The Dish: Chef Nina Compton shares her signature recipes

The Dish: A queen of Caribbean cuisine

Nina Compton was born on the beautiful island of St. Lucia where her father once served as prime minister. After high school years in England, she pursued her dream of becoming a chef, attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and working at top jobs in New York and Miami.

Then it was off to New Orleans, where she opened Compère Lapin " and the honors poured in. In 2017, she was named one of food and wine's best new chefs.

The next year she won the James Beard award for Best Chef: South. And last year she opened her second restaurant, "Bywater American Bistro."

Here are a few of Compton's signature recipes:

Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot

Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot

Lobster Stock
15 lobster bodies 
3 onions, julienned
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 pieces of lemongrass, smashed
8 star anise pods
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup Blended oil
8 quarts Water

In a large stock pot, toast lobster bodies in blended oil and then add onions; sweat until lobster bodies are nicely toasted red, and onions are translucent. Add spices and lemongrass; stir constantly for a few minutes. Add 8 quarts of water, then cover and cook for 45 minutes. Strain out the solids from the stock.

Pepper Pot Soup
4 quarts of butternut squash, diced
3 onions, julienned 
1 piece of ginger, sliced thinly
2 habaneros, chopped
2 pieces of lemongrass, smashed
6 13.5 oz. cans of coconut milk
6 quarts of lobster stock * (recipe above)
Salt to season

In a large pot, sweat the onions, ginger, habaneros and lemongrass. Add the diced squash and continue sweating until soft. Cover with lobster stock and then add coconut milk and simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove lemongrass and puree until soup is smooth. If needed, warm up soup prior to serving.

Escabeche Vegetables
4 oranges
4 limes 
4 lemons
1 head fennel, thinly sliced (reserve the fennel fronds for garnish)
2 shallots, thinly sliced 
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice all the fruit and strain to make sure there are no seeds (using the zest for fish). Add sherry vinegar to citrus juice. Place the olive oil in a pan and sauté vegetables on high heat, deglazing pan with vinegar and citrus juice mixture.  

Escabeche Fish 
4-6 oz. Grouper, sliced (approximately 1 -1 ½ oz. per person) 

Marinate the fish for one hour in the citrus zest left over from the citrus juice (above) and enough olive oil to cover the fish. 

Butternut Squash Garnish
4 oz. medium diced squash
2 tbs. olive oil
1 sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice and season the butternut squash with salt, thyme and extra virgin olive. Sauté seasoned squash on medium heat until golden brown; about 5 minutes. Cool and reserve. 

To Plate:
In a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, sauté the marinated grouper.
To portion, take four to six (4-6) soup bowls and add approximately 1 oz. of grouper, 4 oz. of the escabeche vegetables and about eight pieces of diced squash to each. 
Pour the warm Pepper Pot Soup into each bowl. 
Garnish with butternut squash, fennel fronds, fresh basil, mint, and cilantro.

Roasted Banana Zeppole

Roasted Banana Zeppole with Rum Caramel


2 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking Powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup + 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 ea. large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup mashed overripe banana


Heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk, mashed banana and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside for coating the cooked and drained zeppoles.
Whisk the banana mixture into the large bowl of dry ingredients until just moistened. Working in batches, drop a teaspoonful of dough into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 15 seconds per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, then roll in the cinnamon sugar while still warm.  Serve with rum caramel sauce

Rum Caramel Sauce


2 lbs. butter
4 lbs. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. salt
6 cups cream
1/3 cup rum
1 ea. vanilla bean (scraped)


Heat cream, rum and vanilla until warm, set aside. In a large pot, melt the butter, add sugar and salt; cook until caramelized. Slowly add warm cream mixture and strain through a chinois and serve.

Roasted Jerk Corn ©sara essex bradley

Roasted Jerk Corn


Jerk Butter
½ lb. butter softened
1 Tbsp. garlic roasted and chopped
2 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and then fold in the softened butter.  

Mayo (yields 1 cup)
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup vegetable oil
Coarse salt & ground pepper to taste
Place egg yolks in a food processor. Add mustard and lemon juice. Pulse ingredients until well combined. With motor running, add oil in a slow, steady stream (mixture should become thick and emulsified). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ranch Bread Crumb
1 cup toasted panko crumbs
¼ cup ranch powder (seasoning mix)
1 tsp finely sliced scallions
1 tsp crispy chicken skin (optional)
6 – 8 ears of fresh corn, shucked & each cob cut in half
For Garnish:  Lime wedges dipped in chili powder  


Carefully place corn in large pot of boiling water and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove and when cool enough to handle, brush with jerk butter and wrap in foil. Place on a cookie sheet to roast in oven (375°) or put on a grill top medium-heat and cook for about 6-8 minutes. Remove corn from heat and foil. Brush again with the jerk butter. Then coat with mayonnaise and top with breadcrumbs.  Garnish with chili powder lime wedge.


Pickled Shrimp With Celery And Buttermilk

Pickled Shrimp


4 ea stalks celery 
1 ea yellow onion 
1 ea fennel bulb 
1 c white wine 
2 ea lemon 
2 ea lime 
2 ea orange 
1 gallon water 
4 T salt 
1 qt rice vinegar 
1 head of gulf shrimp, U-10 


Peel onions, wash celery and fennel, cut into 2-inch mirepoix. Add to large rondeau with water, add salt, mirepoix, wine and bring to simmer for 20 min. Add citrus, squeezing and dropping each half directly into the bouillon. Simmer and additional 10 to 20 minutes. Strain and return liquid to pot. Skewer shrimp with wooden dowels to keep straight while cooking, this will make them more uniform when cleaning and portioning.

Poach shrimp until just cooked through 3-5 minutes. Check by removing head. Meat should be just slightly translucent in center. Shock in ice water and allow to fully chill, 5-10 minutes. Peel shrimp and marinade in rice vinegar for 30 minutes, fully submerged. 

Strain and save rice vinegar. Devein and portion shrimp cutting them in half lengthwise, removing vein and slicing into 3rds on a bias. 1.5oz per portion. 

Buttermilk Dressing


1/2 cup mayonnaise  
1 pint buttermilk 
2 t Dijon mustard 
2 ea garlic 
1 cup grana padana, or parmesan 
25g red wine vinegar 
15g Worcestershire  
5g white pepper 
11g salt 
1ea anchovy 
10g lemon juice 


Place all ingredients in vita mix, puree until smooth. Fold in aioli. Adjust seasoning.

Remaining Ingredients To Complete The Dish

3 oz. trout roe 
1 t celery seed 
4 oz. used rice vinegar 
4 oz. olive oil 
Reserved cleaned shrimp 
1 pint buttermilk dressing 
1 cup rye crouton, 1/4" dice 
2 ea avocado, 1" dice 
1 ea jalapeno, shaved thin and soaked in ice water 
2 ea radish, shaved thin and soaked in ice water 
3 ea stalks celery, peeled and slice ½" 
2 T chili oil 
Yellow celery leaves, saved from the celery hearts 
Large flake sea salt, we use Jacobsen's from Portland Oregon.


Place buttermilk dressing on the bottom in an even layer of your favorite serving platter or individual serving bowls. Top with croutons. 
In a large mixing bowl add shrimp, celery, celery seeds and season with salt. Taste and add vinegar, olive oil and trout roe. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
Place the dressed shrimp over the buttermilk and croutons, being sure to spoon all of the roe out of any leftover liquid and spoon over the top of the shrimp. 
Garnish with radish, jalapeno, celery leaf and flake salt. 
Drip the chili oil around the exposed rim of buttermilk dressing.