be served on its own or it can be stuffed. Because Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets are fried, they should be served unstuffed with a dipping sauce. According to French cuissons, emulsion sauces are classically served with fried food. A tart dijon key lime mayonnaise is a good choice of emulsion sauce for Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets that are part of a caribbean style entree presentation.
Honestly, it is best to watch a chef make Pâte à Choux dough, before making this dough for the first time. There make be videos of French chefs making Pâte à Choux at YouTube.com, so I suggest that first timers take a look.
The best way to understand Pâte à Choux is to read a recipe a few times. A recipe that includes cooking technique descriptions is best. That is how most of my recipes are written.
Gruyere Pâte à Choux:
This recipe yields about 15 Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets! The dough can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. Extra beignets can be served as snacks.
Milk, water or a combination of both can be used to make the dough.
Only a wooden spoon or heat proof wooden spoon can be used.
There are two steps that are critical. The fist critical step is to shake the sauce pot while stirring the hot eggless dough mixture, till the dough no longer clings to the pot and it gathers to form a round ball shape, while the pot is moved in a circular motion.
For cheese flavored Pâte à Choux, there is one extra step. Cheese is added before adding the eggs. Only a small amount of cheese is needed to create a delicate flavor. Because cheese is a fat, the butter proportion is lowered in this recipe..
The second critical step is the addition of eggs. Once the simple dough gathers and the optional cheese is added. Egg are added one at a time, while stirring, till the dough can slowly be poured off of the spoon and the stream of wet dough forms a triangle shape. The triangle shape should be about 1" wide along the edge of the spoon and it should apex about 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" from the spoon as the dough is poured. In other words, the triangle shape will be a little bit lengthy and it will not be a perfect isosceles triangle shape.
Once the proper amount of eggs are added, the cheese flavored Pâte à Choux dough must be chilled till it becomes semi firm.
Heat a stainless steel sauce pot over medium high heat.
Add 3/4 cup of water.
Add 1/2 cup of milk.
Add 5 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter that is chopped into small pieces, so it melts quickly.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
Bring the liquid to a boil.
Reduce the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
Immediately add 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, while rapidly stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add 1/4 cup of finely grated gruyere cheese.
Shake the pot and continue stirring, till the dough thickens and no longer clings to the pot. Stop stirring and move the pan in a circular motion. The dough should gather and form a round ball shape that bounces off of the walls of the pan.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Note: A mixer with a paddle attachment can be used for the next step. Mixing with a strong wooden spoon by hand produces a better texture.
The amount of eggs needed can vary, because moisture loss in the dough is a variable factor. Have 4 to 6 large egg ready to be cracked and added.
Add 1 large egg, while stirring, till the egg combines with the dough.
Repeat the previous step, till a total of 4 eggs are combined with the dough. Only 1 egg can be added and combined with the dough at a time!
After a total of 4 eggs are added, pick up a wooden spoonful of the dough and try to slowly pour the dough off of the spoon. The dough will probably be too thick to pour at this time.
Add and combine 1 more egg and check the consistency of the dough again. If the dough slowly pours off of the spoon, look to see if a triangular shape forms. When a triangular shape forms, the dough is ready.
A sixth egg may or may not be necessary, so do not automatically think that six eggs are required. Five large eggs is usually enough.
After the dough is the correct consistency, pace the dough in a sealed container. Chill the dough till it becomes semi firm.
Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets:
About 3 Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets is a good accompanying starch portion.
Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a wide high sided pot to 360º.
Use two standard table setting teaspoons to create a quenelle shape of Gruyere Pâte à Choux dough and drop the quenelle in the hot oil. The portion of dough should be about 1 tablespoon in size. Only 2 to 4 portions can be fried at a time.
Use a fryer net to keep the beignets submerged, so they fry evenly.
Fry the beignets, till they become crispy, golden brown. (CGB!)
Use the fryer net to place the the beignets on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
Keep the Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets warm on a stove top.
Bronzed Filet Of Salmon:
Select a 6 ounce salmon filet. Remove the skin. Butterfly cut the filet if it is thick.
Lightly dredge the salmon filet in the bronzing spice mixture.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
Allow the butter to barely enter the smoking point range.
Add the bronze spiced salmon filet, so the side that had the skin attached is facing up.
Saute till the salmon starts to turn a light golden brown color.
Flip the fish.
Saute till a light golden brown color appears.
Drain the excess butter and oil out of the pan.
Place the pan in a 325º oven.
Bake till the salmon becomes fully cooked. (A probe thermometer should read 145º)
Remove the pan from the oven and keep it warm on a stove top.
Bronzed Salmon Filet a la Mango Chutney and Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets aux Dijon Key Lime Mayonnaise:
Because the beignets are round and they will roll all over the place. Placing the mayonnaise sauce under the beignets will keep them in place.
Place the bronzed salmon filet on a plate.
Spread a little bit of the key lime mayonnaise on the plate beside the salmon as a bed for the beignets.
Place 3 Gruyere Pâte à Choux Beignets on the mayonnaise sauce.
Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate. (Sautéed thin strips of zucchini and yellow squash is nice.)
Place about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mango chutney on the bronzed salmon.
Garnish the plate with a few pinches of minced fine herbs.
Viola! A nice looking plate of tasty Caribbean food, Mon! The flavors are impressive. Yum! ... Shawna