Friday, March 20, 2015

Free Range Friday ~ JC on Culebra

No matter what is going on in life, food is elemental and if the elements include JC at the cooking helm, there will be happy faces and full bellies. While JC was around here last week he made two really spectacular dishes.  He called them simple and the universe chuckled. But he really meant it. "With a pasta dish, I'd need a lot more pots, these are one dish meals." And that is how the lovers and creators of good food think. Yes it is.

The first dish was a ceviche, made with some mahi mahi (also known as dolphin - no relation to Flipper - or dorado) he'd caught the other day over off of the big island. It was a big fish! 

I didn't take photos of Elijah squeezing a couple of dozen lemons and limes, or all of the chopping that went on for the initial 'cooking' but I can tell you that at the finish line, it was right up there with the best fish ceviche I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of ceviche!). Color me impressed. 

Let the marinading begin. 
Onions, cilantro, carrots, green, orange and red peppers, the fish, all bathed in lime and lemon juice with salt and pepper and no doubt more. I usually like jalepeno in my ceviche but JC uses hot sauce instead. With a deft hand, I didn't miss the jalepenos at all. Those cheeses you see did not go in the ceviche, that was from something else along the way, called snacks.

The above photo was taken the day before, because the ceviche was going to be lunch at the beach and needed some limin' time. Plans were made. The vehicle was packed. Towels, chairs, umbrellas. Beer, wine, ceviche. I'd like to blame the lack of a corkscrew on anyone but myself, so I'll blame it on everyone but myself. 

I only forgot the corkscrew so there would be entertainment
It's a confident group of men who use a very nice filet knife for a corkscrew. 

Three men later,  wa la! So we strained corkage a bit. It was a job well done.
JC and Jeannie served us up. Libations were in hand. The rain stopped and life was beautiful.

And now we could eat this delicious ceviche. Yay, JC and crew!
Somewhat like sushi, I rarely can get 'too much' ceviche. This big plateful was perfect and left me wanting nothing.

The other dish JC made was a paella, Puerto Rican style. If you know much about paella you know that it is sort of like potato salad or callaloo or any dish that comes through families with its own characteristics. JC's paella is his own. And it was extraordinary.

The chicken went in first
 I truly regret not taking photos of the bags and bags and bags of chopped ingredients that JC prepped the day before. About five hours worth of prep. Trimming boneless, skinless chicken thighs, then chopping and seasoning them was only the beginning. There was more of the mahi, chorizo, shrimp, onions and peppers. There was a stock to make. There was more that I've forgotten. 

And then it was cooking day. The three rings of the paella cooker got hooked up to the propane tank and set on the stove area (it could have been any area but this worked). The giant paella pan was set on it. The stirring and adding and removing and adding more went on for hours. 

The chicken came off, the chorizo and veggies went on
 The rice was cooked. In went the rice, chicken, chorizo and veg.

Time to peek beneath the foil and check it out

Roasted red peppers, shrimp, green peas and fish time

These would basically be steamed on top of the already cooked food below. Stock was poured to facilitate the steaming. Jeannie, JC's wife, his excellent assistant. And she pours a good glass of champagne for an onlooker as well.

I'm not sure what the towels are for except to weight down the foil and improve the steaming but that's just a guess.

Guests had migrated closer and closer to the cooking zone, following wafting fragrances of deliciousness and catching glimpses of what was to come.
Two who ventured closest
Well done, JC! So beautiful and so good.
A little bit of heaven on a plate.
At the end of any Puerto Rican meal there is one bit left that doesn't get left, the pegao. That's the sticky bits of rice at the bottom of the pot, and if the rice is made the right way, it's a very special treat. 

This rice was done the right way and the pegao was going fast.
Neither of these meals was fast. There were lots of ingredients in both, lots of time taken, lots of love poured in. Like the best meals, they will linger on the tongue of memory for a long time, not just for taste but for the beauty of them as well. 

I was telling JC that the one and only time I ever made a true paella was probably  about 35 years ago. Now I'd like to try it again. But maybe with a smaller pan. 

Have you made fish ceviche or paella before? Give it a try. Buen provecho!

Have a feast of a Friday. Do something farfetched.

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