A romantic Christmas menu from Diane Brown
Just when the winter gloom sets in, and the outdoor palette of colors seems to be another variation of gray, I start having fantasies about escaping to a brightly tinted, temperate world. I see myself indulging in a Christmas menu featuring tropical fruits and tongue-teasing spice. I feel the steel drums beat. I can hear the white sand beckon. And, of course, an imaginary fruity, umbrella topped drink cools my thirst. Then I check the airfare for an island holiday and quickly came back to reality. Christmas in tropics is just too financially prohibitive for a freelance food writer and culinary instructor. But maybe I could bring the tropics to my home, with the right Christmas menu and a plan!
Create a getaway at home
So I’ve decided to make my own island retreat, with the company of a few friends, right in my Southern California beach home. The colors outdoors may be pallid, but I’m going to create an enchanted tropical glow inside. How can you have a festive island bash? Here are a few suggestions to create a hot, hot, hot exotic holiday:
First of all, instead of a pine holiday tree, opt for several dwarf palms. String the trunks with mini white lights and hang red ball ornaments of several sizes for a quirky charm. Then string dozens of colored light strings overhead to represent the bright beach and tropical forest colors. Spin some reggae music, and set a buffet table with vivid linens and lush flowers. Tropical fruits are in the height of the season, so fill a beautiful bowl with pineapple, star fruit, passion fruit, mangoes, and papaya. Palm fronds or banana leaves make a gorgeous display on the tabletop, place platters of food on top of them and you’re an instant designer.
For the menu, start with a jelly jar of rum punch, filled to the brim with ice and topped with the quintessential paper umbrella. Get good-quality dark rum, like Meyers, and follow this classic West Indies recipe: One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak. You can use lime juice or lemon juice for your sour, simple syrup or grenadine for your sweet, island dark rum as your strong and any type of juice (pineapple, mango, orange) for your weak component. Stir and top it off with a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg, and snap, you’re transported to your favorite white sand beach.
Keep your Christmas menu simple
Use the KISS method for your Christmas menu party food: Keep it simple and sexy. Serve chicken roti with a twist; usually this is a stew-type dish, but stringing it up on skewers makes it far more sophisticated. Use the roti to wrap around the skewer and soak up the alluring sauce. Make a pot of sumptuous soup flavored with pumpkin and chocolate, topped with luxurious lobster. For dessert, nibble on tiny cakes with a heady smack of ginger and drunken fruit salsa. All of these can be made in advance and reheated with finishing touches for easy entertaining.
I couldn’t complete this Christmas menu without mention of the magical qualities of the Caribbean spice rack. Ingredients like chiles, cloves, ginger, cocoa and cinnamon are so perfectly suited for an evening of passion. And, of course, so is the the luxury of adding lobster to your meal. Let that be your little holiday gift to your guests.
Chicken Roti Skewers
West Indian Roti
Caribbean Pumpkin Soup with Lobster and Cocoa Nibs
Ginger Cake with Tropical Rum Salsa
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