A blog about food and cooking by Chris Norris

A Caribbean Lunch in the Sun

A Caribbean Lunch in the Sun

I’ve received a lot of nice feedback for the Caribbean lunch we served last Friday, August 7th, (plus requests for recipes) from many of the team.  On behalf of Rose, Dave, Joanna and myself: Thank You!  We’re glad you enjoyed our efforts.

For your pleasure reminiscing, here’s the menu that we served:

If you are interested in the recipes and some commentary about each of the menu items, then read on …!

As you know, we made everything except the pies from scratch.  Well, we didn’t brew the Red Stripes either…  The process was simple: On Wednesday night, two days before the big day, I spent an hour or two shopping for all of the ingredients.  Then, on Thursday night, the day before the lunch, Rose, Dave and I met at my house to do prep work. Basically, all of the ingredients were chopped, measured and sorted into Ziploc bags and labeled with the name of the appropriate dish.   Finally, I started the ribs cooking in my house early Friday morning, and the rest of the action took place starting at 10:30am with the grills in the “picnic lot”!

Jerk Rub Baby Back Ribs

Jerk seasoning is normally a wet paste applied to the meat and allowed to soak in for several hours to a day or more.  I don’t always like messing around with making the Jerk marinade, so I scrounged up a dry rub off the Internet that retains the distinctive flavors of Jerk (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg) but is easier to manage and gives a drier finish to the ribs.  The basic strategy for these ribs is to make the rub, coat the ribs with the rub and wrap in plastic and let sit in the refrigerator overnight (or you can cook them right away if time is short).  Then, 2-1/2 hours before serving, put the ribs in the oven, uncovered, at 300 F for two hours.  After the two hours, brush on a generous coat of Mango Chutney and broil or grill on high for 15 minutes before serving.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Jerk Rub Baby Back Ribs

Grilled Gulf Prawns

I love shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico more than any other kind of shrimp.  They have a characteristic “ocean” flavor that let’s you prepare them without seasonings of any kind and they taste fantastic.

The shrimp we served for lunch was ordered from Billy’s Shrimp in Bon Secour Alabama.  Tracy ordered it for us on Monday and had it shipped overnight to arrive two days before the lunch.  In fact, Laura and I order shrimp from Billy’s every six months or so, divide the shrimp into Ziploc bags, and put it in the freezer so we always have a ready supply.  If you are a snob about ingredients, then Gulf Shrimp deserve a place in your heart and on your shopping list.  If you are interested, you can read my previous blog about Billy’s at www.itsfoodtime/sweet-home-alabama

To prepare these shrimp, we ordered Extra-Jumbo size shrimp, cut the back of the shell and removed the vein, and used small skewers to hold the shrimp in pairs.  Then, the shrimp were thrown on the hot grill and removed just as they turned opaque in the center.  We used no seasonings or sauces of any kind!

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

I’ve been cooking Jambalaya and Gumbos for quite a while.  The best recipes are really simple, and mine is no exception.  I would normally use a cast iron dutch oven on my stove to make Jambalaya, but after seeing a Bobby Flay Jambalaya “throwdown” where the winner (not Bobby!) used a big cast iron kettle, I couldn’t resist buying one of my own.  I got this kettle online for about 85 bucks.  It’s a Bayou Classic, 2.75 gallon capacity – you can google it if you want one.  I bought mine at www.barbecueoutdoorgrills.com.  I use the burner from an outdoor Turkey Fryer as my stove (see www.itsfoodtime/stir-fry-on-high).

The only really important point regarding the cooking pot is to use something that will hold quite a lot of heat, which is basically any large, heavy pot.  The Jambalaya is made by combining all of the ingredients, including the rice, and bringing it to a boil.  Then the heat is turned off, the pot covered and 25 minutes later the rice is perfectly cooked and the Jambalaya is ready to be served!

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

Coconut Rice and Lentils

This is a very traditional Caribbean/Latin dish.  For our lunch on Friday, I screwed up and accidentally left the lentils at home, so what you tasted was simply Coconut Rice.  As the last minute “scurry around” by Joanna proved, canned lentils are harder to find at a regular grocery store than you might think!  However, middle-eastern grocery stores always have them.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Coconut Rice and Lentils

Caribbean Caught Mahi Mahi on Curry Cabbage

This dish is actually comprised of two recipes, one for the fish and one for the cabbage.  Mahi Mahi is a Caribbean fish that runs in the Caribbean in the early spring and elsewhere during other parts of the year (thank you, Steve Markle for the detailed lesson on Mahi Mahi over Red Stripe Lagers!).  Mahi Mahi is a fish that tastes fabulous as long as it is neither under-cooked nor over-cooked.  A thermometer is key to cooking this fish properly – get the fish off the grill when the thickest portion hits 140 F!  My recipe is simple, a basic flour and turmeric dredge, then grilled.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Grilled Turmeric Mahi Mahi

The Curry Cabbage is simple and so much more flavorful than you would imagine by reading the recipe alone.  I like to make this dish in a wok since that makes it easy to toss the ingredients and thoroughly distribute the spices.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Curry Cabbage

Black Bean Muneta (puree)

Beans are used extensively in Latin cooking and are typically eaten one of three ways: cooked and eaten whole, cooked and then pureed, or cooked, pureed and then refried.  This recipe is the second way: pureed, and the result is simply wonderful.  I highly recommend using a pressure cooker so that you can start with dry beans.  Canned beans will work in a pinch, but nothing beats starting with dry beans, vegetables and broth!

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Black Bean Muneta (puree)

Grilled Fresh Pineapple

No formal recipe is needed here.  Cut off the skin, cut off the top & bottom, then cut large slices from top to bottom right next to the core.  Discard the core, cut the large slices lengthwise into widths one-half or one-third the original and put them on the hot grill for 10-15 minutes!

Mandarin Orange and Black Eyed Peas Salad

We were missing a salad that wasn’t a traditional greens salad and didn’t overlap other items on the menu. Rose found the recipe for this dish on the Internet, and we substituted Black Eyed Peas for the Black Beans called for in the original.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Mandarin Orange and Black Eyed Peas Salad

Key Lime Pie and Coconut Cream Pie

We cheated – these came from Marie Callendar’s.  Those of you who are aficionados of Caribbean food will have already noted that the Key Lime Pie we served was the Southern version, which uses cream with the lime for the filling.  A true Caribbean version uses no cream and is much more like the filling for Lemon Meringue, consisting primarily of lime juice, sugar and cornstarch for thickening.

Red and White Sangria

Sangria is a great accompaniment to Caribbean food (some might say to ALL food) and it’s easy to make.  The simplest sangrias are simply wine, and perhaps some diced apple, served over ice.  It can be jazzed up with a splash or two of sparkling water.  Most Sangria recipes are simply more complex versions of this theme with diverse combinations of fruit, perhaps some fruit juice, and sometimes a splash of brandy or other liqueur.  My version works equally well with either red or white wine and I’ve yet to find a combination of fruit that doesn’t taste great.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.itsfoodtime.com/Red and White Sangria

Jamaican Red Stripe Lager

We cheated here too and bought a couple of cases at BevMo.  This beer rocks: smooth & creamy and not too heavy.

Here’s the recipe: Go To BevMo.

That’s all there is to it folks.  Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is.



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