By Robbie Johnson
BAHAMIAN-STYLE GROUPER (Served with grits or Johnny Cake)
bservant sailors navigating the Bahamas and the Turk-Caicos Islands to the south will notice how simply and frugally the locals go about their lives, especially when it comes to cooking. It is a great boon to be invited into the home of an islander and treated to the simple, yet stunningly delicious meals they prepare from the harvesting of the surrounding sea, and their small family gardens. Snorkeling along a shallow reef using a French-made fiberglass pole spear, I had been fortunate in landing a large Nassau grouper earlier in the day. I brought it ashore with the intention of trading it for a chicken, but met a sweet Bahamian lady returning from the local market on San Salvador Cay. She said she didn’t have a chicken for trade at the moment, but she offered to prepare a dinner for us, her husband and the three grandchildren they were minding while the parents were away. In the bargain, she offered a loaf of freshly-baked bread—and that sealed the deal. I love Bahamian bread! I was invited into their tiny kitchen and allowed to observe the meal’s preparation. Here’s the recipe straight from San Salvador Cay for this simple, easy-toprepare traditional Bahamian dish.
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Ingredients 2 lbs. skinless grouper fillets (red snapper and hogfish okay, too) Juice of 2 limes ½ teaspoon each of salt and freshly-ground black pepper (or to taste) 2 yellow (Spanish) onions, chopped 1 large clove of garlic, minced 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped finely 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped finely ½ lb. diced potato (about 2 medium red-skinned) 2 tablespoons butter 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped finely (Like it spicier? Leave seeds in for more heat!) Preparation 1. Place grouper fillets in a shallow dish and squeeze the lime juice over. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. 2. Pour 2 cups of water into a cooking pot and the onions, garlic, parsley, thyme, diced potatoes, butter and chili pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes or so until potatoes are almost done (add more water if necessary). 3. Now lower the grouper and lime marinade into the pot; reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Serve hot with grits or Johnny cake. Johnny Cake Recipe This is a very old recipe from Bimini’s West End. To keep it authentic, you must use shortening (Crisco), and roll the dough out flat, then cook it on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. You will be well-rewarded for the effort! Ingredients 2 cups of white flour (Doesn’t have to be self-rising since recipe calls for baking powder.) 2 oz. shortening (lard) – Crisco brand ½ teaspoon salt 1 oz. sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder Water or milk (added incrementally just enough to get a semi-soft texture) Preparation 1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and shortening, then rub them together with fingers. 2. Add salt, sugar and baking powder, and rub well into flour mixture. 3. Add milk or water little by little to get a semi-soft texture that holds together. 4. Remove dough from bowl to a flour-dusted galley surface, dust top and bottom of dough and knead with heel of hand. Flatten dough to fit a Crisco-greased cast iron fry pan. Cook and turn until a light tan in color. Slice and serve while warm with butter or margarine. www.southwindsmagazine.com