“Are you really leaving me alone here?” I asked Galen, a friend of mine from the RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Organization), standing in a small village located in the Dominican Republic. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. I’ll pick you up in the morning. Have fun!” and quickly disappeared to meet with his ex-girlfriend. I awkwardly stood by the doorsteps for awhile and then walked into a dining room to join the Dominican family whom Galen had worked with as a Peace Corps volunteer. In the dining room, I sat down to a delicious local rice dish as I was surrounded by the whole family. It was hard to believe I just met them. Their extreme friendliness and openness made me feel like I had known them for long time. Dinner unexpectedly led to meringue lessons, lots of laughters, and great story sharing. We ended up staying awake until 2 AM, talking, laughing and bonding. To this date, I’m very thankful to Galen and his Dominican family friends who made my first exposure to Caribbean culture extremely special. Ever since that experience, I think of “sweet (family)”, “hot (meringue)” & “creamy (coconut lined white sand beach)” whenever I hear the word – C.A.R.I.B.B.E.A.N. Loving the blend of Caribbean sweet, hot and creamy flavors so much, I’m making some jumbo prawns with sweet corn, hot habañero chili pepper and creamy coconut milk in my California kitchen today.
To start, I peel off 30 jumbo prawns and marinade in the juice of 1 lemon and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt for 10-15 minutes at room temperature. Separately, I boil a 14 oz can of coconut milk with the prawn shells for 10 minutes and then take out the shells from the milk. Then, I blend corn kernels of 1 fresh corn (sliced off the cob) in a food processor with the “prawn-flavor-infused” coconut milk. Separately, I preheat some extra virgin olive oil in a pot and sauté 1 onion (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (crushed), ½ habañero chili pepper (chopped) and 4-5 cherry tomatoes (sliced) with 1 teaspoon sea salt, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro (chopped). Next I add the blend of sweet corn and creamy coconut milk to the pot and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Lastly, I add the marinated jumbo prawns to the pot, cook for 3-5 minutes and serve with rice.
I am pairing this incredibly delicious tropical seafood with a 2010 Nbed 2gether Torrentes from Mendoza, Argentina. Loaded with explosive flavors of ripe tropical fruits, honey, melon and lemons, this aromatic dry white wine dances a beautiful meringue with the Caribbean prawns. Not only does the balanced acidity of the wine play well with the sweetness of the corn, but it also cuts through the richness of the coconut milk. The flavor of ripe tropical fruits in the wine also rounds off the subtle heat of the habañero chili pepper, while drawing out the sweetness of prawn meats. ¿Donde esta la musica? This pairing is like an intoxicating meringue dancing that is so hard to stop! Vamos a bailar!
Hope you enjoy the fabulous discovery of Dominican flavor with a pairing with Torrentes. The mix of the indigenous island people’s spices with African and European influences absolutely make Domincan foods flavorful, rich and irresistible. Next time when you’re in a grocery store, pick up some fresh corn in season, habañero chili pepper and coconut milk and try this recipe! You’ll love it! Happy cooking!