Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and SaltfishThis uniquely Jamaican dish uses ackee, a tree fruit that is not uncommon in the islands, but that is cultivated for food only in Jamaica.

The ackee fruit is rare and expensive in New England markets. I got two cans for $9.99 each at Compare Foods Supermarket in Worcester, but I had to ask for it at the customer service counter.

Pepperpot Soup

Jamaican Pepperpot SoupThis hearty Jamaican classic has a thousand ingredients and it takes a long time to make, but it's bursting with flavor and well worth the effort!

Some of the ingredients are unusual in the typical New England kitchen. Be sure to read about Jamaican Ingredients before committing to this recipe. 

Note that this is not a dish for fussy eaters! If they don't balk at the unfamiliar ingredients, they'll surely shriek at the little bones or the unidentifiable bits of fatty meat from the pig tail. This was food for the slaves, not for the masters. But it is a wonderful mosaic of textures and flavors that will excite the palate of those not so easily intimidated by a bowl of soup!

The Real Taste of Jamaica

I bought Enid Donaldson's at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston, Jamaica as I was heading home from a brief weekend trip. I had sampled most of the classic Jamaican dishes (and a range of Jamaican rums) so I was eager to try my hand at them when I got home.

Donaldson's book is excellent in many ways, but it has a few flaws that I can address here. To start with the strengths of the book: It is well and engagingly written, and filled with very good photos. It has a good section on ingredients with descriptions, illustrations, and tips. The recipes cover all the bases, from appetizers to desserts and drinks.

The problems are few and most can be remedied with experience and a sharp eye: The photos don't always reflect the dish as the recipe would produce it, so pay attention to the text. In many cases, simple steps are missing, probably assumed; an experienced cook will recognize these and account for them successfully in most cases. The greatest difficulty that I had with preparing the recipes in this book was in finding the ingredients: Donaldson presents the Jamaican names for everything, but the same ingredients are usually sold in the USA in Hispanic markets by their Spanish names. I describe those in a separate post on Jamaican Ingredients.

Satan's Whiskers

Satan's Whiskers CocktailThis is simple to make and delightfully complex to taste. This old cocktail rewards experimentation; the different Artisanal Gins made in New England can change the nature of this drink in unexpected ways, and the two "official" variations described below double the possible permutations. 

It's not a strong drink; equal parts of gin and four other less potent ingredients, plus a dash of Orange Bitters is all it takes. That means you can experiment with a few different gins in one sitting while imbibing no more alcohol than a standard restaurant Martini.

There are two variations of this cocktail.  You can get Satan's Whiskers "curled", as written here, or you can get them "straight" by substituting orange curacao for the Grand Marnier. 

A Christmas Baking Hall of Fame

Dresden Stollen for Christmas Morning

Here's my short list of must-make great Christmas sweets from many lands. Each entry links to a recipe.

Annette's Savoyard Birthday

Annette's Superb Cheese Plate

Annette provided little in the way of guidance for her birthday feast. Getting back to her favorite basics, she wanted only "some good cheeses, and a Mont Blanc".

I fretted about that for a while, until I learned that Savoy, in the French Alps, is known for excellent cheeses and is also home to Mont Blanc (the geological marvel, not the delicate chestnut culinary masterpiece).

Like Vermont, Savoy is ski country and it produces great cheeses. Savoy is the home of fondue, that quintessential apres ski communal party food. It is also the home of Tomme, not to mention Comte, Raclette, Reblochon, and more. Neighboring Jura has more wonderful cheeses.  And Mont Blanc is the border between the Savoy department of France and the Val d'Aosta province in northwestern Italy, home of Fontina and Robiola.

the fondue

A birthday dinner in Chamonix could easily enjoy some wonderful cheeses while gazing upon the snow-capped splendor of Mont Blanc. Obviously a mountain cheese theme was emerging, some sort of December apres-ski casual dinner that included the favorite local fondue, with the eponymous Mont Blanc (the culinary marvel) as the crowning glory.

Here's what we had:

Actifio Potluck - Spanish Theme

Chris Murphy prepping for lunch, photo by XD Zhang

We had another awesome potluck, this one with a Spanish theme. It was late summer, so we had all sorts of ingredients available, and we could use the grill outside.

We had a special guest for this lunch - a writer and a photographer from Inc. Magazine! They wrote about it in this article in the December-January 2014-15 issue.

We had:

Flipping Out

Type of Post: 
What's in my Glass?

Making Flip with a Red-Hot Poker - photo by Richmond TalbotOn a gorgeous Friday evening in September, we went the few blocks down the street to the Harlow Old Fort House to participate in their first annual FlipFest.  

Flip is a colonial cool-weather drink. In this version, ale is fortified with molasses and rum, and then a red-hot poker is thrust into the mixture, causing it to foam up and get all sorts of really interesting caramelized molasses and malt flavors.

This can be a time-consuming process because you have to heat the poker. You can flip a mug or a pitcher of ale. Obviously the pitcher goes further, but each serving doesn't get as hot.

Pumping the Forge Bellows - photo by Richmond Talbot

And heat is the charm and the problem here. Home gas grills do not get as hot as charcoal, and certainly not as hot as this blacksmith's forge with an apprentice tending the bellows. If you plan to make more than one pitcher or mug of flip, consider setting a few irons in the fire so you don't have to wait for them to heat up again. 

Lorna's Birthday Dinner 2014

Such a wonderful and peculiar feast was this one!

Orange Hazelnut Buttercream Torte

Lorna had only two requests, but they are two of the trickiest and most time-consuming recipes that I make. The Lobster Cardinal is a decadent luxury from the Escoffier Cookbook that requires a flurry of last-minute preparation. The Orange Hazelnut Buttercream Torte is a brilliant cake from Please to the Table that requires numerous steps performed over several hours, with waiting time in between.

No obvious theme for the menu was suggested by the two requests. The lobster dish is a pre-WWI era fancy dish with black truffles, a creamy sauce, and many steps. The cake is a Russian fancy cake. For a wine, I considered a Viognier but opted instead for the classic Veuve Clicquot as the better accompaniment to the classic recipe.

Lobster Cardinal

Actually, one theme emerged loud and clear. This would be an expensive dinner. The truffle alone cost $40. I used 6 lobsters in all: four selects for serving, plus two more quarters for the meat. In addition to the Champagne, I brought up a 2001 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro. This was a big birthday, so I didn't mind the expense, but it didn't help to develop a theme.

Ward 8 Cocktail

Ward 8 Cocktail, mixed at the Publyk House in Bennington, VT

This was invented for an election celebration in Boston's Eighth Ward (Southie & Roxbury) over a hundred years ago. It's a little sweet and you can overdo it with the fruit salad (like this one), so use some restrain here.

The charm of the Ward 8 seems to be in the way the orange and the lemon compete for the favor of the sweet grenadine, with a dry rye whiskey pulling the strings like a wily old South Boston politician. You could put down a few of these before you realize there's really liquor in there! 

Syndicate content