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A Taste Of The Tropics

Hungry for some sunshine? New Orleans chef Dominique Macquet brings a taste of the tropics to "Chef on a Shoestring."

Born on the tiny island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, Chef Dominique brings a world of experience to his kitchen, having honed his culinary style working all over the globe before finding his place in New Orleans. Chef Dominique describes his style as "light, fresh, flavorful" contemporary French with an Asian influence.

Macquet opened his French restaurant at the Maison Dupuy Hotel in the French Quarter in March 1997, and received a banquet of awards and acclamation from the Times-Picayune, Wine Spectator Magazine, New Orleans Magazine, Esquire and Bon Appetit. Among his other honors: cooking the first meal Nelson Mandela enjoyed after his release from prison, cooking on the QE2, and serving as a guest chef at the White House.

Two years ago he reinvented both his restaurant and himself by first showcasing the multi-ethnic "tropical" flavors he first tasted on his home island. Many of these recipes have now made it into his first cookbook, "Dominique's Tropical Latitudes" (Bright Sky Press).

What is true of Mauritius cuisine is true of most island cuisines, the chef explains. It evolves from a mix of original native people using only those ingredients indigenous to the island, adapting their diet to the foods they found on hand, then later being introduced to the flavors and spices of other areas through colonization, linking its cuisine to the rest of the world.

Trained in classic French cooking and well-versed in California cuisine, Macquet has now easily embraced the use of Louisiana ingredients to create dishes that blend the robust flavors of the West with the more subtle ones of the East.

For his "Chef on a Shoestring" menu he has prepared Cool Watercress-Romaine Salad, Jerk Pork Loin, and Floating Islands with Crème Anglaise.

FOOD FACTS:

Watercress: This peppery green has a slightly bitter, pungent flavor and small, crisp, dark green leaves.

Tomatoes: Good-quality Roma tomatoes will be firm, smooth-skinned and light red.

Jerk Pork - The word "Jerk" is a Jamaican term used to describe a seasoning applied primarily to grilled foods. It's generally a mixture of chiles, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and onions.

Jicama - This large bulbous root vegetable has a sweet crunchy flesh that's good both raw and cooked.

Crème Anglaise - French for English Cream, this is a light custard used as a dessert cream or sauce.

RECIPES:

Cool Watercress-Romaine Salad

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

4 Roma tomatoes, peeled
2 Tbls. fresh thyme
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Pomace olive oil

Citrus-Mustard Vinaigrette

Juice from ½ orange
Juice from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lime
Juice from ½ grapefruit
½ Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 cup Pomace olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salad

2 hearts of romaine, broken into bite-sized leaves
2 bunches baby watercress, trimmed
3 white corn on the cob, roasted and kernels removed (see method below)

Method:

Combine the oven-dried tomato ingredients; spread in single layer on a baking sheet. Place in a 150º F oven for 8 hours.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the juices and mustard with a hand blender. Slowly add oil, blending to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the romaine, watercress and corn; add vinaigrette and toss lightly. Top with oven-dried tomatoes.

Method for roasting corn on the cob:

Preheat oven to 400º F. Brush corn with olive oil. Place ears of corn on a baking sheet. Roast 15 to 20 minutes until ears start to turn a light golden brown. Let corn cool at room temperature before removing the kernels.

For the rest of the recipes turn to Page Two.


Jerk Pork Loin

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin
1 yellow onion, quartered
2/3 cup chopped green onions
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 Tbl. dark rum

Jicama-Grapefruit Slaw

1 pound jicama root, peeled and thinly sliced
1 grapefruit, peeled and diced
1 Tbl. ginger juice
1 Tbl. finely chopped fresh mint
1 Tbl. finely chopped fresh cilantro

Method:

Cut pork loin into 4 equal pieces. In a blender or food processor, combine next 11 ingredients. Rub over pork. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a non-reactive bowl, combine the slaw ingredients, toss well, then refrigerate until serving. Heat grill pan using medium-high heat, grill the pork until medium - which is will take about four minutes on each side (be careful not to overcook; it should be moist).

Assembly the plate: Place the slaw in the middle of each plate and place the pork on top.

Peas and Rice

¾ cup dried pigeon peas
¾ cup rice
Water
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Soak peas overnight, drain. Cook peas in enough water to cover the peas (optional for enhanced flavor: add a small piece of bacon and slice of onion, if available) until tender add rice and ¾ cup of water and cook until rice is tender.

Floating Island with Crème Anglaise and Fresh Pineapple

Really nothing more than a type of meringue, floating island (the English name for the French 'oeuf a la niege') is a classic dessert we think is overdue for rediscovery.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
3 Tbls. sugar, divided
1 pint half-and-half cream
2 Tbls. vanilla
3/4 cup egg whites
2-1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 quart whole milk

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla or rum

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan with high-sides over low to medium heat, stir constantly until sugar melts and reduces to a thick, light brown sauce. Take care not to burn the sugar. Stir using a wooden spoon.

1 cup diced pineapple for garnish

To prepare the crème anglaise, in a mixer, lightly beat egg yolks and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar together. In a saucepan, using low to medium heat, bring half-and-half to a boil - take care not to scald. Remove from the heat. Add one Tablespoon of vanilla. Temper yolk mixture with a small amount of hot cream, then stir in the rest. Let stand for 1 minute. Strain into a chilled bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to make sure the mixture does not separate.

For meringue, mix egg whites and confectioners sugar in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir until a cooking thermometer registers 140º F. Then, using a hand mixer, beat the egg mixture on high speed for 10 minutes.

In a separate saucepan, combine the whole milk, remaining sugar and remaining vanilla. Bring to boil using medium heat. Once the mixture has reached boiling point, remove from heat. Immediately place ice cream scoopfuls of meringue into the hot milk mixture. Let stand for five minutes. Then using a slotted spoon turn the meringue balls and let stand an additional five minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove meringue balls and place on parchment paper-lined baking pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Discard poaching liquid.

To serve, fill a martini glass two-thirds to the top with crème anglaise; set a meringue "island" on top. Drizzle caramel sauce on top of poached meringue and add diced pineapple.

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