Posts Tagged ‘Chile peppers’

What to Eat at the Airport: DFW

When we started this blog about two years ago, we never dreamed that we would be singing the praises of airport food. But that was before Pappasito’s Cantina became the only bright spot in a very trying day at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport.

We were en route from Boston to Albuquerque when our early morning connecting flight in Dallas was canceled without explanation. The next flight wasn’t until late in the day and we were resigned to a long, boring wait and generic fast food. We were debating the merits of pre-made sandwiches, bagels, yogurt smoothies, and McBurger when we stumbled on Pappasito’s in Terminal A. The long bar looked so inviting that we grabbed a couple of stools, perused the Tex-Mex menu and settled on tamales filled with chicken breast meat and topped with green chile. Bulging out of their corn husk wrappers, they were the real deal. The tamal was redolent of corn and lime, the chicken was intense, and the green chile was just the right balance of hot and sweet.

Even though we had ordered one of the more modest options on the menu, the servers kept the tortilla chips and spicy red salsa coming, along with refills on ice tea. (No free refills on the Dos Equis drafts, alas.) But a good meal in convivial surroundings certainly lifted our spirits.

It turns out that Pappasito’s is a popular local chain, first started in 1983, so we’d had a taste of border town cooking after all. And it made us think that there may be local foods with character lurking in other airports as well. We resolve to keep an eye out–and we will let you know when we find them.

01

11 2011

A Cayman Islands version of a pepper pot

Chef Dean Max

As we were pondering how else to use our beautiful Cayman peppers, we were reminded that chef Dean Max is also a big fan. We met him last winter at an “Island Organic” presentation at the Cayman Cookout on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island. When Max isn’t presiding over the kitchens of his Miami seafood empire, he’s often on Grand Cayman kicking back at the Brasserie, the restaurant he owns with King and Lisa Flowers.

For him, one of the pleasures of cooking in the Caribbean is drawing inspiration from local cooks. “I always take the traditional thinking,” he said. “We use their technique, but then we add things. Take chicken pepper pot soup. You’re making this beautiful chicken soup…and then you use the incredible peppers you get here.”

Like so many dishes, there are as many versions of chicken pepper pot soup as there are cooks. In most parts of the Caribbean, though, it can be a pretty spicy pot. We didn’t have chef Dean’s recipe, but we took his advice to adapt the dish to what we had. We played around with several chicken hot pots before we settled on this one. It has enough heat to earn its name, but not so much that it overwhelms the fruity taste of the Cayman peppers.

CHICKEN PEPPER POT SOUP

Ingredients

1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, quartered lengthwise, half thin sliced, half diced
15 Cayman peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 small moderately hot peppers (Numex 6 or similar), seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2-4 drops Scotch bonnet hot sauce
7 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
5 oz. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut milk

Directions

1. In large stock pot, fry bacon over medium heat. When browned, remove bacon to paper towels.

2. Add chicken pieces to fat and sauté until lightly browned. Add onions and continue cooking until onions begin to soften.

3. Return bacon to pot with sweet potato, Cayman peppers, red bell pepper, Numex chiles, garlic, spices and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

4. Add spinach and coconut milk. Simmer another 15 minutes.

19

09 2010

Finding seeds for the taste of Cayman

Even in Massachusetts the days are starting to get longer and we are suffering garden fever. In just a few weeks, we will be starting our spring sets indoors. It’s not that we expect Cayman peppers to grow entirely true to form in New England, but we have had some surprisingly good luck with various Central American and Caribbean peppers before. It’s worth a try.

We have some Caymanian seeds for the country’s traditional seasoning pepper (don’t ask), but we will hedge our bets with some commercial seed stock.

A little research identified the Cayman seasoning pepper (as shown in the bowl) as a local variant known elsewhere in the Caribbean basin as ají dulce. Puerto Ricans abbreviate the name to ajice and use them extensively in sofrito and recaíto (sofrito without the tomato). The low-heat pepper is a variety of Capsicum chinense, as are the hotter habañeros, Scotch bonnets, and Datil peppers. Looking around at sources, we settled on Tomato Growers Supply Company
in Florida, which grows seed originally from Cuba. We’ll see….

02

02 2010

Putting the hot pepper jelly to a taste test

As we made our version of the Cayman pepper jelly, we were a little concerned about the color. Ours seemed to have a lovely amber hue, while the original was darker and more opaque. Once our jars had rested and the jelly had set, we came to the moment of truth. How did it compare to the Cayman product we so admired?

We spread water crackers with each. As we had observed, our jelly (on the left) was paler and more translucent. It also appeared to have fewer bits of pepper pulp in suspension. We sniffed. Ours had a slightly acrid nose. The original smelled sweeter and darker—almost like French onion soup. That should have been the tip-off.

Then we tasted. Ours was still sharper, maybe even a little hotter than the original. It also had a distinct flavor of raw peppers—both sweet peppers and chiles. The original was smoother, with a long finish of roasted garlic and caramelized onions next to the fruity flavors of the family of peppers that includes habañero, Scotch bonnet, and the mild Cayman seasoning pepper.

Final judgment: Our jelly will be fine as a marinade ingredient, but we won’t be eating it on crackers just yet.

We’re guessing that the secret Cayman recipe calls for cooking the peppers with onion and garlic before proceeding with the next step. Oh well—the people at Pepper Patch spent four years working out the kinks in their recipe. We seem to have mastered the right amounts of thyme, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Our biggest challenge will be to get the pepper mix right. The sweet bell peppers, no matter how ripe, are the wrong flavor. We will need a whole lot more Cayman seasoning peppers before we try this again. Check in next fall, after we’ve harvested the garden.

31

01 2010