"Pirates are very au currant," my co-worker Jody replied when I explained the theme of my latest cooking adventure with Annie. Annie's husband is a sailor and pretty much every weekend he and his crew go out sailing. For his birthday we decided to do a pirate theme. What might pirates eat? Why, Caribbean food of course.
To start we had crisp wonton cups filled with crab salad topped with avocado and cilantro, peel and eat hot pepper shrimp, and chips with fresh mango salsa. For the meal we did a buffet laid out with an array of tropical Caribbean flavors. Avocado and papaya salad with mint, black beans, rice with cilantro and coconut, grilled plantains with rum-brown sugar glaze, grilled vegetable skewers marinated in jerk spices, chicken skewers with brown sugar peanut spice rub, and swordfish and salmon skewers, glazed with guava jelly and drizzled with a tangy orange, habanero mojo sauce. For dessert, key lime pie flecked with toasted coconut. To drink, navy grog, a potent concoction of three different rums, Grand Marnier as well as grapefruit, orange and pineapple juice.
If I do say so myself, the selection of recipes and the preparation was spot on. Our guests loved it. Like seriously. Of all the different components to the meal, my favorite were these swordfish skewers with their sweet glaze and spicy sauce. They are perfect for a sunny weekend bar-be-que although they are easy enough to make on a weeknight.
(For the glaze)
1 cup guava jelly or apricot jam
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(For the mojo)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil, such as canola
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(For the skewers)
2 pounds swordfish, sliced into 1 inch cubes
1/2 red onion cut into large chunks
1 or 2 bell peppers, whatever colors you like, cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and/or mint, for garnish
First make the mojo. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes; do not brown. Add the orange juice, lime juice, and habanero and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by at least half and has gotten thick. Whisk in the cilantro and cumin and season to taste with salt and pepper. The mojo can be made a day or two in advance and set aside at room temperature.
While the mojo is reducing, make the glaze. Whisk together the guava jelly, dijon mustard, and orange juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The glaze can be made a few days in advance, covered, and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.
Next assemble the skewers. If you plan to be grilling over an open flame, be sure to soak the skewers in water for about a half hour before you thread the fish and vegetables on them. If you are going to use a grill pan, the soaking isn't really necessary. Thread the swordfish cubes onto the skewers alternating with the onion and the bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper and then using a small brush, paint on the guava glaze.
Meanwhile heat a grill pan over medium high heat. To make sure the skewers don't stick, I poured about a tablespoon of olive oil onto a paper towel that had been folded several times and used it to wipe down the ridges of the grill pan. Place the skewers in the grill pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn the skewers over and brush with more of the guava glaze and continue to cook for about another 3 minutes.
Remove the skewers from the heat and serve, drizzled with the mojo. In keeping with the Caribbean idea, I served black beans with ginger, garlic and orange juice and left-over cilantro coconut rice. Plantains would be great with this too.
The guava glaze is sweet, aromatic, and very tropical, with an almost strawberry-like flavor (isn't that interesting?) and a slightly pungent kick thanks to the dijon mustard. The mojo balances out the glaze really well. While it too is sweet, it veers more toward the acidic, with an earthy undercurrent from the cumin, a fantastic delayed heat from the habernero, and bright freshness from the cilantro. The glaze and mojo work really well with the firm, meaty swordfish, but really you could use them on just about anything but red meat. It would be lovely on chicken breasts, pork chops or loin, and it's excellent on salmon. You can make the glaze and mojo ahead of time and just slather it on the meat of your choice for a great weeknight meal, since the meat doesn't really have to marinate in the glaze. Quick and very easy.
Makes 6 servings.