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Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Island Home

Michael and I are usually island hopping in the caribbean this time of year. For the past 12 years, we've cruised the entire caribbean eating and drinking our way through every island's culture and cuisine.

Nothing quite matches the true beauty of the caribbean. Teal blue seas mirrored by equally blue skies interrupted only by occasional gorgeous monumental clouds.  With lush volcanic islands rising from the sea like  tall gigantic stepping stones, cities and villages cling to the terrain and spill down the mountains until they meet water.
Throughout all of our journeys, the food was always spendid. Whether it was pure cocoa paste from the Fond Doux Estate cocoa bean farm perched on a mountain on St. Lucia, curried goat with rice while relaxing on the beaches of St Nevis, garlicky escargot on the French side of Sint Maartin, succulent shrimp mofongo from Puerto Rico, or spicy empanadas between swims on the beaches of Barbados, the food was adventurous and delicious. Although prevalent throughout the islands, I drew the line with horse meat. Nope.  Didn't happen.

We're not island hopping this year. Even though  we won't be swimming in the warm blue waters or flecking our toes through soft sandy beaches, I knew that with  little effort we could savor  the flavors of the caribbean right here at home.

We had a bottle of syrupy sweet Brinley Gold Mango Rum from St. Kitts buried in the freezer under a few bags of chicken backs. As a jumping off point,  I knew the mango infused rum could be a great base  for a glazeIt was a tropical drinkable souvenir that we brought home from one of our favorite islands.

I usually don't shop with lists.  I like to browse the markets, checking out what looks good on that particular day.  When I ran across jumbo plump fresh water prawns, I was totally inspired.  With ideas bouncing around my distracted mind, I scurried around the store  gathering  papyas, mangoes, limes, lemons, sugar cane skewers, bell peppers, and jicama.

A couple of nights ago, I had a blast throwing together an edible memory.

It was stupidly simple.

The mango rum was almost sticky sweet, so I added  fresh squeezed  orange, lemon, and lime juice for acidic balance before tossing in minced garlic, salt, and pepper.

I did seperate skewers for the prawns and vegetables because prawns cook in a heart beat and I didn't want tough prawns.  The sugar cane rods were too flimsy for skewering, so I used soaked bamboo skewers.

After threading two sets of skewers with jumbo prawns and sliced mango, I finished the last two sets with shards of green pepper, sliced mango, halved shallots, and sliced roma tomatoes.  I layered the skewers in a casserole dish, doused them with the citrusy mango rum, and slid them into the refrigerator to marinate.

We love the apple potato flavor and crunch of fresh jicama. Thinking it could be a perfect bright foil to the grilled skewers, I tossed together a simple salad of peeled and sliced  jicama  batons, sliced  fresh papaya, slivered green onions, lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Mise en place. It was time for a wine break. Big time. We had  a lot going on this past week. Wine was essential.

Once I got my groove on and mosied back into the kitchen, it went fast.  Very fast.  Almost too fast.

I started with a lazy pot of delicate jasmine rice as a bed for the skewers. While the rice quietly bubbled away, I got a grill pan smoking hot and grilled the vegetable skewers until they were beautifully caramelized and sweetly charred.  After removing them to a warm oven, I tossed the prawns onto the smoking grill pan and drizzled them with the mango rum glaze, letting  them sizzle, dizzle, and dazzle until they were just cooked through.  Not wanting to waste the sugar cane rods, I grilled them along with the prawns in the gooey mango rum glaze.  Why not?

I plated the jasmine rice, gently nestling the skewers into the fragrant strands and nudging the jicama papaya salad to the side.

The mango rum glaze completely enveloped the shrimp, vegetables, and grilled fruit. Sticky delicious fun. The  prawns were perfectly plump and tender, squirting prawn juice through the sweet rum glaze. The tangy-sweet grilled mangoes enhanced the meaty prawns with a slight smoky acidity, while the grilled  tomatoes, peppers, and shallots balanced the sweet lazy glaze with crisp savory undertones. Oh, the sugar cane skewers? We sucked on them until they were completely dry. Ridiculous. Spectacular.  Really.

We felt like we were home.  Our island home.

There were only a couple of things missing. Michael's beloved seagulls.

And  Rum Runners......laced with Absinthe.

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