Saturday, February 25, 2006

Picture Perfect. Well, almost...


Feta and Herb Fritatta

Hash Browns

Fresh “Sqeezed” Passion Fruit and Mango Juice


Baguette Sandwiches with Poached Chicken, Bacon and Roasted Peppers


Fresh Caught Lobster Steamed and Served with Asian Dipping Sauce

(Soy, Sesame, Ginger and Lime)


Hamburgers, Homemade Buns, Green Salad

After two days in Bequia we sailed on and anchored in Tobago Cays. The sail was gorgeous and took about two hours and there were only four other boats along a beautiful stretch of beach as we dropped anchor. That was the case at least until a cruise ship pulled up and let off 300 pasty skinned, overweight holiday goers accessorized by overly festive sarongs, whining, screaming children clinging about their ankles, and the boat boys from Union hanging “Tobago Cays” t-shirts from the coconut trees, 3 for $10. It was a complete zoo, and my nightmare, in the most picture perfect, serene setting…

But I digress.

As soon as we dropped anchor we were approached by several locals in small, colorful motorboats with names like “Desperado”, “Irie”, and “Soul Jah” offering fresh caught lobster, ice and bread. We bought two lobsters which I steamed, made a dipping sauce with lime, soy, sesame oil and cilantro and served as an hors-d’eouvre, along with the captains homemade margaritas made from fresh squeezed limes and Patron …

Caribbean lobsters are large and spiny and don’t have claws. There is a debate going on as to which is better; Caribbean or New England. I’m sure anybody who reads this, especially anyone from New England, probably would scoff at that debate. But I happen to think they are both good in their own way. A lot of people complain that Caribbean lobsters are tough, but like any shellfish, it gets tough when it’s over cooked and anytime I’ve had one in a restaurant it’s been completely overcooked (as have the New England lobsters), but not when I’ve cooked them myself, they’ve been very tender. Their shells are hard and thick and they are quite large in size, which is probably why they are so often overcooked, kind of like the Thanksgiving turkey… In my quest not to overcook the lobster, I undercooked my first ones and rather than putting them back in the steamer I marinated them overnight in a tangy tarragon and lemon vinaigrette for lobster salad. They were absolutely delicious the next day, and perfectly cooked. Now, I pull them out of the water before they are cooked through and let them finish cooking from the residual heat and then I either serve them warm or marinate them for a salad. Caribbean lobsters don’t have the same buttery-ness that NE lobsters do, but they lend themselves to a different sort of cooking too and go well with Caribbean spices and produce. And the fresh lobsters, I have to say, are far superior to the frozen lobster tails that you buy through the provisioners here in the Caribbean.

For dinner I decided to make hamburgers, which meant that I’d have to make buns because where the hell am I going to find American hamburger buns on a deserted island in the West Indies? Fortunately, I discovered early on the quirks of bread making in a warm, humid environment… The bread dough takes half the time to rise, if not less, and requires twice the amount of flour that I’m used to for my dough. A sponge with a teaspoon of yeast and one cup of flour will quadruple in size in about 20 minutes and require around four cups of flour to make nice soft dough for flatbread. The second rise takes maybe a half an hour, and the final rise when the balls have been formed, takes less than ten minutes. I made focaccia dough for the buns which came out perfect. The men loved the hamburgers, and the effort that went into them…

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