"Norman is a true gastronomic pioneer, even a culinary pilgrim. A self-taught chef, he is equally steeped in both James Beard and the classic European traditions of gastronomy. He found his true cu...
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1½ teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 pounds American red snapper (or other white fish), cut into 5-ounce fillets, skin on
- Two 15-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 Idaho potato or breadfruit, peeled and cubed
- 1⁄3 cup pure olive oil
- 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and roughly chopped
In a small bowl, mix together the spices and the lime juice. Slash the snapper fillets crosswise through the skin and place them, skin side up, in a flat nonreactive dish and coat with the spiced lime juice. Let sit for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours.
Pour the coconut milk into a large heavy saucepan and cook over high heat for 10 minutes or until it is reduced to 1ó cups. Set aside. Place the potato in a small pot, cover with cool water and salt to season. Simmer until just tender, about 15 to 25 minutes. Drain and spread out on paper towels to cool.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and sear the snapper, then transfer to a plate. Discard any oil from the pan and add enough new oil to coat the bottom of the pan. (You want to use the same pan to retain the flavors of the marinade.)
Add the chile pepper and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the bell peppers and onion, season with salt and pepper and stir and cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Reduce until the wine is almost evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Cut fish fillets into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
Add the reduced coconut milk to the vegetables in the saucepan.
Add the fish, cover and cook at a very low simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the cooked breadfruit or potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes more, or until the fish is cooked and tender and the stew has thickened and heated through.
Serve the stew over rice with lime wedges and Tabasco or another favorite Caribbean hot sauce on the side.
Cooking Note: The basic construct of this dish can be applied to a variety of ingredients—it usually includes fresh vegetables, some fish or chicken, and some starch brought together in a pot by sautéing the protein and vegetables with good curry powder, then deglazing, adding and reducing coconut milk—letting it “run down” the pot a while. Potatoes should be simmered in water until just done before adding to the pot. Bell peppers do best if sautéed first, then added at the end, just to heat them through.
About this recipe
“One of the most popular restaurants during the years I was coming up in Key West kitchens was called Las Palmas del Mundo on Southard Street. There was a tall breadfruit tree in the center of the outdoor patio dining area and the chef made a few Island-style dishes that take advantage of the generous tuber. A starchy, bland fruit the size of a football, breadfruit is not widely used in much of North America. Perhaps this recipe will change the tally by a few hundred or more. Though not needed to enjoy this dish, it makes it all the more exotic…like so much in Key West does. “Rundown” is an island way of saying the sauce reduces or “runs down" the pot.” – Norman Van Aken
Recipes taken from My Key West Kitchen by Norman and Justin Van Aken, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Penny De Los Santos