Genuine Cayman “Lionfish” Episode Preview: Safari of the Seafaring Kind, Plus Cooking Up Invasive Species in Miami

Meeting of the aquatic minds: (seated left to right) executive chef Thomas Tennant, Jason Washington (Ambassador Divers,) Michael, and James Gibb (Department of Environment.)

For the past year and a half, chef Thomas Tennant has made it his personal mission to eradicate the invasive population of lionfish off Cayman’s shores by combining his love of scuba diving and cooking.  Through a partnership with Ambassador Divers, the Lionfish Safari was born and with it the opportunity for our customers to get their feet wet, take part in our sourcing of fresh ingredients at the restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal at the end of the day.  Genuine food and drink, Genuine Cayman.

“Our first lionfish tournament was at Taste of Cayman 2011, and we have sponsored about five since then,” Thomas recalls.  “I would say on average I receive 50-60 pounds per week at the restaurant. So that would come out to around 2,860 pounds  since then that we received. Some weeks are good, some are not so good and some are excellent for product.  We love the not so good weeks just as much as the excellent ones — less lionfish in the water!”

In tonight’s episode of Michael’s new series on-island exploring the bounty of local ingredients Cayman has to offer, chef Thomas leads the way to a day out on the water with Jason Washington and his team, and a sweet and savory reward at the end — a big, aromatic bowl of Lionfish Chowder, for which you will find his recipe below.  Those of you in Miami can look forward to sampling lionfish and many other more invasive species caught locally when chef de cuisine Bradley Herron participates in Fertile Earth Foundation’s UnderGROUND Miami event on June 23.  We’ll have more on that on The Genuine Kitchen next month!

Tennant and Schwartz in the mix, chowder-style!

West Indian Lionfish Chowder

Serves 10

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 cups pumpkin, cubed
10 seasoning peppers, diced
1 Scotch Bonnet, diced with seeds
1 callaloo, chopped (if not available locally, substitute spinach or kale)
Zest and juice from 1 lime
2 quarts coconut milk
1 quart fish stock
2 tablespoons equal parts canola and olive oil
10 3-ounce fried lionfish fillets
3 cups all purpose flour

Melt butter and coconut oil in a large pot on medium heat.  Sweat the onions about 8-10 minutes until clear, and season with salt and pepper

Add thyme, bell pepper, carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, seasoning peppers, and Scotch Bonnet, and cook for about 8 minutes.

Add callaloo, lime zest and juice, and cook for about 30 seconds

Add coconut milk and fish stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer about 15 minutes or until vegetables are just cooked.

While chowder is simmering, coat a large sauté pan with oil mix and place over medium heat. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.

Sear the fish skin-side down 3-4 minutes or until skin becomes crispy.  Flip to other side and cook for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to overcook the fish.

Served best piping hot in a bowl.

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