For those of us who can’t jet off to the tropics for the Holidays, this menu can curb a craving. While you won’t be feeling the balmy breeze, you will enjoy the tropical holiday party in your mouth!
Get some great tips for setting the scene to give your tropical Christmas party the right look and feel. (It wouldn’t be Christmas without a tropical palm tree!) And if you want to turn it into a romantic Christmas dinner for two, cut the recipes in half. You may have leftovers but they will make a very tasty midnight snack (in bed).
Recipes for your tropical holiday party
This tropical holiday party serves 6 – 8. (Halve each recipe to use them as a romantic Christmas dinner menu.)
Chicken Roti Skewers
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp crushed dried chili flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 shallot, minced fine
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 hot pepper, such as Scotch bonnet or serrano, seeded and finely chopped, or to taste
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp light brown sugar
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
24 wooden skewers, soaked in water
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 recipe West Indian Bread for Roti, recipe follows, breads kept covered and warm
In a medium skillet or saute pan combine the turmeric, chili flakes, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, ginger, garlic powder, mustard seeds, pepper, allspice, and cinnamon and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until spices are fragrant and just beginning to smoke. Remove from the heat, transfer to a shallow plate and allow to cool completely. Transfer to a coffee grinder or spice mill and process until very finely ground. Reserve 6 tablespoons of the spice mixture separately and transfer the remainder to an airtight container and save for another purpose (like Jerk Pork).
In a mixing bowl combine the curry powder, 1 teaspoon of the salt, shallot, garlic, ginger, thyme, and hot pepper if using. Add the coconut milk, and brown sugar, whisking together, and pour half of the marinade over chicken. Marinate chicken for 20 minutes, then thread on wooden skewers.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat, and grill the skewers for approximately 3 minutes on each side, until grill marks are evident and chicken is cooked through. Reheat the reserved marinade and serve on the side. Garnish chicken skewers with the chopped cilantro and serve with West Indian bread.
West Indian Roti
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for cooking roti
1 cup water
To make the breads, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Combine the oil and water and add this mixture to the well. Using your hands, mix to form a dough. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. Divide the mixture into 6 balls of dough and set aside for about 2 hours, covered with a damp kitchen towel. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a thin, flattened circle about 9 inches in diameter. Set aside, covered, until ready to cook the breads to serve. (Do not stack.)
Heat a large griddle or 12-inch skillet over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. When hot, add the bread dough and cook until brown spots form on the bottom, about 1 minute. Turn the bread and cook on the second side, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a large plate or baking sheet and cover with a damp towel to keep warm while you prepare the remaining breads.
Caribbean Pumpkin Soup with Lobster and Cocoa Nibs
1 oz cacao nibs
1 chile guajillo
4 plum tomatoes
1 medium white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp aniseed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp brown loaf sugar (preferably Colombian panela or Mexican piloncillo),
grated or demerara natural brown cane sugar
2 lbs calabaza, (or sugar pumpkin) peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz dark chocolate, shaved
Garnish: 1 slice of poached lobster claw and roasted cocoa nibs
Heat a griddle, or medium-sized cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the cacao nibs and dry-roast for 2 minutes, until fragrant, turning constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out into another container and set aside.
Stem and seed the chile. Place on the hot iron skillet and roast briefly turning with tongs. Place in a bowl with warm water to soften. Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic until blistered on all sides. Peel the onion and garlic. Place in a food processor or blender together with the roasted cacao nibs and the spices and puree.
Heat the oil in medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the puree and the brown sugar and saute for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and the stock. Correct seasoning. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and cover until the pumpkin is soft, about 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender, in batches. Strain the soup pushing the solids against the strainer with the back of a spoon. Put back in the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Garnish with lobster and cocoa nibs.
Ginger Cake with Tropical Rum Salsa
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
11/4 cup flour, divided
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, separated
Special equipment: 1 (8 1/2- by 4 1/2- by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pan or three mini loaf pans
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare pan: Butter and flour loaf pan, knocking out excess flour.
Pulse ginger and 1/4 cup flour in a food processor until ginger is finely chopped. Beat butter and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add brown sugar, a little at a time, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in corn syrup, then beat in chopped ginger mixture.
Beat whites and a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold one-fourth of whites into batter gently but thoroughly, then sift one-fourth of remaining cup flour into batter and fold gently but thoroughly. Add remaining egg whites and flour alternately in 3 batches, folding in same manner.
Spoon batter into two 12-count mini muffin pans, wiping away any excess over the rim. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 15 to twenty minutes. Cool on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan to release. Top with tropical rum salsa and serve.
Tropical Rum Salsa
1/4 fresh pineapple, peeled and cored
1 papaya, peeled and seeded
1 fresh kiwi, peeled
1 mango, pit and peel removed
4 tbsp Meyer’s Rum
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut fruit into a small dice, about 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch. In a small bowl, combine rum, olive oil and sugar. Toss fruit in the rum mixture and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until fruit has softened and caramelized. Cool and mix in lemon and orange zest. Serve on top of ginger cake.
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