Ric Orlando's Tropical Treats, Coconut Shrimp and Conch three ways....

So, It is January in Hudson Valley and yes, it is COLD. After cooking 3 months of local root veggies and braised shanks, it’s time to defy the gods and think summer!
In lieu of planning a quick flight to the Bahamas, these recipes can set you up just right!
Get out the reggae and Zouk cds, make a few Bahama Mamas and invite your friends over for a Pan Caribbean dinner!

It is easy and in a couple of hours, you will be transported!

Coconut Shrimp, Sugar Reef Style
Sugar Reef was a legendry Theme Restaurant in the East Village that specialized in the classic dishes of the Islands. Brightly colored, loud bouncy music and fantastic drinks were the catch and kitch.
These are so much better then the frozen jobbers that have popped up on catering menus around the area.
The guava horseradish sauce is AWESOME!

Serves 4-8
24 shrimp, peeled 21-25 or medium sized.
Vegetable oil for frying
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons cayenne
6 ounces mild beer
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups unsweetened coconut

Mix the dried spices in a bowl.  Mix the beer, starch and baking soda in another bowl. Add the dry mix to the wet and combine well. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet. Dredge each shrimp in the batter and then coat with coconut. Deep fry or pan fry in batches being cautious not to overcrowd the oil. Cook until golden brown and delicious.
Guava Horseradish Sauce
¼ cup guava nectar
1/2 cup apricot jam
¼ cup lime juice
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish.
Whisk together well.

Serve as a dip for the shrimp, garnish with fresh lime wedges.

Cayman Conch ChowderJuly in January Treats, Coconut Shrimp and
Conch, pronounced “Konk”, is the sweet meat of Caribbean conch. It is a giant sea snail that dwells in the beautiful colorful shells that we listen to the sound of the ocean in.
Now you can make it at home. Conch meat is available localy in the Hudson Valley at Gadaleto's seafood with a few days notice, and online at www.prawnco.com.  It comes in a 5 pound block and you can thaw what you need under running water and refreeze the rest.
Serves 6-8
1 lb conch meat, prepared and minced (see below)
¼ cup coconut oil or melted butter
½ cup diced onion
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup diced red pepper
1 tbls Madras curry powder
juice of two limes (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup flour or fine rice flour
1 ½ cup cubed sweet potato or butternut squash
4 cups bottled clam juice
12 ounces  cream
12 ounces  coconut milk
hot sauce
thyme and parsley

*To prepare the conch, pound with a tenderizer to flatten to ¼ thick, remove the harder outer skin as best you can.
Dice small and then out into a food processor and pulse to a medium grind.
In a heavy pot heat the oil and add the onions, celery, pepper. Saute over medium heat until wilted. Add the diced sweet potato and curry powder. Stir to coat with the spice. Add the lime juice and 1 cup of the clam juice. Simmer for 5 minutes to let the sweet potatoes begin to soften.
Sprinkle with the flour and stir to coat everything well.
Add the conch and the remaining clam juice. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the swet potatoes are al dente. Add the cream and coconut milk and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
Season with hot sauce and the herbs to taste.

Conch on the grill
Grilling conch really brings out its meatiness. I always grill it over high heat because, like octopus,  the char is what makes I so yummy.
1 ½ lbs conch meat, cleaned
1 pineappple
1 red onion
¼ cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter
2 tbls tamari or soy sauce
2 tbls Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
hot sauce
fresh thyme
2 bayleaves

Cut the conch meat into roughly 1” squares
Do the same with the pineapple and the onions and thread them onto bamboo skewers, alternating between each item til the skewer is full, end to end.
Heat your grill or grill pan or broiler and get it nice and hot.
Mix the butter/oil, soy sauce, mustard and lime juice. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and the fresh herbs. Reserve half of this as your vinaigrette for the finished dish and use half as a baste.
Brush the skewers with this mix all over before grill/broiling. Cook over high heat, basting often, until the conch if cooked and has a fair amount of dark brown and black caramelization.

Conch Salad
Another way conch is enjoyed in the Caribbean is in a ceviche, or cold marinated salad.  This is they way you are most likely to encounter conch at the beach, cold, acidic and spicy!  Watch out!
Serves 4
12 oz white conch meat, pounded and chopped smallish
1 red onion, diced small
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tsp chopped garlic
juice of two limes
2 dashes Caribbean hot sauce
olive oil

simple baby. Toss, add hot sauce to taste, serve cold. Its great on lettuce leaves or even saltines

Ric Orlando's Luscious Lacy Gluten Free Latke recipe

Potato Latkes, or Ashkenazi style potato pancakes, are a staple in most Jewish American households. So, this Italian chef is going to teach you how to make these amazing latkes! Got a problem with dat? I have had many a latke that has all of the traditional flavors of the classic, but were either too greasy, too rubbery or just flat. Tradition can use some technical assistance sometimes and here is my shot at it.

One of my secrets in grating the potatoes two ways. The classic regular box-grated potatoes give you the creaminess and the French style “mandolined” potatoes add a lacy, crisp component that makes them addictive. Also, check out the tossing technique and the incorporation of the potato liquid…read on cynics…! 

Makes 12 nice-sized latkes

8 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled
1-2 medium onions, peeled
2 tablespoons horseradish
3 eggs
about ¾ cup cornstarch or potato starch as needed (for gluten-free latkes) or matzoh meal
salt and pepper to taste
neutral-flavored, heat-holding vegetable oil like grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil, or get real and use schmaltz or duck fat for frying (not olive oil) as needed

Take 6 of the potatoes and grate on the coarse side of a box grater or on the grater wheel with the larger holes of a food processor.

Grate the onions the same way.

Mix those potatoes and onions together in a bowl. Now, using a mandolin or by hand, julienne the last two potatoes into thin strips. Add to the previously grated onions-potato mix. Then add the horseradish and season with salt and pepper to taste, leaning a bit towards salty.

In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs and pour over the potato-onion mixture.

Now add the starch of choice. (We use potato starch or cornstarch to keep them gluten free.) Mix well with one hand.

Fill a large heavy skillet one half-inch deep with your cooking oil and bring up to a shimmer. You want your oil hot enough to brown, but not so hot that it cooks too fast. Test for heat by dropping a small drop of the mix in the oil. If it sizzles, it is ready.

Take a handful of mixture, about the size of a small tomato, in your hand. Toss it gently and carefully up and down like you're a pitcher getting ready to pitch. After five or six tosses it will begin to get rounder and rounder. When it is round and tight, place it carefully in the oil. Repeat with a few more, being careful not to crowd the pan.

Allow the latkes to cook on one side, still round, until you notice that they are getting bronze around the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula flip each latke and NOW press them down until they are about ½ inch thick. Monitor your heat, making sure the oil is not too hot but hot enough to keep the pan frying going nicely.

When the latkes are fully golden on each side, remove to a cooling sheet. Repeat this process until your mix is used up. They can easily be reheated in a 350 F oven for 5 minutes.
(Caviars, creme fraiche and perfectly shirred egg drizzled with cholula are sold separately! LOL)

Chipotle Apple Sauce

So this is a little twist on basic apple sauce. I was taught very early in my career to make apple sauce simple and plain first, and to spice it later. If you spice it too early, you may end up with overly spiced sauce. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove have no place in potato pancakes. However, a little smokey chipotle heat adds a modern twist. Don’t like heat? Leave it out.

You will need a food mill to make good apple sauce at home.

Makes about 2 cups

6 big sweet apples or about 2 pounds. Think Empires, Macouns, Red Delish….
Sugar or maple syrup if needed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon or more chipotle chili powder

Wash the apples and try to remove the stems, but do not cut or peel them. Put the apples in a non reactive pot. Cover with water by about one inch. Add a pinch of salt. Cover pot snugly.

Bring to a rolling boil and cook for at least 30 minutes or until the apples begin to collapse and get mushy. Using a slotted spoon, remove in batches to a food mill and process into a bowl. Repeat until you have run all of the pulp through the mill. Discard the cooking liquid.

If the sauce is too thin, return it to the pot and gently cook for a few minutes to cook out some of the water. Taste for sweetness and add sweetener if you choose.

Add the chipotle powder and stir it in well. Cool. Store refrigerated or use a canning process to preserve.

Ric Orlando's Gluten Free Holiday Dessert Recipe... FLAN!

It's Holiday time!
And you need to bring something to the table that is impressive, but simple to make and easy to ack and transfer.  Once this is cold, wrap the dish in foil, and pack a serving platter, a little take out container of whipped cream and diced mangos and you are set. 
When you do the "flip" from the pie tin to the serving platter, you AND your dish will get attention! A good, simple flan is a perfect dessert after an holiday pig out!
This is an easy,  delish recipe that utilizes evaporated milk. Why? Traditionally canned milk was the milk of choice in the island where refrigeration and proper packaging storing was not reliable and when you taste this flan, it will be very apparent that this THE milk to use. 

1 cup cane sugar / split
¼ cup water
2 cups evaporated milk
4 large (local cage free) eggs plus one yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 9 inch pie tin ( glass or ceramic is best)  
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup water in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes.When it is amber colored, pour into the pie pan and swirl.
Meanwhile heat the evaporated milk in a pot with the other half cup of sugar.
Stir milk and ½ cup sugar in medium saucepan over low heat just until sugar dissolves (milk will be lukewarm). Whisk the eggs and yolk in a large bowl until lemony colored.
When warm but not boiling, slowly whisk the milk-sugar mix into the eggs.
Whisk in vanilla and salt. 
Now pour in your custard.

Set up a water bath big enough to hold your pie pan. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake flans until just set in center, about 50 minutes. It will be lightly golden with hints of brown on top. Remove from water and let stand Chill or until cold. 
 To present and serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the flan to loosen.
Top with a serving plate larger than the circumference of the pie tin and flip to invert!
Serve wedges, drizzled with the caramel that I cooked with, garnish with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh tropical fruit.

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