Island chefs turn up the heat for 'foodies' at international bash

September 01, 1993|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing Writer Universal Press Syndicate

One might have guessed something special was happening here on the Big Island of Hawaii where some 200 "foodies" recently flocked for the annual "Cuisines of the Sun" food and wine bash.

As guests gathered for the final night's reception, Hawaii's Mother Nature was creating one of her spectacular sunsets. Suddenly, a wide shaft of aquamarine appeared high in the sky and extended into the blue Pacific. It was as if some heavenly power had brushed it onto the evening's canvas, an unstaged climax to 3 1/2 days of sampling new-wave cooking from Jamaica, Sicily, Bali and Hawaii.

The international array of chefs included Norma Shirley, crowned "the Julia Child of Jamaica" by Vogue magazine; Lother Arsana and I Ketut Sukarta, both of the Nelayan Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Bali; Sicilian-born Celestino Drago, named one of the "10 best new chefs in America" this year by Food & Wine magazine; and his brother, Giacomina Drago, picked to head Celestino's Beverly Hills restaurant, Il Pastaio.

Two American chefs also demonstrated their skills: Mark Militello, owner of the acclaimed Mark's Place in North Miami, Fla., and Alan Wong, who heads up the CanoeHouse and Le Soleil restaurants at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, a beachfront oasis on this lava-strewn island and headquarters for the Cuisines celebration.

Virtually every one of these chefs has recently published a cookbook, has one on the way or has one in the planning stages.

Ms. Shirley, who turned up the heat at the seminar with her exciting, well-peppered dishes, runs Norma's in Kingston and Norma at the Wharfhouse, minutes from Montego Bay. There she mixes the flavors of India, France and Scotland (where she partook in culinary studies) with those of the Caribbean she knows so well.

Her book, "Lifestyles of Caribbean Cooking," which she promises will be "substantial," should be available late next year.

For those who want to explore Caribbean cooking in the meantime, there are two worth mentioning: "Down-Island Caribbean Cookery," by Virginie F. and George A. Elbert (Simon & Schuster, 1991, $24.95), and "Caribbean Cooking," by Connie and Arnold Krochmal (New York Times Book, 1974, $9.95).

Ms. Shirley created this dish at Cuisines and undoubtedly will include it in her cookbook. She serves it with parslied rice or a baked potato. "It's so simple, anyone can do it at home," she says.

Pickapeppa chicken

Makes 4 servings.

2 pounds chicken legs, thighs or breasts, skinned and each piece halved

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Pinch of Scotch bonnet chili pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large onion, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 bottle Pickapeppa sauce

Garnish: mango, pineapple chunks or other fruit, flambeed in rum (optional)

3 scallions, julienned

Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry. Place in a bowl and season with garlic, parsley, chili pepper, thyme and onion. Marinate for 1-2 hours in refrigerator.

In a large skillet, place the chicken, chicken stock and Pickapeppa sauce. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer slowly until the chicken is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a warm platter and cover. Reserve liquid.

Over high heat, reduce reserved sauce until it thickens. Transfer a blender and blend until smooth; reheat if necessary and adjust seasoning to taste.

Pour sauce over chicken. Garnish with flambeed fruit, which should not be too ripe so it won't become mushy. Top with a few strips of julienned scallions.

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