Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Colorful Curacao Treat

It's hard to believe but the now color blind, integrated city of Willemstad, Curacao, was where freshly captured West Africans arrived after their arduous trip across the oceans. After being rested and fed, they were sent to one of the island's plantations to be "trained" to be slaves.

If the slaves were lucky, they could snag the rind after their Dutch owners had eaten the cheese (in the days before refrigeration or plastic wrap the rind was kept intact). The story is that this dish developed to use up what scraps of cheese or cheese flavor remained by black slaves and poorer whites.

When served at the Avila Hotel, it becomes a gourmet treat. Even better, one easily and inexpensively recreated at home.  Many thanks to travel writer and Caribbean specialist Lynne Sullivan,, who shared that memorable lunch at Avila and found her copy of the recipe when I couldn't.                                                 

Avila Hotel Keshi Yena
Chicken filling: Rub 1/4-pound of chicken breast and 1/4-pound of chicken thighs with the juice of several limes. Season with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and onion then allow to marinate several hours before browning in 3 TBS of butter.

Place browned chicken into a heavy pot with
1 qt water                                                 1 tsp salt
6 peppercorns                                           1 medium onion
1 stalk celery, with leaves                          1 bay leaf, bruised
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. Strain and reserve the broth. Discard vegetables. Debone chicken and set aside.

Saute in 2 TBS of butter:
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped                1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced                                 salt and pepper
1 TBS minced parsley and/or a few drops of Tabasco sauce

Add in and stir well:
1 TBS ketchup                                             1/2 TBS capers
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives, sliced        1/4 cup raisins
1 TBS piccalilli                                              chicken

Simmer until tomatoes are reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Generously butter 4 soup cups then cover sides and bottoms with sliced cheese, preferably Edam although any yellow cheese will do. Fill with chicken mixture and top with a slice of cheese. Put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of a pot, place cups in pot, cover pot and steam for about 15 minutes.

Traditionally, this chicken dish was prepared and served in the shell of an Edam cheese rind after baking in an oven or steaming in the top of a double boiler. If you do it this way the red wax must be removed from the empty shell after it has been soaked in hot water.
For a more dramatic-looking version, the filled Edam, with red wax intact, is tied in a cheesecloth and suspended in boiling water for 20 minutes, The wax melts away in the hot water, leaving a delicate pink blush on the cheese.
Whatever method you use, beef can be substituted for the chicken.


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