in the Islands
And the seafood
itself is likewise plentiful in this small island chain
surrounding by the Caribbean sea. Fresh fish includes
ocean-roaming varieties that provide
"steakfish" as well as inshore reef fish, often
called "pot" fish, caught in fish traps.
One such "pot" fish that is
interesting to search out is the yellowtail
snapper. More of a fillet fish than steakfish, the
yellowtail is a different snapper than the ocean-roaming
red snapper so frequently seen on menus. The yellowtail
snapper can be seen
while snorkeling, and positively identified, and can
even be caught by fishing off
a charter boat. Even so, it's best to buy all fish due to
the danger of tropical fish poisoning.
And yellowtail snapper can be used in
most of the recipes below, and is featured in one with cassava
Fish Baked in Banana Leaves
This cooking method is an ancient one, utilizing an
oven in the place of a wood-fired pit. Finding the
beautifully ornate banana
leaf of this prodigious annual is an
interesting quest in itself.
This basic recipe is adapted from The
Sugar Mill Caribbean Cookbook.
Sear the banana leaves over a gas flame until limp.
Divide the banana leaves into rectangles to fold the fish
into, again folding the edges twice. The package
may be tied with grass strands. Parchment paper (papillote
in French) or foil may be substituted.
Put fish fillet(s) for a serving on the banana leaf
and place some chopped tomato and scallion on top. Spoon
on some coconut cream.
Fish is generally baked for 5 minutes per 1/2 inch of
thickness, no matter the method (baked at 450°). Bake
banana leaves at 400° for a longer time.
Other toppings may be used and a variety of styles
served individually or family style. Also, the fish may
be marinated beforehand.
Here is a recipe, Fish
En Papillote, where lemon, garlic and ginger is
used as the topping along with some thinly sliced
Here is Grouper
in Banana Leaf where the dish is grilled.
In the French Antilles, Blaff is
a cooking method of poaching that gets its name from the
sound of the fish as it is dropped into boiling water.
In a recipe
from Jessica Harris, the fish (red snapper) is marinated
with allspice, garlic, Scotch bonnet chile, salt and
pepper and lime juice. Then the marinade, plus onion,
thyme, chives and parsley, is added to water. The fish is
dropped into the boiling water and served in some of the
liquid in a bowl.
In the more upscale version from French
Martinique, the emphasis is on poaching in
"spiced" white wine.
And here is a Great Chefs of the
Caribbean recipe, Creole
Blaff of Caribbean Lobster and Mexican Foie Gras,
by Chef Marc
Ehrler from the Ritz-Carlton Cancun. In this recipe,
after placing the lobster in the boiling water, the pot
is covered and taken off the burner for cooking at a
lower heat. Also, the lobster is not marinated, the
seasonings vary somewhat and lime juice is added at the
This recipe, Corn-Husk
Grilled Mango-Skin Salmon, "grills"
the fish by poaching it loosely covered on the grill.
This recipe avoids using the boat's oven. Note that
another piece of foil can do the work of both husk and
Road Fried Fish
In a slightly disreputable section of
Bridgetown, Barbados, is Baxter's Road:
. . . large ladies with
commanding voices and thick arms tend iron pots where
they fry chicken and fish and create an African
street market right in the middle of Barbados's
capital. The women's dexterity as they score the fish
that is so fresh it is almost flip-flopping in the
pail, add the mossy green seasoning, and pop it into
the bubbling fat is a testimony to Africa's culinary
gifts to the Caribbean. Jessica Harris in Sky Juice
and Flying Fish.
In this recipe, the fish steaks are
rubbed with lime juice, scored and seasoned,
dredged in flour, dipped in a milk and egg mixture,
covered with bread crumbs, fried in a skillet with
2" of 375° oil for 5 minutes or more per side until
The skillet frying method is best for
home cooks who may not have an adequate deep fryer.
Also, as is often done in fish escobeche methods, fish
may be fried in a small amount of cooking oil in a
skillet one side at a time. Sometimes cut in finger size
pieces, the fish is soaked in milk and dredged in a flour
mixture (usually salt and pepper added).
This famous dish,
Snapper by chef Dawn Sieber, uses yuca (cassava)
grated in strips as breading in a version of
potato-as-breading. Also, the "crisping" of
cooked black beans is an interesting upscale version of
refried beans. Add the "rounds" of the Caribbean
variety of eggplant and we're in heaven!
Conch fritters, which resemble hush puppies are very
popular (see recipe).
Conch must be properly tenderized.
Another popular fritter is made from saltfish. In
Jamaica, it is called Stamp and Go (see
In making fritters, the breading is especially
important. Also, to avoid aborbing too much oil, the
fritter must be fried in oil at the correct hot
Vegetables can also be used to make fritters.
Eggplant, sweet potato and okra are classics breaded and
fried, because of the contrast of the fried outsides and
the mushy insides. Hard vegetables might be better pureed
in the right combination.
Croquettes. Here's a French version using
breadfruit: "Fernando makes fantastic croquettes by
mashing cooked breadfruit with milk, butter and
seasonings, dipping mounds in egg and crumbs and frying
them until golden (from Maverick
Sea Fare, p. 36)."
Escabeche or Escoveitch
Similar to ceviche where extremely fresh raw
fish is "cooked" in lime juice, the focus here
is the lime and vinegar marinade, flavored by allspice,
onions and Scotch Bonnet pepper, that is poured on the
fish after it is cooked.
Mango is used as a flavoring in this recipe, Salmon
in Mango Escabeche, although the marinade itself
is a bit overcomplicated.
Adding vegetables (in addition to the usual onion) to
the marinade simplifies the preparation of the related
meal, since this dish is often served later as a
salad-like lunch or other main entree.
Here is a recipe for fish
escabeche with lots of vegetables, although the fish
is deep fried.
Here is a traditional recipe for escoveitched
fish. In a Jamaican recipe from Sky Juice
and Flying Fish, julienned christophene
is used for the vegetable in a marinade that itself
utilizes cane vinegar and a heavy dose of allspice.
In most of the world and in the French Antilles, the
sauce is cooked right into the dish.
The fish is first marinated for an hour or two in lime
juice and white wine.
Ground chives, scallions, tomatoes and onion are
sauteed together with a little olive oil and then with
the fish at a lower heat cooked well on both sides.
Then add fresh white wine and lime juice, together
with a bouquet garni (bay leaf, allspice berries and
thyme) and one-half a Scotch bonnet pepper. Cook at a low
heat for 5 minutes.
Since the wine and lime juice are going into the
sauce, it's best to determine the proper balance of the
two by combining small trial amounts and tasting.
Serve the fish and its sauce with rice or other plain
starch. Adapted from Sky Juice and