I love seafood. As such, I try to include a couple of dishes in my weekly meal plan. More importantly, since the Lenten season started, I’ve added a few extras. Over the Easter week-end, I allowed my snapper fish to be part of my plan.
I opted for a pan-fried whole snapper with a spicy scotch bonnet pepper and tomato sauce. I served this on a fluffy bed of jasmine rice surrounded by garlic-flavored kale sautéed in a drizzle of olive oil. A few dried cranberries were tossed in to give a contrasting sweet balance.
I had just finished my morning’s work out and my endorphins were kicking. Moreover, I had all this pent-up energy within. What did I do? I headed for my kitchen and grabbed a couple of snapper fish that I had reserved for tomorrow’s dinner. Immediately I had a clear plan. I grabbed my cutting board and butcher’s knife and went chopping.
Those big guys stood erect and stared back at me. Their eyes were brilliant as they ogled me. It was as if they were beckoning me to come and get them. And I did. I took my knife and gently but firmly removed their heads, and set them aside. Where I come from, we don’t toss these.
Funny how a couple of fish heads bring back heart-warming memories when things were simple. You see, my dad used to bring home these King fish heads at least once a week. And mom being that ‘iron chef’ that she was turned out some mouth-watering fish broths for the entire family (well, it was one of dad’s favorites). In Jamaica, we call it ‘fish tea’. It’s a cross between soup and broth. It’s an excellent starter for a meal.
So, with that in mind, I decided to replicate my dear mom’s fish tea. I gathered a few root vegetables and fish heads.
With a few rough chops I added same to stock pot and allowed them to simmer under low to medium heat. I also added veggie bouillon and seasoned along with a pinch of jerk sauce, crushed garlic,thyme, pimento and salt and black pepper to taste.
Close to the end I tossed in a few pieces of blanched chopped okra I had in the freezer.
In less than half an hour my fish tea was ready for serving. In my broth (tea), I don’t strain; everything is consumed. It’s vital to be careful of all those bones. I don’t worry. By now, I’m a pro!
I know what I’ll be having for a light lunch today. I’ll pair with some crusty English muffins with a smear of butter. By then, I’ll be relaxed and ready for a siesta. By the way, the rest of the fish (body) will be done up in an escovitched. I can’t wait.
A few days aback, it was quite a Jamaican guilty-treat. Had the craving for a dish a tad salty and chock-full of flavors and aromatic spices. Decided on a traditional Jamaican dish, pickled red herring. After removing the excess sodium by rinsing and soaking in boiling water a few times, herring was ready for the next steps. The other ingredients:
Onions (1 small)
Chopped bell peppers
Scotch bonnet peppers (finely chopped)
Pimento (all spice) 1/4 tsp
Crushed garlic (1 clove) optional
Plummy tomatoes (2)
In a hot skillet, a drizzle of oil was added along with onions and bell peppers. After these were translucent, tomatoes, crushed garlic, finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, pimento were added. These were seasoned with a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste.
Under low heat, red herring was added along with a splash of vinegar and pinch of sugar for balance. This was simmered with lid on for a few minutes until all the flavors blended.
Pickled red herring was served with steamed Jamaican spinach (callaloo), fried dumplings (made from combination of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours) and fried plantains.
Though the temperatures are flirting in the triple digits, it’s evident that summer is disappearing before my eyes. I guess the dwindling days have placed me in a grilling frame of mind.I couldn’t help myself. Didn’t have the craving for nothing else so I fired up my indoor grill pan. I was on a mission. I intended to grill everything in sight. My poor scotch bonnet pepper wasn’t going escape the cooking process.
Had me a whole snapper fish for roasting; however, that plan was quickly altered. With glee I scored my fish and seasoned with a sprinkle of black pepper, salt and crushed garlic. I made sure to season inside the head (love me the head) and cavity.
When it was time to grill I removed garlic and drizzled with olive oil inside and out and stuffed fresh tarragon and thyme within for more intense flavors. I also chopped an onion, wedges of different color bell peppers and okra.
I made sure to do a quick one minute pre-cook of the hearty okra before I brushed same and other veggies with a warm tarragon and thyme oil. First, I started with the veggies.
I removed the okra and onions and sprinkled a very light layer of whole-wheat flour to prevent fish from sticking.
I smiled as I also added scotch bonnet pepper in on the action. My snapper needed a few minutes internal cooking But first, I removed the other veggies. Then, I placed it in the oven for another five minutes at 360 degrees with the squeeze of fresh lime.
My fish came out a little crusty on the outside and quite flaky within. Each bite was full of amazing flavors that were spicy and lemony. The tarragon and the thyme gave the snapper an even more flavorful and aromatic taste. As for the veggies, the grilling brought out all the natural sugars that reminded me of summer. On the side, a creamy/cheesy polenta (turned cornmeal) was served.
I’m not surprised. For the last few days, I’ve been indulging in all the typical protein dishes imaginable. My palate was in search of something different. And so, it led me to a one pot deal; well sort of. It seemed like I had all the colors of the rainbow in my pot. Caribbean flavors were front and center and so I danced to the rhythm.
I’ve been here before; however, instead of calalloo (Jamaican spinach), I used kale which I had readily on hand. Basically, I created a seasoned rice (well, that’s what we would call this dish in Jamaica).
Oh, I love my freezer. It can yield me surprising foods that I somehow forget. And, lo and behold I found a ziplock baggie with cup-up pumpkin. I grabbed same along with a tupper ware of coconut milk. With a quick defrost in the micro wave, I set aside.
In a stockpot, a drizzle of oil was added along with finely chopped onions. These were sautéed until softened then pumpkin pieces were added along with seasoning of salt and black pepper to taste. Then whole-grain rice was added and blended so as to coat grains. To that, coconut milk was poured as well as cold water. Also, chopped kale and scallion. With lid on, this was steamed on low heat until rice was cooked with a creamy finish.
In another stock, pickled codfish (fillet type) was thoroughly rinsed so as to extract the excess sodium. It was and placed in a pot for boiling. I did same twice for approximately five minutes; and, rinsed with cold water in between.
Codfish was flaked in bite-size pieces. However, instead of adding to rice, I decided to saute separately. In a hot skillet, a drizzle of canola oil was added followed by chopped onions, tomatoes, crushed pimento, and finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers. These were seasoned with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Then, flaked codfish was added along with a splash of house vinegar. This was sautéed on low to medium heat.
Pickled codfish was served on a bed of coconut whole-grain rice comprising of kale, pumpkin, tomatoes and other ingredients.
All the ingredients came together superbly. They caressed and surprised my taste buds in a very beautiful way. And the creamy avocado (nature’s butter) provided a contrasting/smooth balance to the dish. I was super happy.
Sunday’s supper was quite a treat. Actually, I must have consumed this popular Jamaican dish hundreds of time since childhood. Now, that’s a lot of chicken going on! Anyway, when I laid eyes on my skinless and bone-in chicken thighs, I knew exactly how I was going to prep and cook same.
The previous night, I chopped my thighs in bite-size pieces. Then, I marinated them with a drizzle of coconut oil, salt, black pepper, cumin, curry powder, crushed ginger, garlic and pimento. Fast forward to cooking time, I made sure to bring chicken to room temperature.
In a sturdy skillet, a small drizzle of olive oil was added on medium heat. Chicken was placed within and a quick sautay was done in order to coat chicken pieces and seal in flavors. To that I added chopped onions, celery, a couple of sprigs of thyme along with a splash of house vinegar.
Cold water was used to cover chicken and the lid was placed on skillet. Chicken simmered for approximately 30 to 35 minutes under low to medium heat making sure to turn over pieces. In addition, extra liquid was added as needed. Chicken was cooked until fork tender. The aromas were very intoxicating and filled my space. And, the flavors of the spices and herbs were bold and beckoned me in.
After gravy was reduced to the right consistency, I allowed chicken to rest for a few minutes; then, this was served with a garlic steamed asparagus
and left-rice whole-grain rice. Me and my palate were taken on a trip to a familiar place in culinary history. We were extremely happy.
I got a tad tired of the usual chicken and fish dishes. I craved for a meal that was bold and pungent in flavors yet delicious and mouth-watering. And so, my culinary mind led me to an old favorite, curried goat (mutton). This dish is very popular in kitchens across my native island domain, Jamaica. I have consumed same quite a number of times as a child as well as an adult.
Part of the work was done by my butcher. Although mutton was chopped up in sizable pieces, I further cut up in even smaller bite-size portions. Goat was seasoned with:
Salt and black pepper to taste
Crushed pimento(all spice)
In a stock pot, a drizzle of coconut oil was added along with goat.
Goat was sautéed for a few minutes under medium heat. Two table spoons of Jamaican white rum were added.
Then cold tap water was added to cover meat along with thyme, additional crushed garlic, onions celery.
The lid was placed on pot and mutton slowly simmered under low to medium heat for approximately two and half hours.
Additional water was added as needed every 20 to 30 minutes.
Minced scotch bonnet peppers, scallion, chopped onion were added to dish so as to further add extra spice.
Curried goat was served with steamed Jasmine rice and sautéed vegetables. The finished dish was bold, delicious and succulent.
Once again, surfing was on my mind. So, what do you know? I went fishing. And, look what I brought back.
I couldn’t help myself; I had to place a few scores on my big boy and made him my own. Well, scoring helps for the penetration of all the amazing spices and seasoning on this adorable specimen. So, I proceeded to season inside/out with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, crushed pimento(all spice), thyme and finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper. Before I laid my seasoning on, I drizzled a little coconut and olive oils in the interior and exterior of my fish.
My plan was to cook in oven at 380 to 400 degrees at high temperature so as to give a roasting effect. Thus, I called upon my parchment paper. For me, parchment paper helps to lock in flavors but will also provide a rustic/roasting process.
Before that though, I sautéed onions, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes in a skillet making sure to season along with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Then I added some steamed left over Jamaican spinach (callaloo).
I used same to stuff my snapper. Well, as you can observe, it was an overstuffed affair.
Baking sheet was lined with foil paper so as to contain any spillage. Then, a generous piece of parchment paper was used to place fish. I stuffed the head and cavity of same. And boy, it spilled. Already, succulent juices was expelling from within. It smelled amazing. With the squeeze of a little lime and splash of vinegar, I added additional finely chopped scotch bonnet yellow pepper. Then I folded my beautiful parchment package and poked a few holes for some of the steam to escape.
Fish was placed in oven at 380 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Then, I pared open my parchment package and gave dish an additional five minutes at 400 degrees. At this point, I was super-excited and so was my fire alarm. You see, the parchment paper started to singe a bit. Anyway, that didn’t stop me. I placed snapper back in the oven and look what I got.
My snapper made and emitted a delicious sauce which came from the veggies(stuffing) within. The fish was cooked just right. It was moist on the interior and slightly flaky on the outer. I served same with fried plantain to balance out the spicy flavors of the scotch bonnet peppers. Hmmm, I was overjoyed with my rustic dish.
Fetched me a couple of whole snapper fish at the market. The cute fishmonger was kind enough to scale and clean them thoroughly for yours truly. I took them home did a quick rinse and scored my ‘boys’ and seasoned the with salt and black pepper.
Scoring facilitates a better entry of seasonings and spices. The marks are also excellent for presentation. After drying of my snapper with paper towel, I placed them in a hot skillet with garlic-flavored canola oil. It took approximately five minutes on each side medium heat.They were then placed on paper towel so as to drain excess grease.
I topped my fish with a spicy and slightly sweet pickled vegetables. Pickled sauce was made from a generous splash of distilled vinegar, fresh orange juice, a pinch of salt and pepper along with crushed pimento (all spice) and chopped scotch bonnet pepper. This was served over a bed of smooth and creamy turned corned meal (polenta).