Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fish, fish in a Dish...

I’m always amazed whenever Errol does a little ‘something’ in the kitchen, simply because he makes it look like he can do it in his sleep.

Maybe the inspiration came from our recent trek to Harry’s Water Park: our posse became amateur fisher folk and tried to catch some tilapia using conks as bait. The fish were biting, but, according to Errol, they now have degrees in “How not to get ketch.”

Small thing. My boy had a back up plan (it would seem), because out of the fridge came three cro cro fish.
“Where you find that?” I had said.
His reply: “Scotty from work… he got them in Guayaguayare. They nice, eh?”

And with that, he grabbed the biggest bowl, a knife and proceeded to the front step to wash and prepare them…

The 3 cro cro were scaled, split open and the guts, gills and eyes were removed, along with the fins and tails. We hadn’t any fresh limes, so a little molasses vinegar was used to thoroughly wash the fish.

With that done, the seasoning began. It was simple. About 2 or 3 leaves of chadon beni, ½ an onion, 2 pimento peppers (1 red and 1 green, de-seeded), a small bunch of chive, some celery, a large garlic clove and a small tomato were chopped and added to the bowl.

Next came the extras; a little Maggi fish seasoning, some salt, some brown sugar and a little ketchup.
All were gently mixed together.

With his spoon and a knife, my boy stuffed that same seasoning into the cavity of the fish… even the head got some.
They were left to marinate for 20 minutes, covered.
While that was happening, Errol put some green bananas, potatoes, pumpkin and carrots to boil with a little salt.
Marinating time is up! A cro cro is gently lifted from its bowl and placed on a square of aluminum foil.
He wraps up the fish…
And places them in an ovenproof dish to be baked at 350 degrees F for about 30 to 35 minutes.
The boiled provisions were checked and taken off the fire to be cooled and peeled.

He used the remaining seasonings to make a killer sauce… I can’t remember everything that went in, but there was olive oil, a Maggi garlic and onion cube, barbecue sauce, some ginger powder and some water… I think.
Out came the fishes! My boy opened one up and took a taste and said, “Mmm-hmm!” then fixed up his plate one time! (And he didn’t forget the zaboca (avocado) either!)

As for me, I followed suit. Here’s the finished product. Errol’s baked cro cro with provisions and veggies!
De boned and ready!
He was so into his lunch and Sunday Sports that I had to beg for a photo, lol! (Thanks Errol!)

So, there you have it, easy baked cro cro. Tasted absolutely wonderful and though the flavours of the fish itself were subtle, they packed a ton of flavour. Truth be told, we all wished we had more! But that’s okay. As my Granny used to say, “Eat little and live long.” :-)

And here’s where I say my farewells until the next kitchen adventure, my friends. Take care of yourselves and like I always say, don’t forget to mind the pot!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Pancake Breakfast

Guys, last week I had a huge yen for pancakes. Not the instant ones where you just add water, but the old school, made from scratch kind that I love doing. Only thing was, at the time I didn’t have a single egg in the house. Thankfully, I do now. *grins like a Cheshire cat*

This particular pancake recipe has been shared with many of my friends and work buddies over the years, and I remember one special Valentine’s Day breakfast in particular (at my former place of work) where I made over 45 pancakes. You see, we had decided to stage a special Valentine’s Day brunch and among the menu items were my cinnamon pancakes and syrup, scrambled eggs, toast, turkey bacon, cheese and other little titbits. Took me a couple hours, but it was worth it a million times over to see everybody enjoy our collective spread.

Today, with all my chicks in the nest, the vibe was just right. So, I surprised the homestead by whipping up some of my tried and true cinnamon pancakes. Did some scrambled eggs and sausage too…

The party began with 1 cup of sifted all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Next, I melted 1 teaspoon of butter in the microwave (but you can also use a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a pinch). I also cracked open an egg and poured out a cup of milk.
To mix, I simply dropped the egg and milk into the flour and mixed those up with my whisk. Then, I added the melted butter slowly while gently stirring everything together until I got this smooth, pourable batter. (No need to beat it like crazy, trust me.)

Next, ¼ cup of brown sugar gets sprinkled on and whisked in gently, and then a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg entered the dance. Whisked that in and boom, batter was done… or so I thought. I just needed to stir in a tablespoon more of milk to ‘loosen’ the batter up a bit.

My special little non-stick frying pan was placed on a medium low flame. I had previously cut up some tiny pats of butter to cook the pancakes, so when the pan was hot, I added one and let it bubble, then I poured in just a ¼ cup of the batter. Now, my trick to get a round pancake every time is simple; just pour the batter in the centre of the pan and it will spread out by itself without you having to tilt or shake the pan.

Once poured, I kept a close eye on the pancake as it cooked. Little bubbles began forming on the surface and the edges started to firm up. That’s when the pancake tells you it is ready to be flipped (which I did with my trusty spatula).

The underside cooked up in a matter of seconds.

All I needed to do was just slide it off to the plate and repeat the process until all my batter was used up. (Kept my rubber spatula handy to scrape up those last bits of batter as well.)

Voila! My pancake breakfast is complete with some scrambled eggs and cooked sausages. Deeeeelish!

All in all, I got about nine regular sized pancakes (plus the teeny little ‘baby’ you saw on my plate). The strange thing was that no-one requested any pancake syrup. My daughter said simply, “Don’t need it, the eggs have plenty flavour!” Not too long afterward the house just got really quiet, which meant one thing… the "itis" had kicked in.

Felt really good about that, hahahahaa!

So, thus ended my pancake adventure, which I hope to repeat again soon. Til my next kitchen foray, take good care of yourselves, and like I always say… doh forget to mind the pot.

Love and hugs!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hazel's Sweet Hand...

It’s always good when college girlfriends can get together and reminisce over some good food, isn’t it? 

My girl Hazel and I have been doing the reminiscing part each month-end when we meet to go grocery shopping, so you can imagine how excited I was when she invited me over to spend the weekend with her and her family in San Juan recently.
“Don’t worry about food; I handling yuh!” she had said with a smile. My excitement grew when she mentioned that our menu would include something I hadn’t tasted in a long time… cow heel soup.

Now many Trinis love their cow heel soup with lots of provisions such as green bananas, dasheen and flour dumplings, but not us. Hazel’s cow heel soup was all about the spicy liquid and long before my arrival, the soup was already in production in her slow cooker, and the smell was intoxicating. Her recipe is secret, but I do know that carrots, potatoes, split peas, seasonings and some canned corn all had a delicious role to play in that pot.

And yes, I had to include a pic of said pot, hahaha!

I'm not ashamed to say that this was my bowl. It's so biiiiiiiig!
"Wait... did you just take my picture?"
(Everyone, meet my girl Hazel!)

And meet her bowl of cow heel soup too, lol!

The next morning, breakfast was a True Trini classic, bread and some tasty saltfish buljol studded with sweet onions and tomatoes, served with some sliced hard-boiled eggs on the side. 

We washed it all down with some orange carrot juice. There were a few zabocas (avocadoes) on the table as well, but they weren’t ripe yet.
(But just imagine that they were and smile at the thought… mmmmm…)

Instinctively, I reached for the butter bread and ladled on the salty goodness and topped them with the slices of egg. For the finishing touch, a sprinkle of pepper sauce which complemented everything perfectly. 

Later in the day, my girl picked some pommecythere (golden apples) from the tree outside her house, peeled them and produced a hot and delicious chow in no time with just the right amounts of garlic, hot peppers, chadon beni and salt.

I don’t have to tell you that by the time I spun around, the bowl of chow had
dwindled to just one lonely tenant.

My girl said, “No problem. He will go in the pepper sauce I'm making,” and coolly grabbed him and began to cut him up to put in her blender of garlic, chopped hot peppers, vinegar – and a couple other secret ingredients!

Sistren even hooked me up with a bottle as a lovely parting gift! Yaaaaay! :-D

My fellow foodies, it's easy to see that I had a great time chilling with my homegirl. Everything she prepared was so delicious, and I was truly happy to share her kitchen. Of course, I'll never forget the taste of her cow heel soup. She even laughed when I told her that with the first taste of her soup, I heard angels singing. (It's true!)

So, I'd like to say thanks for checking out my new posting, and Hazel girl, keep massaging that sweet hand of yours. 

And, like I always say, don’t forget to mind the pot!