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Eric Ripert’s Shrimp in Coconut Curry Sauce with Caribbean Fried Rice

Eric Ripert’s Shrimp in Coconut Curry Sauce with Caribbean Fried Rice
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Chef Ripert with the Sting Rays the Caymans are famous for
         I’ve mentioned my fondness for Eric Ripert on these pages before.  He’s one chef whose recipes really translate for the home cook.  His flavors are bright and inventive and nothing shows this off better than these two delicious dishes.  Since we’re barely off the plane from the Caribbean, I couldn’t resist extending our stay by making them for a weeknight dinner last week.  I am not going to say that these are ten minute mains.  There’s a fair amount of slicing, chopping and dicing involved in both.  But the end certainly justifies the means and just look how at how gorgeous your dinner plate will look.

         In Eric’s most recent cookbook “Avec Eric” (John Wiley and Sons 2010,) there’s a whole chapter on Eric’s Cayman Cookout.  It seems that when Eric opened his restaurant “Blue” in the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Grand Cayman Island, he and the hotel’s owner brainstormed an idea to bring Chefs to the island during the downtime at the Ritz right after the Christmas Holidays.  That is also downtime for a lot of chefs since restaurants tend to be deserted in January as well.  So Eric, a very popular member of the culinary community, was quickly able to assemble an amazingly famous group of chefs.  And talk about diverse: David Chang of Momofuku joined Chicago’s Grant Achatz, Dean Fearing of  Dallas, Jose Andres of Washington and the inimitable Anthony Bourdain.  They all descended on the island and made some marvelous food and, I’m sure, quite a few dollars for the Ritz
I’m tempted to say I’m Blue that
I won’t get there but I’m not 
         I’d love to say I’d like to go one year, but I wouldn’t.  The Cayman Islands are one of my least favorite places in the whole Caribbean.  They might as well be South Florida for all the condos and fast food places you see along the main drag.  Seven Mile beach, where the Ritz is, is fine but fine beaches are a Caribbean mainstay.  And then there’s a little matter of civil rights.  A few years ago, the island forbade the passengers of a gay cruise from disembarking.  No apology was ever given and as recently as 2011, a new Constitution for this former British colony pointedly omitted gay rights of any kind.  So you can have the Cayman Islands.  I’m not spending a nickel there.  And I apologize for the politics, which I try to stay away from on the pages.  But this is just to egregious for me to keep from commenting on.  Now back to Cooking avec Eric.
         The Caribbean is as big a melting pot as you can find. There’s hardly a Culinary influence that didn’t touch these islands. The spice trade was notable as well and the Indian influence is surprisingly in evidence especially far from the Caymans on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Eric also gives credit to the British for their love of Indian food in the Caymans.  India is what this curry owes a lot of its flavor to.  But Eric has really pushed the envelope here calling for Thai Curry Paste. Thai Cooking is a new culinary style for the West Indies and has no history at all there.  But the paste does a wonderful job here of amping up the heat a little and the flavor a lot.   The Rice is another terrific treat. Again, it’s Chef Ripert’s inventiveness that the dish owes much of its flavor to.  The apple is not native to the Caribbean and in fact is almost impossible to grow there.  But the mangos and bananas are the real thing and the whole dish is not only delicious, it’s absolutely beautiful to look at.  So when you want to dive into the Caribbean for dinner, do make these two wonderful dishes.  And when you toast, please say “Salut” to Chef Ripert. Here are the recipes:

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