[Recipe] Lionfish Sliders with Scotch Bonnet Aioli & Pickled Vegetables

Lionfish Slider

We’re really digging the summer vibe this week.  Thoughts of sun-struck oceans and good times with good friends wash over Genuineland, from glassy Biscayne waterfront at Paraiso Bay to the royal blue expanse of Caribbean Sea through which genuine teammates are sailing at a clip as 150 Central Park’s summer menus go live on Oasis of the Seas.  To usher in the weekend, we’re kicking off our shoes, jumping in a hammock and cranking the ceiling fan on high to enjoy this spicy lionfish slider recipe from TGHG special ops chef Thomas Tennant.   These puppies have dog days written all over them and are inspired by a recent interview Michael did with Garden & Gun for a story on discovering something worth saving in “trash” fish.  What’s not to love about that angle?

Lionfish Sliders with scotch bonnet aioli, pickled vegetables, avocado, herbs

Makes 12 sliders

1 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 cup​fresh lemon juice
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeds removed
½ cup seasoning or shishito peppers, seeds removed
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups canola oil
1 ½ cups Pickled Vegetables (recipe follows)
12, 3-ounce lionfish filets, pin bones removed (fresh local snapper works well too!)
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 cup all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying
12 potato rolls
1 cup picked cilantro leaves
1 cup scallions cut on the bias
1 cup baby arugula, washed
3 limes cut into wedges
3 ripe avocados, sliced

Preheat a deep fat fryer to 350 degree Fahrenheit with vegetable oil.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, peppers and lemons juice and puree until smooth, scraping down the sizes of the bowl every few moments. Once pureed, add the egg yolks and salt then run the food processor until the egg yolks have been whipped enough to be well incorporated with the pepper mix. While the food processor is running, combine the two oils and slowly incorporate them into the processor in the thin stream. You want to have an emulsification, so do not go too fast. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Season the lionfish filets with salt and peppers, then dredge in the flour. Fry until golden brown and cooked through. Place on to paper towels to soak any excess oil and season with salt.

To assemble, slice the potato rolls in half and dry toast the cut side on a griddle. Liberally spread the aioli on both cut sides of the bread. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cilantro leaves, scallions and arugula and dress with a strong squeeze of fresh lime juice. Assemble each slider by placing the fried filets on the bottom half of the sauced rolls. Then thinly slice the avocado and place on the lionfish. Top with pickled vegetables and cilantro/arugula mix. Place the top half of the roll on top and secure with a sandwich pick.

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 thyme sprig
Suggested vegetables:
1 small red onion sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds and separated into individual rings
2 bell peppers, seeded and julienned
1 carrots, julienned

Combine the vinegar, 1 cup water, sugar, bay leaves, and mustard seeds in a medium nonreactive pot. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Put the vegetables in a heatproof nonreactive container and pour the hot liquid on top and toss to evenly coat; the vegetables should be completely submerged in the liquid. Cover and cool to room temperature. Chill before serving. The pickled red vegetables keep for months stored covered in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep them completely submerged in the liquid.

Farm-to-Ship: Cruising into Summer at 150 Central Park

Ah, #shiplife. With Michael’s Genuine® Pub coming online in the fall, we are utilizing this summer menu transition at 150 Central Park aboard Allure and Oasis of the Seas as an opportunity to orient our greater TGHG team to the unique charms of work at sea!  Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant will cruise the length of menu implementation periods with genuine teammates coming on and off throughout. First up, Allure. Eric disembarked in Port Everglades yesterday, and Michael and Ryan hopped onboard. Rather than feature two menus per week-long sailing that swap half way through, we are introducing one six course menu with choices on course numbers three through six. Oasis will come online in July.   To start, a smattering of tapas including tortilla español with romesco sauce.  Delicioso.  Poulet Rouge chicken from Joyce Farms is back, as is Jim Wood’s Palmetto Creek pork.  Please find Michael’s Summer Menu, including option of Royal Pairing selections by Eric Larkee, below.  Happy sailing, gentlemen!

Menu_150 ParkSpecial OA AL_ Summer_0603AD

Homecoming Means Going for Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant


Thomas in The Cypress Room kitchen in June.

Thomas Tennant began working in the Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink kitchen in September of 2007.   Since then, we as a company have grown from one restaurant to four in Miami, one in Grand Cayman, and two sailing the high seas of the eastern and western Caribbean. Chef Thomas has been there through it all, most recently on the rock.  After working the line and sousing at our flagship for three years, Thomas chose to accept chef Michael’s mission of opening chef de cuisine in Grand Cayman, not a walk in the park.  First, the job required a skilled chef immersed in the genuine ways to make sure Michael’s vision was executed to a “t” in the kitchen.  Thomas did so with passion and his endless stream of fearless creativity.  He not only led and garnered the respect of his back-of-house team, but also of the people on island, not an easy feat for a foreigner.  With patience and determination, he reached out to the community, made friends with farmers, and integrated into island life like pate to crostini.

I think we can all agree Thomas earned his stripes.  So when it was time for him to return stateside, another mission was waiting for him.  Well-armed with his gift of adaptation, our new special ops chef dove head first into a number of Schwartzprojects.  First up, Royal Caribbean, and learning the ropes of our 150 Central Park program, including local ingredient provisioning, inputting recipes into its ‘Master Cook’ system, testing them, and finally implementing new menus.

150 Park Sign for OA_AL Poster_Chef Michael_Winter_Meadow&Artisan_AllureAs Ellie previously posted, summer dishes were tested in June alongside Michael, Bradley, and Hedy at The Cypress Room with the help of 150 Central Park chef de cuisine Dominic Bradshaw.  Thomas got his first taste of shiplife on Saturday, July 27 when he boarded the Oasis of the Seas for his maiden sailing and service in the galley, implementing summer’s “Meadow” and “Artisan”.  With Michael, Eric and I heading out on sister ship Allure of the Seas this Sunday to do the same, and Thomas at the gate in MIA waiting to board a flight to check back in with Grand Cayman for a few days, we rang him up to chat about his impressions of shiplife — from what happens when the pasta machine breaks down 10 minutes into prep, to how many languages he can now say “Thank You” in.

TGK:  So when I tell people I’m heading out on a sailing, they think of poolside daiquiris and a great tan.  “You’re going on vacation!” they insist.

Thomas Tennant: Yea… no. You kind of work all day. You work, you work, you work, you take a break and then you work again.

TGK:  Were you prepared for the experience? Was it what you expected?

TT:  It’s a very diverse crew, very international.  Lots of Filipinos and Indonesians, some Europeans, and lots of island people.  It was something familiar from living in Grand Cayman, so in that way it was a smooth transition in terms of learning how to communicate and work with the staff in the galley. I also made sure to get off the ship for a few hours when we were in port, especially in St. Thomas which is a US Virgin Island, to take advantage of the cell service! 

TGK:  What is the key to survival on the ship as a chef?

TT: The key is making it work through adaptability… Sometimes you don’t have an ingredient so you need to be flexible and use good judgement.  Some employees are still in training mode, but they are open to constructive criticism.  They have a strong work ethic, and everyone is open and welcoming.  Shiplife is all about the ultimate hospitality, not just to the guests, but to each other as crewmates.  Everyone lives together and works together.  That’s over 2000 employees, and you become acquainted real quick.  By the end of that week, I was already speaking three new languages.  Everyone is friendly if only just by virtue of having to get along.  The worst thing you can be disciplined with a notice from the captain. No one wants that!  

TGK:  Talk to me a little about what it’s like working in the galley?

TT:  There’s a little bit of translation from the written recipe to application that needs to happen for the staff to understand. They read the recipes, and because English isn’t their first language, you tell them to butter a steak, and they may think you mean to put a pat of butter on it.  All of them have some sort of classical training before they get on the ship.  I can’t tell you how many cooks would come up to me and show me their certifications and paperwork from the courses they passed.  The galley at 150 has the cream of the crop.  The cooks there want to be there and it’s sort of a badge of honor.  The most important thing is the discipline and structure.  No one would dare question the chef’s direction.  That just does not happen.  The culture is very different in that way from restaurants on land.  The captain is the only 5 stripe officer on the ship and the chain of command descends from there.  You have 4s and 3 1/2s and so on… These controls allow the ship to function. 

9366583638_cbacf6161b_bTGK:  Did anything go wrong that you were forced to adapt to on the fly?

Ingredient-wise, the only thing that didn’t make it on the ship were the bing cherries so we use Amarena instead. cherries…  Michael showed us another way to form the ruccoli pastas, and one of the comis (line cook) did it differently, sideways with his fingers, but it achieved a better result because it was more efficient.  Michael is always pushing the team to work better and innovate no matter how seemingly small a task may be.  We make thousands of pieces of ruccoli pasta… so every second counts.  Also our cavatelli machine broke within 10 minutes of using it.  I thought to myself oops we’re on a ship, there’s nothing we can do about it.  But the guys called engineering and after little welding and readjusting on the gears, it actually worked better than before!

TGK:  How has the response been to the new menus?  Any dishes in particular stand out to you?

TT:  One of my personal favorites is the rock shrimp salad at MGFD, and it translated really well with the lobster salad… That dish was the most talked about! Everyone really loved that, especially the jade dressing. The venison and the sausage also came back with a lot of clean plates, if they order it.  Substitutions on the ship especially in the main dining room are par for the course so that was something that required getting used to.  Also Hedy’s quattro leches.  Oh man, I didn’t stop hearing about that one!

Testing, Testing, 1-5-0: Summer Menus Shaping Up Shoreside

Have no fear, summer menus are here at 150 Central Park.  They are set to be implemented this upcoming August on both Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.  Dishes are currently being tested by the hands of Chef Dominic Bradshaw, Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park and Chef Thomas Tennant in town from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Grand Cayman. Dominic was kind enough to take a break  from working his cavateli magic in The Cypress Room kitchen to have a chat about the upcoming menus and what factors have played a role in its conception.

As all of you Genuine readers know, freshness, seasonality, and quality are three of the cornerstones that each of our restaurants foundations are built upon, so naturally these three keys were paramount in developing the summer menus for 150 Central Park. How unique it was to have a truly farm-to-table restaurant on a cruise ship.  One of the more difficult tasks they encountered when conceptualizing this menu was the fact that Florida’s summer climate makes sourcing produce a trying task.  Because of this a major focus was placed on sourcing the best possible proteins as well as highlighting one of Florida’s more abundant summer time fruits, the lychee.

As amazing as this might sound to us Floridians, a lot of people have never even heard of a lychee according to Dominic! He went on to explain that, “We freeze the lychees which preserve incredibly well and thaw out almost instantly when needed.  It is such an exotic item to many of our diners, we often will even offer a whole lychee for them to try.”  This item will be a feature on the menu and can be seen in the Florida Lobster and Lychee salad as well as Lychee Cuatro Leches.  No need to fret though readers, we are putting the same amount of love into each and every other delectably delicious item on the menu!

Here are a few teasers to add to your already watering mouth after the lychee talk: Grilled Harris Ranch New York Strip with thrice cooked fries and a porcini Worcestershire sauce and a Mixed Grill of Venison loin with braised fennel and fennel pollen and Palmetto Creek Sausage with soft polenta and roasted tomato.  As on prior 150 Central Park menus we will also be sourcing from Borek, Swank, and Palmetto Creek Farms among others and the restaurant will feature two menus each week.  Monday-Thursday will be the Meadow menu and Friday-Sunday will be the Artisan menu.

Now unfortunately this is about all the information I can give for now without risking upsetting any chefs in the kitchen.  Know that there is some serious kitchen experimenting going on right now, and be sure to stay tuned on the blog for more updates!

Ship Life 101

Today is day three of my second sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and this ship, as I said before, is a city.

When seeing a city for the first time it’s all glamour, expectations, things you’ve heard about, and things you can’t wait to discover. Then, if you like the city enough to return, the joy is in the nuances. The early morning yoga on the helipad that I overlooked last time because of the novelty of tea and toast delivered in bed, the perfect Saphire Collins previously ignored because l just had to order a daiquiri by the pool, or the do-it-yourself frozen yogurt and English toffee cookies that I failed to notice undoubtably due to the chef and sommelier company I kept last time versus the chef, his wife, and their seven-month-old I have the pleasure of sailing with this time.

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