Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dominica

Location: Caribbean, about halfway between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago
Background: Last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by the Europeans, due to the resistance of the natives.
Area: 751 sq km; 189th largest in the world
        Slightly more than four times the size of Washington, DC
Terrain: Rugged volcanic mountains
Highest Point: Morne Diablotins 1,447 m
Natural Hazards: Flash floods and destructive hurricanes
Population: Over 73,000; 200th largest in the world
Capital: Roseau
Diplomatic Relationship: The US does not have an embassy in Dominica, but instead the ambassador to Barbados is accredited to Dominica
Economy: Traditionally based on agriculture (bananas), but moving more toward ecotourism
Source: CIA Factbook

Dominica was one of the stops listed for our honeymoon cruise, and neither Kevin nor I knew much about it.  In fact, we were even pronouncing it wrong...not like the beginning of Dominican Republic, but Do-mi-NEE-ca.  We signed up to do a cruise excursion of "river to ocean kayaking" so that we could see some of the island and do something active.  We didn't really know what we were getting into.  It was gorgeous.
The view from our ship.
There was a law there that vendors had to be across the street from where the boat docked, which made for quite an amusing scene.
They came and picked us up from the ship and drove us up to where we were going.  It was a little ways away, so we got to see some of the inner island.  It was a great experience.  Our cab driver also gave us some stories and information on the island...some more amusing than others.
There was a ridiculous amount of running water for such a small island due to the mountain.  In fact, they told us there were 365 streams and rivers - one for every day of the year!  That is a lot of water.
This was their best coast guard ship that got sent out to save another ship during a storm.  It ended up on the wrong side of the seawall.
Traffic and roads there are a little treacherous.  Nonetheless, our driver got out at a blind corner to run acoss the street and grab up some lemongrass to smell.  It was quite fragrant.  Yes, this is a repeat picture.
At the time I didn't have a waterproof camera, so I didn't get any pictures of the awesome kayaking we did. But I assure you it was wonderful.
At the end of the trip, the guides stopped us to let them tell us about their island.  They said it is not a party island.  It is not where you come to drink alot and stay up late.  This is where you come to live.  They are fairly religious and always nice.  You would have a good life here.  They were incredibly friendly and clearly loved where they lived.

Dominica became our favorite stop on the trip.  We have art from there currently hanging in our living room. But the best part was after the excursion.  Because it was a morning trip, we got to ask for advice on where to get some food.  We were pointed to a small restaurant right across the street from the boat.  There was a small menu of "touristy" things, or you could go with the local menu.  There were two options for that day: fish or pork.  We got one of each.  It was probably our best meal on the entire trip.  You got the wonderfully flavorful entree with sides such as rice, plantains, salad, fruit, etc.  It was heavenly.
We ate so quickly I forgot to get pictures of the food, but at least I got some inside the restaurant.
As you can probably tell from this lengthy description, Kevin and I really loved Dominica.  Therefore, I really wanted to do it justice.  After researching recipes for a while, I finally decided on Caribbean Reef Chicken.  There were a lot of spices involved, which married well with our experience.  Similar to Djibouti, I also picked a recipe for Fried Plantains out of my new cookbook that was labeled "Caribbean." We actually had that there, so I thought it was a pretty good bet.

I didn't think that Kevin and I needed two full chickens, so I halved the recipe and I got to work.  I had the chicken cut in half within five minutes.  I am really improving!  The biggest thing I have learned it so use kitchen shears, not a knife.
Dominica was one of the islands where we didn't actually pick up rum, so I used some of the Mount Gay Rum for the recipe.  Gathering all of the spices was about half of the effort needed, I think.

Missing from picture: hot sauce and brown sugar
That's really about all there was to do.  It went so quickly I actually forgot to get a picture until I put it in the oven.
The smell was wonderful.

I was actually able to find mango chutney in the normal grocery store, which I had been a little skeptical about.  There were two options.  For one, the first ingredient was sugar.  For the other, it was mango.  Hmm...
(Go with the mango)
All that needed to be done was blend this with a little bit of rum.  Kevin and I had the same reaction after I lifted off the top: WOW.  It smelled incredibly strongly of alcohol.  I guess that it was happens when you basically turn rum into an aerosol.
The chicken was still cooking, so I took some time to work on the plantains.  It was a pretty basic recipe.  Take the plantains, cut off the ends, and then cut them in half.  Remove skins.  Cut them in half length-wise, and then fry in some oil.  Ta-da!  Unfortunately, the plantains didn't ripen at the same pace, so we ended up with one green one and one yellow one.  The recipe called for yellow.


They didn't really need to fry for long.  It was really nice to have recipes that didn't extend way past my planned time.  Even the chicken didn't need to go back in the oven multiple times!
Pre-mango.
I used peanut oil, although coconut oil would probably have been best.
Kevin helped cut up the chicken into somewhat more manageable parts, and it was a meal!

Other than the smell, one of the first things I noticed that this was just one of the prettier meals I had made in a while.  It actually all turned out like I expected it to!  And, I might add, not just in appearance.

It was delicious.  The chicken was fragrant and flavorful and moist.  The mango chutney really added to those parts where the spices may not have soaked in all of the way.  The skin was absolutely wonderful.  I think I may cut chickens in half to roast them more often.  This dish got a hearty thumbs up.  As an added benefit, Kevin realized he really likes mango chutney.  We will be looking for other opportunities to use it in the future.

Kevin also had the suggestion that this might be a great marinade for wings.  Then maybe turn the mango chutney into some sort of dip?  If someone does it before I do, please let me know how it turns out.  I think it sounds pretty exciting.

The yellow plantains were a very nice side dish.  Notice the caveat.  We both started with a piece that I think was from the yellow plantain.  It wasn't sweet, but it was cooked all of the way through and tasted a little like potato.  Kevin took another piece, and his reaction to that bite was very different.  This was the plantain that was still green.  It was hard in the middle and didn't taste like the other at all.  There is definitely a lesson here.

I talked to one of my coworkers, who is from Puerto Rico.  He said that if you are going to fry green plantains, you have to double-fry them.  Do it once, take them out, and then do it again.  That way, you get to the middle.  I may just stick with the yellow ones.  His other advice was grating a green plantain with a cheese grater and throwing that in coconut oil to fry.  This may be something to try...

So go.  Go cook this food from Dominica.  Actually, go visit Dominica.  We can give you a good restaurant recommendation.  This island is small, but there seemed to be a lot to do.  It comes highly recommended.

Next time: Dominican Republic

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