Trini Carnival: Plantains

platanos

We would have been happy keeping Dave busy mixing up more Spicebox Cocktails, but to ensure that the Supperclubbers would have the stamina to proceed with the rest of the evening, we served these lovelies to go with our drinks.  No, not regular bananas.  Theses are plantains, selected at this stage of ripeness (not green, and just starting to blacken) to be firm and just slightly sweet, perfect for a bar snack.

Fried Plantains

platanos fried

Ingredients

3 plaintains, slightly ripe

salt

oil

Technique

1.  Slice plantains into desired lengths and 1/2 inch thickness.

2.  Warm about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan over medium heat until shimmery.

3.  Add plantains and fry on both sides until golden.

4.  Drain onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt, if desired.

We’re just getting started! Come back next week, when our Trini carnival meal begins!

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Trini Carnival: Introducing the Spicebox Cocktail

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Leave it to Dave (creative, precise, also dashing and witty) to not only create a new cocktail worthy of being the Spicebox Supperclub’s signature cocktail, but to make his own infused spirits! This cocktail had it all– mango (one of Trinidad’s best fruits), Indian spices, Trinidad’s Angostura bitters, and the use of the insider-hip ingredient, a shrub (drinking vinegar).  While each of these ingredients has a strong individual personality, Dave’s expert mixing melded them together beautifully and subtly, with the capstone being fresh curry leaves, which added both flavor and garnish.  This cocktail is a winner.

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Spicebox Cocktail

1 oz Cardamom and ginger infused rum (see below)
1 oz mango juice
1/2 oz peach shrub
Juice from 1/2 lime
Splash of simple syrup
Dash angostura bitters
Garnish: curry leaf pressed into palm or folded to release aroma and turbanado sugar for rim.
Put all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds (do no shake).
Sugar rim by running lime around rim and dipping glass into sugar.  Garnish with curry leaf.
Pour in chilled cocktail glass up, or over ice in rocks glass.
Nalin Spicebox Cocktail
Cheers, Nalin!
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Cardamom and ginger infused rum (enough for party; can be scaled down)
3 cups silver/light rum
20 green cardamom pods cracked
20 1/8 inch slices of ginger

Combine in mason jar.  Swirl daily.  Week should do though no harm in letting it marry for longer.  Strain (I used a funnel with cheese cloth and pressed the ginger with wooden spoon handle, which gave the rum a slightly yellow and cloudy look but much stronger ginger flavor).

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Linda, Peter and a pile of mangoes in Trinidad

Come back next week for (finally) some food!

Spicebox Supperclub: Trini Carnival

SBSC menu

A few weeks ago we got a turn to host the third Spicebox Supperclub, chez Spicebox! In honor of Mr. Spicebox’s Trinidadian roots and Trinidad’s famous/infamous Carnival, which was held the same weekend as our dinner, the theme was Trini Carnival.  We had a menu custom designed, typeset and illustrated by our younger daughter, including a drawing of Trinidad’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.

Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #2 March 1, 2014

Trini Carnival

Hosts: Linda and Peter

Executive Chef: Linda (aka Spicebox Travels)

Bartender: Dave

Sommelier: Nalin

Pastry Chef: Chris

Menu

Cocktail: The Spicebox Cocktail (custom created by Dave for this occasion and this wonderful group of Supperclubbers!)

Appetizers:

Plantains

Baigan (Eggplant) Choka on Cocount Bake

First Course:

Callaloo with Macaroni Pie

Second Course:

Project Runway Pelau

Third Course (prepared by Peter):

Trini Curry Chicken with Dal

Dessert:

Cassava Pone (and a story!)

Mango Rum Smoothie

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Wine List (carefully curated by Nalin to complement the spicy, Indian-influenced menu):

wine glasses

Von Winning

Deidesheimer ParadiesGarten

Riesling 2012

A new and dry style Riesling. Very clean with upfront minerality, and then a slight amount of sugar at the end. Nicely complements small appetizers with strong flavors.

Von Winning Winery founded in 1849, vineyards in Ruppertsberg, Deidesheim, and Forst. District of Pfalz, adjacent to the Trier/Koblenz regions.

Paradiesgarten (Deidesheim) appx. 30 ha (74 acres); hillside west of Deidesheim above the village, close to the woods, orientation: east-southeast sandstone statue “Eve in Paradise” was built by our winery.

Name: named in the 1950s by our estate’s former owner due to the paradise-like location Soil: top soil: loam to loamy sand, loessial loam (several meters thick at some points), subsoil: new red sandstone.

Winemaker description: “A Riesling with a juicy flavour of yellow fruits, reminiscent of mandarins and yellow plums combined with a fresh citrus aroma, a wine full of elegance and finesse. Depending on the vintage, it is fermented up to one third in 500 and 1200 litre wooden barrels.”

This wine is referred to as a Grosses Gewächs – (great growth), a designation used by VDP members in all regions except Mosel and Rheingau to designate top-level dry wines from selected sites. Used by the organisation Bernkasteler Ring for the same purpose in Mosel.

Selbach-Oster

Zeltinger Schlossberg

Kabinett Riesling, 2012

Classic Riesling with a clean taste on the palate and some residual sugar, particularly at the end. Balances and complements the strong flavors of a spicy dinner.

Traditional ‘Mittelmosel’ location with Riesling planted on steep, south-facing terraces by the Mosel River. In the state of Rhineland-Pfalz.

Zeltinger Schlossberg. Steep slope, medium grained Devonian slate as topsoil with medium-deep subsoil of slate and loam.

Prädikatswein, renamed from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) (superior quality wine). Translated as “quality wine with specific attributes”, this is the top level of German wines. These prominently display a Prädikat on the label and may not be chaptalized. Prädikatswein range from dry to intensely sweet, but unless it is specifically indicated that the wine is dry or off-dry, these wines always contain a noticeable amount of residual sugar. Prädikatswein must be produced from allowed varieties in one of the 39 subregions (Bereich) of one of the 13 wine-growing regions, although it is the region rather than the subregion which is mandatory information on the label.

Kabinett – literally “cabinet”, meaning wine of reserve quality to be kept in the vintner’s cabinet fully ripened light wines from the main harvest, typically semi-sweet with crisp acidity, but can be dry if designated so.

For the following wines, I chose a theme of 2000, since it was a special year for me. I had a couple of wines from that year so they’ve had a chance to hang out for some time.

Chateau Rol Valentin

Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Bordeaux 2000

Very small Bordeaux vineyard (4.6 hectares). The Saint-Emilion region is in the Libournais area of the right bank. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is a region adjacent to the main region of Saint-Emilion and Rol Valentin is considered one of the newer ‘garagiste’ wines that are characterized by strong flavors, perhaps reflecting less on the terroir. This wine does display a terrific balance that is typical of Bordeaux wines. The wine is mostly Merlot (85%), with equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It does not taste like a typical new world Merlot, lacking the soft and mild flavors of the latter.

This wine was now 14 years old and ready for drinking. It had a lovely mouthfeel with a smooth finish on the palate. It complemented the strongly flavored curry dishes nicely.

Sequoia Grove

Napa Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

A traditional Napa Valley maker of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, from the Oakville/Rutherford appellations. The winery sits on 22 acres in the heart of the valley floor in an important region referred to as the Rutherford Bench. I’ve always regarded this wine as a great example of the good (flavor) and bad (tannins) of the region. After some time stored away, the tannins were surprisingly still present, but much softened. The winery refers to themselves as making ‘Bordeaux-style’ wines, but I don’t think that’s entirely true given their tendency to stay true to Cabernet Sauvignon. Their single vineyard Cabs command prices in the $100/bottle range.

Jost Vineyards

Nova Scotia

Vidal Ice Wine 2000

The grapes used to produce this icewine were grown in the Warner Vineyard in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. During the coldest mornings of December (temperatures between -8 C and -14 C) the frozen grapes were harvested and pressed. The pressing yields a golden nectar which was high in sugar, flavour and balance giving acidity. A cool, slow fermentation resulted in a very complex, full bodied dessert wine. This wine still preserved its character after a long time in storage. It has that clean but flavorful taste typical of icewines.

The following description of the icewine process comes from the vineyard:

The precious juice for icewine is pressed from grapes that have been subjected to the harshness of winter, temperatures of at least -8°C for a couple of days. At these temperatures, the water portion of each grape separates from the sugar, flavour and acid components. The water freezes and crystallizes, leaving the other components as suspended liquid drops among the water crystals. The liquid drops are very concentrated, with sugar and flavour levels two to three times higher than juice from grapes harvested in the fall, and are carefully extracted from the grapes by gentle pressing. Pressing, as does the harvesting of the grapes, takes place outside. The grapes must not be allowed to warm up (neither can the pickers or the pressing crew!) or the sugar content of the juice will be reduced. Once the juice of the frozen grapes is collected, the sugar level must be at least average 35 Brix (35%sugar). The icewine juice is then fermented, a process which takes about 6 months to complete.

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Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve just been to wine school! (Not whine school; I’ve already gotten my degree from there.)  Nalin’s carefully chosen wine list taught me to appreciate Rieslings, which I had previously dismissed as syrupy. I also enjoyed the chance to understand the process of making ice wine and the reminder that Nalin is from Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland!

Cheers, and come back next week for the specially created Spicebox Cocktail from Dave!  For now, enjoy a selection from one of Nalin’s favorite reggae artists, Matisyahu:

Comida Porteño: Postres (Desserts) Part Two– Tres Leches Cake

tres leches

Several weeks ago, I got overexcited and posted our first dessert, the classic Argentine alfajores.  If you missed it, please check it out— you can’t leave alfajores out of any discussion of Argentine food.  Several courses later, we’re now ready for tres leches cake.

“Tres Leches” means three types of milk, which evokes a comforting, childhood dessert.  This is what makes this a classic confection enjoyed throughout Latin America.  The three milks include condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, the combination of which are used to soak and cover a sponge cake.

I used a simple recipe from Fine Cooking, and garnished with some fresh raspberries.

Classic Vanilla Tres Leches Cake

by Fany Gerson from Fine Cooking, Issue 117

Serves 12 to 16

For the cake:

Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the soaking liquid:

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
For the topping:

2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Bake the cake:

1) Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

2) Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan. Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

3) Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

4) Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

5) Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

7) Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake:

1) In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup.

2) With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake:

1) In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake and serve.

Make Ahead Tips:

You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead

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This post is the sweet ending to the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  ¡Muchas gracias! for joining us on this tour of Buenos Aires through food.  Ciao!