Tuesday, April 27, 2010

vieques dinner party

One of the many things that's so great about Vieques are the people you meet down here. What it lacks in "nightlife" it more than makes up for in social events. You jump from dinner party to ground-breaking ceremonies, cocktails by the pool to a tour of someones newly finished home. Not only is most everyone from Cape Cod or Massachusetts (strangely) but it's always an incredibly interesting crowd and part of the reason I'm always excited to go back, is to see the familiar faces again. And share some great food and drink while seeing said faces.

On Sunday night, we're hosting (by the time this is posted, we've hosted) a little dinner party and as per usual, I cozied up to a few past issues of Gourmet and Saveur pool-side and got to menu planning. Yes, I'm on vacation. No, I don't consider this work.

Back in January when I visited Locanda Verde, I told you all about the Blue Crab Crostini which we ordered as a starter. This one dish, albeit tiny, was quite possibly the most memorable part of that meal. A charred piece of bread, rubbed with garlic and tomato then topped with a light crab salad and a sliver of jalapeno and cucumber. It was incredibly fresh and zippy and the sweet, tender crab against the nearly smoky piece of bread was pretty genius. I had to recreate. And with that, I had my inspiration for what to serve with cocktails.

Regardless of availability, I'm going to go the canned crab route and hope for the best. And I'm not worried about it.

HOWEVER, due to a questionable consistency of the canned crab we picked up at the market, a plan two was quickly put into place. Before even getting down to the island, I had decided that grilled pizzas needed to happen. There was undoubtedly a pizza place on the island (or so I assumed) and I figured by flashing a smile, I'd be able to bag a ball or two of fresh pizza dough. After running into Mia's Pizzeria one night, I approached the counter and kindly asked for some raw pizza dough.

Perplexed looks are an understatement.

I tried explaining my game plan. "We love to grill the pizzas! I just need the dough, if that's possible."

After a few moments of awkward-ish silence, he began to bag up two huge, swollen, and pillowy balls of dough. I couldn't help but smile while I watched their beautiful consistency start to be gently wrapped up in paper. Finally the silence was broken. "You know, I worked at a pizza joint in Brooklyn for over 16 years before moving back down here. I make all my own dough. Every day. No one else on the island does that."

At this point, the sweet man was probably concerned with my level of excitement. I was beaming. Beaming with anticipation of the quality of this dough. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Since the crab crostini was officially postponed, I figured Plan B of grilled pizzas wasn't too shabby. Topped with slices of goats milk brie, white onion, and sauteed mushrooms, and topped with fresh torn basil, it was hands down my favorite part of the meal.

The dough, was in fact, near perfection. Chewy and salty. I'm craving a piece right now.

Thank you, Mia's. I will be back.

Funnily enough, there's not a huge fresh fish presence on this island (something about the fish caught in or around the island not being safe to eat. hmph). The grocery store is predominately meat: chicken, beef, or pork. The only fish option was bacalao, which, I love, but when I'm in the tropics, I can't help but crave the opportunity to take a whole fish, stuff it with a few orange and lemon slices, a few sprigs of herbs, and throw the whole thing on the grill. But, alas, that doesn't happen down here. But believe me, we make do.

Dinner will be grilled chicken (skin on, bone in, please) marinated in chipotle, plenty of fresh garlic, and lime. Coconut-milk will turn normal rice into a risotto-like consistency and the addition of a few nubs of fresh ginger to the simmering coconut milk, brings this to celestial levels. Black beans bumped up with red peppers, red onion, a dash of chipotle and jalapeno and tons of fresh cilantro on the finish along with a salad with plenty of sliced avocado and red onion and this plate is not only full, but glowing with flavor and nods to the Caribbean. Done my way.

This is when pictures follow...


Laura said...

Kiira! You are a culinary genius! I love the simple ingredients with the emphasis on quality. I would love to know your secrets to grilled pizza, which I have attempted to make, but failed miserably. The dough stuck to the grill (I put the whole thing on the grill toppings and all). OR it was burnt on the outside and dough in the center.

Kiira Leess said...

laura! you're too kind ;)

believe it or not, the pizzas above were done on a grill pan on the stove which is a great alternative for us city dwellers. the dough doesn't stick and you get the gorgeous grill marks sans the real deal.

on the outdoor grill, it's important to oil up your dough AND to make sure you've rolled it out fairly thin. i like to brush mine with olive oil infused with garlic before slapping it on the grill. then oil up the other side. it's also important to keep an eye on the heat. too high and it will burn before it gets the chance to cook the dough through. once you flip the dough to the other side, quickly put on your toppings, lower the heat on the grill and close the lid. your pizza will be done in a minute or two.

good luck and let me know how it goes!


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