[Recipe] Cayman’s Bounty in a Roasted Breadfruit Salad

Our creative in the current issue of Ritz-Carlton's magazine features the market and one of our favorite local delicacies... Ackee!

Our creative in the current issue of Ritz-Carlton’s magazine features the market and one of our favorite local delicacies… Ackee!

Down in the sunny Cayman Islands there is an abundance of exotic and unusual fruits and vegetables growing. From cassava to winged beans, the produce on the island is used in many different ways unique to the island and its culture. The Camana Bay Farmers Market is held every Wednesday just steps from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Grand Cayman.  It is a great place for locals, tourists and our chefs to find all of the island’s local produce and is a snapshot of what’s in-season and what you can expect to be on your plate at the restaurant at any given moment.  Chefs Michael and Thomas have taken turns visiting the island over the past couple of weeks to find the farmers market and its growers as vibrant as they’ve ever been, with fresh ingredients in abundance such as boniato (sweet potato), bitter melon, plantains, heirloom tomatoes, jujube apples, coconut, pumpkin, okra, passionfruit, and ackee to name a few.  It’s always a huge source of inspiration… Case and point, you’ll now find this ackee toast on the menu!

The breadfruit is a perfect example of this local bounty. A species of flowering tree in the mulberry family, breadfruit originated in the South Pacific and was introduced to Caribbean islands during the late 18th century by British and French navigators. Today it is grown in some 90 countries throughout Southeast and South Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa.  The breadfruit is so common you can typically find the tree it grows on in every Caymanian backyard and is a staple in every local’s household. With the texture of a potato and the flavor of freshly baked bread (hence the name breadfruit), breadfruit can be great for baking, roasting, grilling, frying, or boiling. In traditional Cayman cuisine, the breadfruit is usually boiled or fried and seasoned with spicy pickled vegetables.

Chef Thomas Tennant is a master at handling this curious-looking ingredient, and created the perfect expression of its best qualities in the breadfruit salad.  The breadfruit is roasted whole in the wood oven, peeled and cut into large chunks, then re-roasted to nice and crispy outside and creamy middle.  While you may not have a breadfruit tree in your backyard, we have seen them from time to time pop onto the ingredient wall at our Miami restaurant food bar, or sitting pretty above the pastry station.  We challenge to to your own breadfruit treasure hunt…  This could be your reward!

Breadfruit SaladWood Roasted Breadfruit Salad with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, arugula, basil and citrus vinaigrette

Serves 6

1 whole ripe breadfruit, about 3 pounds weight
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
1 pound baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 pound of avocado, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 cup scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
1 cup torn basil leaves
1 cup baby arugula
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
1 cup Citrus vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 450° F.

Using a chef’s knife, remove the stem of the breadfruit by coring out the stem. Then insert the knife straight through the breadfruit, at least half way into the fruit via the stem side going through the breadfruit center, then do it again but turning the knife to create and ‘X’. You will have pierced through the breadfruit but not cutting all the way through it. Score the other side with an ‘X’. Place the breadfruit on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. After 40 minutes, check for doneness by piercing with a knife, it will be done if you can pierce the breadfruit every easily, similar to a baked potato. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, cut away the outer skin, then cut into one inch cubes.

Place the breadfruit cubes on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss with the olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the breadfruit begins to brown and become crisp. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, avocados, scallions, basil and arugula, in a mixing bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the breadfruit has become crisp, combine into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and dress with the citrus vinaigrette. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately while the salad is still warm.

Citrus Vinaigrette

Yields 1 quart

1 grapefruit
1 naval orange
1 lemon
1 lime
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup canola oil
1 ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Zest the citrus with a microplane zester into a container, then juice the citrus. Combine the citrus zest, juices, egg yolk, vinegar, honey and salt in a blender. Blend on medium-low speed for about 20 seconds. While the blender is running, slowly incorporate the oils by adding them in a thin but steady stream into the blender until all the oil has been emulsified. Transfer to a clean container and refrigerate.

 

 

Duck, Duck, Cypress

duck

For our last post of 2014, we offer a recipe to savor with its remaining hours and perhaps welcome into your kitchen in the new year.  This duck breast with turnips and pears comes straight from The Cypress Room’s menu where chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia has certainly made the most of the season.  Duck may not be the first bird-of-a-feather that comes to mind as home cook-friendly but chef Roel begs to differ.  The dish is both elegant and easy to make at home and is most festive in its classic pairing of earthy turnips with sweet-tart pears. Chef adds that he not only loves duck because it is extremely delicious, but because you can use every bit of it.  He purchases his “Rohan” breed for the restaurant from D’artagnan, but you should be able to find a quality bird at your neighborhood supermarket.  Whether you cook it whole, braise the legs, roast the breast, or even render the fat, duck is amazingly versatile and delectable!

Pan roasted duck breast with turnips, pears, and natural jus

4 servings

1 whole duck, about 5-6 pounds, cleaned and patted dry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 cups of chopped Spanish onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups red wine
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 pieces baby turnips, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled and seeded
4 tablespoons white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 lemons

Pre heat oven to 350° F.

Separate breast and legs from duck and put breast in the refrigerator.  In a roasting pan, place duck bones and legs, roast for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown throughout. Stir occasionally, flipping duck. Remove duck and legs from the pan, and set aside on a plate.  Add carrots, onion, and celery in the same pan. Put in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until all vegetables are caramelized, taking care not to burn.

Remove pan from oven and deglaze with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits. Take garlic, tomato paste, 6 cups of water, duck legs and bones, vegetables and red wine glaze and put into a stockpot over low-medium heat. Let simmer for about an hour and a half, or until it the duck legs fall off the bone.  Strain liquid with a fine mesh strainer into a large pot, setting the duck legs and vegetables aside for another use*.  Let liquid rest in a large pot for 20 minutes off the heat, then skim and discard the fat from the top. Now reduce the liquid over low-medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon.

Take turnips and place into a sauté pan with cup of water, 2 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper. Cook until fork tender and glazed. Add more water if necessary. Set aside.

Place pears, vinegar, maple syrup, and honey in a sauté pan. Bring to a low simmer until the pears are caramelized. Set aside.

Take duck breast and score the skin in a crosshatch fashion, being careful not to slice the flesh. Season with salt and pepper and place, skin side down, in a cold cast iron skillet. Cook over low- medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and most of the fat is rendered. Flip and let cook for about one more minute. Remove from heat and let sit, skin side up, on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.

Slice duck breast and divide onto four plates. Place the turnips and pear in equal amounts on the plate. Spoon the sauce on top of the duck, squeeze a little lemon, and serve immediately.

Cooking the Line: Megan Hess

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Megan working the oven station at MGFD with TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron at Brunch this past Sunday during Art Basel. Click the photo for a Hyperlapse of the action on Instagram.

It was 3:00 p.m. and another Sunday Brunch shift had blown through Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.  As Megan and I sat in the courtyard, she was still in her “Chef Yoga” pants but off her feet for the first time since 7:00 a.m.  “Is my hair in order?” she asked, taking off her cap.  Megan had prepared and cooked countless dishes from the wood oven station, made even more numerous due to Brunch’s special small plates format.  She was the only girl on the savory line that morning, yet the classic Megan smile as big and bright as you’ll ever see was out in full force, the same after the shift as it was before.

“I love it! There are a lot of jokes! I grew up with an older brother and his friends and I am used to it.”

Being a line cook isn’t easy.  It’s a rough and tumble job, both mentally and physically, and not for the faint of heart.  Even as a strong woman, it’s not difficult to see how the prestigious title of Chef has more often been awarded to men more than women.  In this battlefield of orders, cutlery and fire, one must shed the individual – the passion that put you there – and don the team.  One must trust and be trusted otherwise it just doesn’t work.  Our Genuine team consists of talented and passionate individuals, from the host to the wood oven, and from savory to pastry, who do just that. Everyday. And Megan, well, she’s a perfect example.

“I guess it all started back in Ohio,” Megan shares.  “I first learned how to make French toast when I was 5 years old with my great grandmother. By middle school I wanted to be a pastry chef.”

In fact, her heart was so set for the culinary world, that Megan attended a technical high school where she competed in culinary competitions junior and senior year; and she wooed judges at an early age. The experience made her fall in love with the food and beverage industry. At the recommendation of her advisor at North Miami’s Johnson & Wales University where she currently studies culinary arts and food service management, Megan applied for a part-time internship at Michael’s Genuine to put her techniques into practice.  She was hired as a full-time line cook shortly after.

“Megan’s a quick learner and she doesn’t complain. She just gets the job done,” explains Daniel Ramirez who at the time of Megan’s internship was a sous chef at Michael’s Genuine. He’s now Chef de Cuisine at Harry’s Pizzeria. “I think we [Chef de Cuisine Niven Patel, Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, and sous-chef Jason Arroyo] were astonished that her passion and talent went hand in hand with solid execution and professionalism.  It’s a hard combination to come by especially in a young cook.”

Megan welcomed the additional responsibility. She worked hard and played hard. She was in short, genuine.  Continuing her studies full-time, she attends school from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on most weekdays, and then comes to work at 3:00 p.m. I asked, “When do you do your homework?” and she replied “Within those three hours of course.”  As a student myself juggling work, I was impressed.  “On my days off, I nap,” this 21 year old admits.

Megan is often assigned to work at the wood oven, a very challenging station, and her favorite. Why so? She shares that the challenge motivates her. She does not receive a ticket with a list of what she is to prepare. Rather, she must remember what the Chef at the expo line requested, on the fly! In addition, she can prepare the whole snapper and the whole “Poulet Rouge.” Yum!

“My favorite dish to make at MGFD is the pasta,” Megan says.  “I love the variety at the sauté station, since it changes daily, and that we make it in house, fresh.  I also enjoy working at the grill due to the tempo. Well, I can have fun at pretty much any station!”

Megan dreams of success and a family, but also to be like Niven one day. Who says you can’t have it all? In addition, she hopes  to motivate and teach students at technical schools, as she once was, to encourage them to pursue their goals. We say that girls like Megan truly make the dream team happen.

Chef at Home: Roel Alcudia’s Familia Filipino

IMG_2157“I feel like all my training and time working in professional kitchens has brought me back to where I began. It’s like I’m finally ready to be able to cook the food my great grandmother would make me.”

So if our chef de cuisine at The Cypress Room Roel Alcudia has come home at last, his is a fitting first post for our new blog series exploring the formative influences outside our restaurant kitchens that make our chefs who they are today.

Alcudia was born in 1979 in Iloilo, the heart of the Visayas region of The Philippines where milkfish from the ponds outside the city center find a place at the dinner table. Visayas forms the geographical heart of this archipelago of the South Pacific, and if it sounds Spanish you’re right on.  Settled and colonized by Spain after Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in 1521, The Philippines today has a population of about 100 million people and is the seventh-most populated country in Asia — the 12th most populated country in the world. An additional 12 million Filipinos live overseas, comprising one of the world’s largest diasporas. So why as a cuisine does its identity so often go misunderstood – or not known period in our global dining consciousness?

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“The Filipino people are excellent chameleons,” explains Alcudia.  “It’s a culture that has existed in a firmly rooted identity crisis since colonization.  We know how to assimilate. Maybe too well.”

Alcudia grew up in a family of farmers, raising cattle, pigs and chickens and growing indigenous fruits and vegetables. The kitchen was his great grandmother Enicita Segovia’s.  She cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday for the house and the workers at the farm with whatever she could forage in the fields and whatever they might have on hand. Alcudia now credits this early experience with teaching him the importance and appreciation of the delicate balance of where our food comes from.  “We ate what we had and not what we wanted,” he reflects.

It was a lesson easily forgotten when his immediate family moved to NYC in the winter of 1992, with consumer culture at a fever pitch.  Like most middle class immigrants, achieving the American dream in the States was the end game, and it was done humbly and with hard work.  Alcudia’s dad Roque was a commercial fisherman in the Pacific Northwest and commuted to see the kids in mom Eleanor’s care as often as he could, about 4 to 6 times a year in 2 to 4 week increments.  Alcudia soon focused his attention on fine art, from rogue beginnings in graffiti.  He studied classical realism and oil painting at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. It wasn’t until age 21, late in the chef game, that he decided cooking was his calling.  He enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in 2002, which would set him on a path to become the chef he is today.

Alcudia’s pedigree is very New York and very classic, by the book.  Per se… Craft… Veritas… Barbuto… He found his way as a young chef in a rich layer cake of high-end restaurants, training with only the best chefs right out of the gate.  Colicchio… Jean Georges…  You’ll recognize the names of his peers from that journey, too; they form today’s supernova of culinary stars-in-the-making leading kitchens from New York City (Justin Smillie, Upland) to Los Angeles (Matt Molina, Mozza.). In May 2005 an intimate 65 seat restaurant called Veritas is where Alcudia found his first real home with chef/partner Scott Bryan as his mentor.

“Through him I learned the virtues of humility and integrity while practicing and honing the flawless technique that he implemented and demanded from his staff,” Alcudia reflects.  And when he was ready to leave, it was Bryan who led him to Jonathan Waxman and the simple, stripped down approach that would provide a necessary counterpoint to all that structure, a balance to his culinary point of view.  It’s where we ultimately found him, three plus years in as chef de cuisine, with a perfectly cooked 20 pound striped bass for Michael’s Lemon: NYC table to show for himself.  He didn’t bleep it up, as Chef likes to say.  An offer to chef The Cypress Room soon followed.  Timing was right, we had the Waxman seal of approval, and Alcudia packed up his life and moved to Miami.

“I’m starting to feel comfortable as a chef,” Alcudia explains.  “My approach is unique. I don’t really have a point of reference. It’s kind of how I feel on a given day. The food can kind of switch from French to Italian to Spanish in like a second.”

On my visit, it was all about home, and Alcudia chose three dishes to make reflective of his native culture and food he’d eat at as a young boy. Each dish is simple enough for the home cook to make at home without an exact recipe. We shopped on 163rd street at the Asian Market conveniently positioned on Chinatown row across from King Palace BBQ, a Cantonese style haunt he frequents for the best kind of day or night off comfort food with sous chef Mike Beltran.  You can shop there too and maybe stop in next door for some post-marketing lotus root with king mushroom (a personal favorite!)  Practice will make the dishes below perfect, or, even better, will make them your own.

Lumpia: Crispy spring rolls made with shrimp and pork, wrapped in wonton sheets, fried until golden and served with sweet chili sauce which he prefers store bought (“It’s just like making your own ketchup. It always ends up tasting like BBQ sauce…”)  You want a 2 : 1 shrimp : pork ratio.  This is aggressively minced with carrot, onion and garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Working with one sheet at a time, separate a wonton wrapper from its stack and lay on a clean work surface.  Paint the two edges meeting at a right angle away from you and form a long baton of filling about two inches from you. Don’t overfill your wonton wrappers. Begin rolling and folding in the edges like a tiny burrito. Roll to seal and set aside one by one on a plate.  Heat vegetable oil for frying – you’ll know it’s ready when bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon – and work in batches of four until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and serve each sliced in two pieces diagonally.  If you are entertaining, make it pretty with a garnish of cilantro and scallion cut on the bias.

Carne Frita: Marinated boneless beef chuck often served over rice (Alcudia prefers an heirloom variety of Japanese style rice called Kokuho Rose) and eaten for breakfast.  Slice the beef and 2 medium white onions as directed below and marinate for at least 2 hours with 2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, the juice of 1 orange, 2 lemons and 1 lime, and 1/2 cup of soy sauce.  Stir fry over medium high heat with some oil in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven.

Grilled Chicken Soup: This is decadence exemplified and my favorite dish of the bunch.  But you might ask, why grill a chicken just to put it into soup? Alcudia’s dad, credited with this dish born perhaps from a drunken stupor, might respond why not?  Soup is a special dish and the grilling of the bird before stewing is a way to build flavor without hours of cooking.  All you need is one 2-3 pound chicken (Alcudia likes the young organic one from Publix’s Greenwise line,) 2 medium white onions, halved, 4 Roma (plum) tomatoes, and a small handful of serrano chilies.  Cook over properly stoked and preheated charcoal grill until done, pulling off the tomatoes and peppers first, followed by the onions and then the chicken. Not cooking the chicken through until done will result in a stringy final product in the soup.

Once the grilling is complete, take a couple of cloves of garlic, a thumb of ginger and a stalk or two of lemongrass, mince them and then grind with a mortar and pestle. In a dutch oven over medium high heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and the aromatics. Roughly chop your grilled ingredients and add them to the pot. Add 2 cans of coconut milk and 1 can of water.  Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  I can picture the little ragamuffin now, the wild child of the family kicking up storm clouds in his path as he raced down the dirt road home from school to eat piping hot bowls of Dad’s fragrant soup. We prefer to savor with some ice cold San Miguel or even a Michelita with spicy salt rim… if you’re not the one responsible for cooking!  Think of it as the Margarita’s answer to the Michelada (Mexican beer with Clamato, lime and chili-spiced rim.)  Home at last!