Cindy Hutson has been on a world travel kick lately. She and partner (both at life and at restaurant Ortanique), Delius Shirley, have returned from a whirlwind series of trips that included Italy, Anguilla, and Jamaica. Now that she's returned to Miami, the chef is ready to hunker down and get busy. On the agenda?
Working on recipes for her new Brickell restaurant, Zest and preparing for Coral Gables restaurant week, which starts today. But first? A visit to Flavorish Market for an intimate cooking demonstration of recipes from her book, From the Tip of my Tongue.
While cooking a series of dishes including a watermelon gazpacho, a crab cake with tropical fruit salsa, and a jerk chicken penne dish, Hutson shared stories about her travel.
The chef confided that each year she and Shirley would get away somewhere for a few days (he to golf, she to a cooking school), then finish the trip together. This year, Hutson learned cuilnary techniques on the island of Sicily, then traveled to Napoli, Capri, and Amalfi. The chef, says that although she is most equated with Caribbean influences, she considers her cuisine of the sun universal. "It's ethnic and seasonal, using fresh local ingredients. That's why it's important for me to have these experiences."
The chef said that she packed her suitcase with cheeses, salumi, and canned tomatoes from Italy, saying, "I have never opened a can of tomatoes that were this good. I had to bring them home with me." The chef also alluded to adding some special dishes featuring cuisine of the Amalfi sun in the next few weeks.
Hutson also updated the crowd on her other endeavors. Her Brickell restaurant, Zest and Zest marketplace is scheduled to open late fall 2015. Zest Express, a kiosk at the same location will open late June, offering a selection of the chef's items to go.
Until then, Hutson's Ortanique on the Mile is participating in Coral Gables Restaurant Week, which starts today, June 8, and lasts through June 28. Ortanique, along with 34 other participating Coral Gables establishments will offer prix-fixe menus at a reduced price.
The chef also hosts cooking classes at the restaurant, with the next one scheduled for Saturday, June 13 at 11:30 a.m. The three hour class costs $108 per person (including tax and gratuity) and includes a welcome reception with prosecco or Champagne, and instruction in a three course meal (that you eat, of course), with each course paired with an appropriate wine. Each fledgling chef will also take home a gift and a booklet containing the recipes of what they prepared that day. This week's class features mangoes, so you'll know what to do with all the fruit your neighbor gave you.
Hutson also shared her jerk chicken penne recipe, so you can make it at home tonight.
Jerk Chicken Penne Pasta (Serves Six)
- Jerk chicken marinade (Walkerswood or Busha Browne's is the chef's preference in a pre-made jerk seasoning)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, julienned
- 3/4 cup shitake mushrooms
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1.4 cup fresh basin, chiffonaded
- 1 pound penne pasta, cooked accourding to directions on package
- Salt and pepper, to taste
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- Cover chicken with marinade and let stand for at least one hour or refrigerate overnight.
- Once chicken has cured sufficiently, pour off excess marinade.
- In a large skillet, melt butter and saute chicken over medium high heat until cooked halfway through.
- Ass mushrooms, tomatoes, cream, and bouillon.
- Saute for about three minutes, until cream has thickened.
- Ass pasta, salt, and pepper to sauce and mix well.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Finish with scallions and basil, toss again, remove from heat and serve immediately.
You can also make this recipe without chicken for a vegetarian option (just add more veggies) or lighten the recipe up by substituting white wine for the cream.