Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dish #6: Antigua and Barbuda - Cod and Sweet Potato Bouillabaisse

Today's country is Antigua and Barbuda.  I will confess I am a little wary of the cuisine of Caribbean countries because of some ingredients that are prevalent in the dishes but not frequently consumed in our household.  The two main culprits that turned me off are coconut and raisins.  My husband dislikes both coconut and raisins in any form.  He will consume a dish made with coconut milk if I don't tell him it's in there, but it has to be heavily seasoned otherwise, in which case the flavor of the coconut milk is totally masked and it provides texture only.  Raisins are a total no-go.  I am okay with coconut, and I love raisins, but I don't like either cooked in a dish served warm, other than maybe a cookie.  I found recipe after recipe that called for me to include as much as 2 cups of shredded coconut. 

Finally I found a version of Ducana, a sweet potato dumpling, that substituted flour for the shredded coconut and omitted the nefarious raisins.  That sounded great and the suggested traditional accompaniment to it, Salt Fish (cod, a fish that is featured heavily thoughout the cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda, that is heavily salted and pressed to release all moisture for 24-48 hours, then rinsed, boiled, flaked, and cooked with a tomato-based sauce), looked tasty too.  I also found recipes that recommended serving buttered spinach with or without other vegetables, referred to as Chop-Up. 

I decided to follow all of these ingredient ideas but make my own soup-style version of the meal of Ducana with Salt Fish and Chop-Up.  I promise that my next blog entry, for Argentina, is going to feature a very straightforward and un-altered recipe where I don't turn the original dish into a soup or a stew!  For this dish, though, I opted to make a sort of bouillabaisse based on the flavor profile of Salt Fish, and I didn't follow the process of salting the fish over night.  Instead of serving it on the side, I tossed the spinach into the soup.  I also added sweet potato into the soup itself.  I gave a nod to the coconut featured in lots of Caribbean cuisine by using light coconut milk instead of seafood or vegetable stock.

We really liked this dish.  The sweet potato worked well with the tomato in the soup, similar to how butternut squash can go in lasagna.  The light coconut milk gave the soup body and a creamy texture as well as lent some sweetness to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, without having to add sugar.  The firm, mellow cod fish gave great substance to the soup, but this would have worked great as a vegetarian meal without it.

Cod Fish Bouillabaisse (Ducana recipe from I Cook The World and Salt Fish recipe from Kitchen Tested)

1 pound cod filets (can substitute mackerel or another firm white fish)
1 T olive oil
juice of 1 medium lemon
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
sprinkle of parsley

1 medium onion, cut into rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet potato, cut into chunks
2 T olive oil
28 oz can stewed tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1/2 bag of baby spinach leaves
1 can light coconut milk
white wine
red pepper flakes (optional)
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Saute onion and garlic in a soup pot for 5 minutes.  Add a splash of white wine and scrape the bottom of the pot.  Add sweet potato chunks, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste and let cook for another 2 minutes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Pour in coconut milk, return to a boil, and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 more minutes.

Season cod filets with salt and pepper.  Fry in a skillet 3-4 minutes or until tender, or bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.  Flake the fish into large chunks and add it to the soup pot along with spinach leaves (reserve a large piece of the fish to serve on top if desired).  Season to taste and serve hot.

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