cheffed-up

R&D And Some R&R

Chef Bill finds culinary inspiration on a tropical vacation

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Last month, I took a short culinary research & development trip to the Caribbean. And I’d like to thank Folio Weekly for sponsoring the expedition …. Wait, that’s just a fantasy: to be sent all over the world on culinary-inspired trips and then recon to my publisher with numerous columns describing my epicurean adventures. All-expense-paid food-tasting, business-tripping: That’s the life for me! Maybe Santa Clause can help?

The trip began with a brief stop in Tampa for I took a cooking class. Checking out the competition is extremely beneficial to stay at the top of your game. The class was fun, but my classes are way more fun—and more informative, obviously! Next stop was the Miami airport. Unfortunately, our gate was in the long-forgotten wastelands where food options were zero. Luckily, there was beer to entertain me while I anticipated exotic island dishes.

My destination was Grand Cayman Island, smack-dab in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, aka the Sea of Deliciousness. Boy, was I ready to dig into fantastic foodstuffs that had evolved over hundreds of years of world trade.

What I found was somewhat disappointing. Grand Cayman had none of the homegrown melting-pot cuisine the Caribbean is known for … no national dish, no local culinary traditions. In fact, no native edibles at all. The island was uninhabited when the British claimed it in the 1600s, with very little value beyond its sublime tropic breezes and its now-world-renowned Seven Mile Beach. Centuries on, resort hotels were built to cater to international tourists.

With no discernable local victuals, a kind of greatest hits list of popular cuisines from across the globe emerged. Though every single meal I had was absolutely delicious, utilizing fantastically fresh ingredients, and prepared by very skilled hands, the viands were vapid.

Fortunately, I did find a few Cheffed Up Caribbean dishes, like Jamaican chicken curry and perfectly prepared plantains. And the local brewery was top-notch. I’m now all about White Tip Lager, not to mention swimming with stingrays. Here’s my Jamaican Curry rendition.
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CHEF BILL’S Jamaican Chicken Curry
Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. bacon fat, lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. ginger, grated
  • 2 habanero chili, minced (wear gloves)
  • 4 tbsp. Jamaican curry powder
  • 2 oz. white wine
  • 6 chicken thighs, with skin and bones, trimmed of excess skin
  • 6 small new potatoes, cut in wedges
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the thighs in bacon fat in a large Dutch oven. Remove and pour out excess fat.
  3. Sweat the onion until translucent; add garlic, ginger, chili and curry powder. Toast for one minute, constantly stirring. Deglaze with wine and reduce to almost dry.
  4. Add the chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and reduce by one-quarter.
  5. Add chicken, cover and place in a 325°F oven for about 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and Worcestershire. Return all to oven and cook until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 20 more minutes.
  6. Remove chicken to a warm platter, place pan back on burner, and reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Pour over chicken.

Until we cook again,

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Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at cheffedup@folioweekly.com to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

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