Monday Meal Review: Bahamas

This is meal # 12 in my personal challenge to eat one meal from every country in the world.

Our Bahamian feast in a snapshot:

An especially nerdy group of writers eating Bahamian food under the stars, vaguely lit by tealights, reading Hemingway to the crickets.

I’ve always used the word nerdy as a compliment. To me, a nerd is a person who cares enough to delve deeply into a subject and really get to know it. Quite the opposite of superficial.

So, as I was saying, this week I hosted a backyard Bahamian pot luck for my especially nerdy writer’s group. I’ve already told you how much I loved the pot luck we had for Australia. There’s something exciting about seeing what everyone will bring to share. This week was just as great.

Here are the contributions:

– A Bahamian inspired playlist on her iPod (who says people can’t bring music to a pot luck? What a great idea!)
– Various wine
– Fresh mango
– Carrot cake with pineapple and other goodies tucked in the batter
– Lemon poppy seed bars

And here’s what Global Table made:

Red Conch Chowder [Recipe]

Serve with dinner rolls or Bimini Bread

What I liked most about this dish:

I talked a lot about Conch this week (see Technique Thursday and Fun Fact Friday). Despite all my squeamish horsing around, this brothy chowder was light, satisfying, and perfect for a warm evening. My guests all gave the chowder great reviews, including one man who had eaten the real thing, in the Bahamas! As I mentioned in Technique Thursday, the key to good conch chowder is cooking the heck out of it. I had the pot bubbling by 2 pm, and my first guests arrived at 7pm. This really worked out for me.

The smoked pork shank (often used to flavor gumbos in the southern part of the US) and clam broth gave the chowder wonderful depth of flavor that included a touch of smokiness. Another great addition was the diced Anaheim pepper. Anaheim peppers can be very mild or very hot, depending on their growing conditions. The hotter the climate, the hotter they are. The one I chose had significant heat to it (I tasted a sliver and my tongue burned for a good five minutes). Although the pepper was hot, cooking the pepper in the chowder for 5 hours lent the broth a very mild heat – perfect for my sensitive taste buds. Lovers of spice might want to use some Habanero to kick the heat up several degrees.

What I liked least about this dish:

After watching all those videos about conch, I got myself worked up and squeamish. I was not thrilled about eating conch, but I am so glad I bit the bullet. I even enjoyed conch chowder better than clam chowder.

I had to be super-top-secret about the conch so that Keith would eat it. I did not show him any of the yucky videos until after dinner. I am pretty confident he would have tried it anyway (he’s used to the house rules by now), but why take a chance, right?

Island Macaroni & Cheese [Recipe]

Num num num num

What I liked most about this dish:

My guests cooed collectively when I brought out the Island Mac and Cheese.  Such oggling is a rare reaction, which elicits pride, but also fear. I mostly fear that such “oggled” dishes won’t live up to my guests big-eyed expectations. In this case, however, the fear was unnecessary. A few people even got seconds, despite stating they were already full – the ultimate compliment to me (I’m part Italian, afterall).

What really makes this dish ideal for parties is the name which indicates an old favorite with a simple twist. Kids see mac & cheese, while adults taste grown-up flavors including cheddar, evaporated milk, cayenne, minced peppers, and minced onion. Cut up into squares, this dense treat was a big hit at our party.

What I liked least about this dish:

There’s no denying that this is a high-fat, high-calorie dish. I would probably only make this for a party. The large quantity (an entire lasagna pan) is just too dangerous sitting in my fridge, tempting me.

The slight crunch of the green pepper and onion might be a bit much for some people (you have to minced them very small to minimize this). A good option is to cook down the peppers and onion in some butter until soft before mixing into the macaroni.

Coconut Bimini Bread [Recipe]

So rich, you won't need butter. Perhaps a drizzle of honey, though...

What I liked most about this dish:

Bimini bread is wonderful: soft, doughy, sweet, with a little chew. Combining honey and coconut milk in warm, yeasty bread is a revelation!

My husband became an instant addict. While cutting his 5th slice (yes, fifth), he exclaimed “This bread tastes like cake!” – and then laughed a little too loud. The crazies followed him into the next day when he called me from work to make sure I hadn’t eaten all of the leftovers. I had to admit that I made a sizable dent!

What I liked least about this dish:

This bread will make your eyes light up and the corners of your mouth crease upwards, but it will also go straight to your hips. With each slice (I couldn’t stop myself), I could feel Bimini goodness making camp in my hips. I may or may not have gained 3 pounds thanks to the Bahamas. That information will remain between me and my scale.

Bahama Mama [Recipe]

Chill out with a Bahama Mama

What I liked most about this drink:

Bahama Mama’s are fruity and refreshing, great for parties and sipping poolside. With only four ingredients (orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut rum, and Grenadine), the drink is a snap to put together.

The sweet drink performed well at our feast, cutting through the fatty and spicy dishes.

What I liked least about this dish:

There are as many recipes for Bahama Mama’s as there are Mamas living in the Bahamas. I had a hard time deciding how to go with this drink, but in the end I cut back on expensive liquors and made a simple, tasty cocktail.

Ava’s Corner

Ava did not get to try much at the Global Table this week. Babies cannot eat shellfish, alcohol, or spicy-fatty mac & cheese.

I did give her a small nibble of Bimini Bread (I didn’t want to give her much because of the high fat content). She hasn’t really had bread before, so the soft, spongy texture was new. On her first taste she opened her mouth and waggled her tongue around until the bread crumb fell out. On the second try she did chew on it. While she didn’t hate it, she seemed indifferent so I didn’t give her any more. We went back to her healthy dinner of lentils.



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