Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Curry A Day... Part 2

Chilled Avocado and Cucumber Soup

With a Sorrel and Cucumber Salad

Smoked Pimenton and Toasted Garlic Oil


Garam Masala Rubbed Swordfish with a Spicy Vindaloo Sauce

Cilantro Yogurt Chutney

Pistachio Jasmine Rice

Fresh Aniseed Nann Bread and Pappadam


Rum Infused Tropical Fruit Salad

Homemade Coconut Sorbet

Pistachio Praline with White and Dark Chocolate

There are two types of surprises in life. There is the “Publishers Clearinghouse, Ed McMahon Unexpectedly Standing Your Front Door, Giant Check in Hand” type of surprise, or the “Pop Quiz After You’d Been Out Too Late The Night Before Instead of Studying” type of surprise…

A group of 8 people had bid on a weeklong charter aboard our yacht as part of a fundraiser. The owner of the yacht told me, with great enthusiasm, that the guests coming aboard had a big surprise in store for me. I couldn’t imagine what the surprise could be but my imagination leaned towards the “Publishers Clearinghouse” type of surprise and Ed McMahon as a stubby, mustachioed, little Frenchman appearing on the dock in a horizontal striped sweater, neckerchief and barret bearing a basket of fresh Parigord truffles, still moist from the earth they were pulled from and smelling deeply of an oak forest, musk and soil. Or perhaps one of the guests happened to have a bottle of 1937 Chateau D’Quem in their basement and thought to bring it along to share with lil’ ol’ me over a lobe of Grade A Foie Gras, roasted whole with fresh figs and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel… I tend towards an over-active imagination… Little did I know that this wasn’t going to be that kind of a surprise, it was more along the lines of the “Pop Quiz, hadn’t studied” type.

The yacht was sparkling and we stood on the clean teak decks, lined up like toy soldiers, barefoot and in spotless polo’s and khaki shorts. Steel drum music annoyingly reminiscent of a Carnival Cruise Lines commercial played faintly in the background. We introduced ourselves, one-by-one, shaking hands and exchanging names as the guests worked their way down the chain of crew on the aft deck. A flurry of greetings, taking peoples luggage down to their rooms, fixing drinks and getting everyone situated followed. Unsuspectingly, I shook the hand of what was to be my surprise, as he stood in front of me clad in a faded Gap t-shirt, wrap around sun glasses and a baseball cap.

As the guests settled in with drinks and unwound into vacation mode – information slowly began to leak. Who in their right mind thought I would be thrilled to find out that one of our guests was not just a chef, but a chef that had worked with Joel Roblechon for three years in Paris, and Daniel Baloud in New York City, and was a yacht chef for three years and now owns two very successful restaurants in South Florida? What sort of a nefarious plot was in the works here? My head spun, God was once again testing my fortitude. I’m deeply insecure about my cooking – doesn’t The Universe know this yet? And when is The Man In Charge going to cut me some slack, eh? I don’t know how to cook! I’m just a hack! I really think I need to start charging a surcharge to yacht owners that cause me undo duress…

The pressure was on and I felt the heat before I even touched the stove… Dinner for 12 at 8o’clock on the aft deck. In an effort to overcome my fear and hesitation cooking for this chef and his friends, I’d been combing their conversation, searching for a nugget of information about what foods they liked so as to be able to please them. I had planned on preparing swordfish, a Provencal preparation that I had in my mind. But as I chatted with the guests in the galley (because wouldn’t you know it, they all want to hang out in the galley) the topic of Indian food came up and in unison the guests all expressed how much they loved a good vindaloo. I felt a wave of relief and inspiration – Indian, I can do that! It’s one my favorite types of food in the world! I can make probably a half-dozen curries off the top of my head, but had never tried a vindaloo so I figured I would give it a shot. After a quick search through some cookbooks, I found a recipe in James Peterson’s Fish & Shellfish that would be my base recipe to work with (I never really follow a recipe completely). I chopped and prepped my ingredients for the sauce, although I used a bit of cayenne for spice, I toned it down incase some people had a low burn tolerance. The two teaspoons seemed to be plenty and I made a yogurt riata just to add a little cooling element aside the spicy sauce. My first course went out at 8pm on the button, a chilled avocado and cucumber soup with roasted cumin, pappadams and a cucumber and sorrel salad. The bowls came back empty. Next, the entrée and it smelled delicious, but I was up against a tough crowd and my stomach was in knots. I plated my food – but to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t happy with the plating – at least not for the crowd I was cooking for. The plates on this yacht are on the small side and not extraordinarily pretty and their really is only so much one can do with colorful oils and brunoise… I dream of large, white, rimless Aplico dinner plates… The knot in my stomach grew as the plates went out. But one by one during dinner, the guests appeared in the galley and raved about the food – even saying that it was the best swordfish preparation they had ever had. I told them that I felt a lot of pressure, to which they replied, “good, we hope you feel this pressure all week, everything is so good”. Dessert went out and I followed to check on the guests and was greeted with a, albeit embarrassing, boisterous round of applause. I decided that maybe I do know how to cook after all, gave myself a little pat on the back and slipped back into the galley to make a batch of doughnut dough for the morning, mop the floor, wipe down the cabinets, empty the garbage and finally after a 14 hour day, go to sleep – where I slept like a baby and dreamt that I really knew what I was doing.

Swordfish Vindaloo

Vegetable oil for sautéing

2 Medium onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons ground coriander seed

3 teaspoons turmeric

3 teaspoons ground cumin

3 teaspoons yellow or black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

3 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cayenne

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 8 canned, peeled tomatoes – juices strained and tomatoes chopped)

½ cup chicken broth (fish broth or water will work as well)

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

¾ cup tamarind concentrate (or about 2 -3 tablespoon size chunks of tamarind paste dissolved in ¾ cup boiling water and mashed into a paste)

¼ cup cilantro

Cook onions and garlic in a vegetable oil until onions begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in all the spices including the ginger and cook for 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, broth and vinegar and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the tamarind and cilantro and simmer for 20 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, preheat the grill. Brush swordfish (or tuna) steaks with vegetable oil and sprinkle with garam masala and season with salt. Grill fish for about 4 minutes on each side being carefull not to overcook it. Serve withe the Vindaloo sauce and drizzled with the yogurt riata - along with Jasmine rice.

1 comment:

prcrstn8 said...

Silver linings, baby. Your reputation is spreading far and wide.

Who knows who you'll be cooking for next ...

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