In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks – A Cookbook by Michael Bennett
By Christine Najac
Local Fort Lauderdale Chef/Author Michael Bennett has penned a Caribbean-style cookbook from his years of living in the “Islands.” Chef Bennett is the executive chef at Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale; his first book is titled “In the land of Pirates, Misfits and Cooks”, a first-hand “taste of living” in the Caribbean.
Bennett has coined the term “Caribb-ican” a cross between Caribbean and American styles of food preparation. To excite one’s palate and to experiment with new methods of cooking and innovative ingredients makes the old new again. Chef Bennett takes the reader on playful culinary journeys throughout the many islands of the Caribbean showing you that with a little ingenuity you can bedazzle your taste buds by being tropically inspired with what Mother Nature has already given us.
The recipes are easy to read, easy to follow and easy to prepare. This book was designed with simplicity in mind to appeal to the most novice of home cooks yet intrigue the experienced cook at the same time. The ingredients are readily available at your local grocery store making this exciting style of cooking accessible at a moment’s notice without much plan other than having the ingredient list with you as you shop. On most pages there are sidebars that highlight cooking tips, preparation tricks and “inside information” as it pertains to healthy eating and variations on the preparation of the dish.In the Land of Pirates, Misfits and Cooks is available for purchase at foodbrats.com or at Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale.
Christine is a lifestyle entertaining specialist and freelance writer focusing on food, wine and events in South Florida, from Palm Beach to South Beach. As the creator and editor of the South Florida Food and Wine blog Christine’s focus is to write and compile up-to-date information on all things food, wine and events in South Florida. To contact Christine visit South Florida Food and Wine at:
Being left at home when everyone else goes to the Mall, is one thing. But you know you have been left out when your friends are going to the VI and you are still at home.
Flying from Fort Lauderdale to the VI is 2 hours and 40 minutes. I have it down tight. Flying Spirit out of FLL to the VI is just a good magazine away. By the time we taxi out on the runway and we fly out over the Bahamas I am opening the magazine and sinking into my chair to read.
A good food magazine, something like Culinary Trends or FoodArts. Something just to pass the time before the soda and after the in-flight peanuts. The plane jets along at 30,00 feet and I peer out the windows every 20 minutes or so to see the Southern Bahama islands, the Turks and Caicos and finally Hispaniola to the point where I feel the engines start to drop RPM’s and the gradual decline to 15,000 feet and getting into the flight path for the VI.
So you know with the above paragraph, you can tell I have done this a couple times. So you know I feel like I am missing out when my buddies are taking the flight down to the VI without me. They call to let me know they have landed and step by step I talk them through the path they should be taking to enjoy the islands like a native.
So after their first call, getting them out of the airport with out incident, the boys are hungry so I lead them (over the cellphone) to the little cafe that is above the ferry seaport terminal. They have a nice 10 seat terrace on the second floor of the ferry harbour. It is a great place to watch the cruise ships off in the distance and the non-stop seaplanes coming in and then taking off to locales all over the Caribbean. The guys just love the wings and burgers. Local Islanders love chicken wings almost as much as people from northern New York.
So they are telling me over the phone how they see the 3:30 ferry come up to the ferry terminal and ask were it goes to. I tell them it is going to Tortola and then Virgin Gorda (where Morgan Freeman lives). I tell them they can jump the 5:00 ferry that will be coming in to dock around 415Pm They bicker back and forth
and decide to jump off St. Thomas and go to Tortola. Great choice I say. Get off the ferry and take a taxi to one of the four rental car places. They get in the cab and decide a beer is a better choice than getting a car. So it is off to Pusser’s Roadtown Pub, almost right across the street.
Once there I pick them up on the Internet camera that is poised right above the bar looking down onto the floor of the wooden ship galley looking interior. The place is full-as usual. It is always full on Fridays. It is the place where the locals go to get the Pusser chicken wings and pizza. Pusser’s is known all over the world for their rum and rum spiked drinks. In the Caribbean there aren’t martinis and cosmos. It is Rum Punch and “Pain Killers” that everyone will be drinking today.
After a night with the locals they decided to get some beach time in so I told them to go to Apple Bay and the infamous Bomba Shack. This the place where college kids gather to party the night away. Shack-is the optimal word here. There are nothing but raggily tacked together two by fours and plywood. A sand floor only a couple feet away from the water and the reef that creates a nice curl in the surf. On weekends there are always kids on boards looking to catch the tasty wave. In the winter the waves grow as the winds build from the north and blow unto Tortola.
After most of the day surfing and watching the dive bombing pelicans fishing in the surf the guys head off to Sage mountain and watch the sunset. Sage Mountain the highest peak on the island at 1800 feet is the best place to catch the sun setting over the western part of the island looking out towards St. Thomas. The trails to get to the perfect spot is a hike through some of the best rainforest in the Caribbean. Wild out cropings of tropical fruit are seen all the time on the path. Once a while you will even see the old timers harvesting the fruit and running them down the mountain on donkeys.
Darkness falls and the boys load up and make a call to me to find out where to go next. I said “Quitoes” is down the mountain to Cane Garden Bay it is where most of the experienced Caribbean travelers go for some late night live entertainment. Being right next to Callwood’s Distillery you know this is the place where many go for libations. Quito and his band of local musicians tell stories about what it is like to live on the island through their music and of course the properly chosen Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet tune.
Since the boys had a little too good of a time, Quito his his own stay-house across the street and and great view of the beach in the morning. The crawl home was a big help for the guys since rum comes cheap in the BVI and they were there taking advantage of the circumstance.
Cane Garden Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on the entire island. It is always filled with sailing visitors. The shallow water is so beautifully blue, you will never forget the color. I still see the bay waters in my dreams. This might be one of the things I envy the most about my friends being there and myself listening to their depictions of the sites via a cellphone.
Bimini Boatyard Chef Dishes Up a Pair of Cookbooks
By Bill Citara in Restaurant NewsTue., Jan. 5 2010 @ 6:34AM
Put the eclectic flavors of South Florida — the “New American Riviera” — on your own kitchen table with pair of new cookbooks from a Fort Lauderdale chef.
Michael Bennett, top toque at Bimini Boatyard, dishes the tricks and techniques of his “Caribb-ican” cuisine in his just-released In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, then continues exploring the melding of Caribbean and American cuisines in the soon-to-debut Underneath a Cloudless Sky.
The books are the product of four years of traveling the Caribbean and soaking up
its culinary heritage before taking over the Boatyard’s kitchen in 2008. In addition to putting a more healthful spin on Caribbean-esque cookery, the books serve up a roster of sauces, marinades, glazes, mops, and rubs that can be matched to a variety of meats, fish, and poultry.
As Bennett puts it, “These recipes are open to experimentation and are only limited by the vastness of your imagination. I organized the book so you don’t think you have to use a certain sauce with a certain entree. The recipes are separated in a multitude of combinations — with your taste buds being the only decisive restriction.”
Misfits and Sky are both available here, as well as at Amazon.com, Johnson & Wales, Epicure Market in Miami, and L’Hermitage in Fort Lauderdale.
Amazon review of this book:
For a “staycation” in the Caribbean on your dining room table or deck, January 11, 2010
By A. Chandler “ArtistAlana” (Austin, TX) – See all my reviews
With the majority of my cookbooks, I seek out books that have ingredients that are easy to find, insructions that are uninvolved, and comfort foods. However, there are a few standout cookbooks that might throw in some ingredients I need to make a special trip to find, and are worth it.
This is one and it is worth it. But don’t get me wrong, you’ll have many of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge now. But you’ll also discover dishes that might require a jaunt to the Asian food market or the internet and are worth the work to “make it happen” such as the ingredients “Annona Puree” or “Cherimoya” for the goat cheese spread. But these are recipes that bring the taste of fine dining to your home in my opinion. The book notes that the author is a chef and that shows…the dishes burst with many flavors and sauces and that is the reason I gave the book 5 stars. This is a unique cookbook but it stands true to the flavors of the Caribbean.
We recently got a “Big Green Egg” for our deck which is an odd cross between a grill, clay cookery, and a smoker. In spite of it being freezing outside, we’ve been keeping it busy a couple nights a week ever since. This cookbook made me happy with great choices of island style sauces and rubs and seasonings such as the Jack Daniels basting glaze, jerk seasoning, mojo marinade, sun coast seafood spice rub, etc. which was my goal for this island cookbook addition to my already massive cookbook collection.
But don’t think it’s a sauce or seasoning cookbook. That is just one of the many components. Granted, many of the recipes call for sauces that are made from other recipes in the book, but that’s the beauty of it. You can make a sauce to baste on chicken one night and then utilize the sauce another night as the base of an entire recipe. As one would expect in a Caribbean inspired cookbook, there are several combos of fish with the sweetness of island sauces or fruit, such as the pineapple coconut salmon, which is nothing short of gorgeous and a wealth of flavors that fuse perfectly. There are also meat and chicken dishes that pop with the heat of chiles which is always welcome in this Austin home.
There are recipes for grill basting, oven recipes, and stovetop dishes. There is everything from salads to kabobs to towering sculptural main dishes and some of the most unique side dishes packed with flavor I’ve seen.
There are photos interspersed throughout the book on some of the dishes that give ideas of serving them truly “5 star restaurant style”.
Though there is no nutritional info in the book, as a weight loss coach I can say that one of the good things about the book is that flavor is infused in dishes without needing to smother proteins in anything artificial or unhealthy in most cases.
Bottom line: yeah, I had to buy some ingredients like “Caribbean oil” or “pickled ginger” but once in a blue moon I consider recipe collections worth a few special trips or internet searches to get the right flavors and this one, in my opinion, is. These are original recipes but they concentrate on solid bursts of flavor combos that make dinner time truly a Caribbean “staycation”.
Looking Back at my time in the Caribbean, I look foreword to the next book to be written.
At this time in my life I look back to my time in the
Caribbean with much fondness.
Looking back, I keep thinking that I have to go back. Every time I think about returning, there is another reason keeping me here on the mainland. Nowadays I am actively pursuing my publishing career, that has an event horizon of eighteen months. Seems like a long way away from now but it should go by quick, just like the rest of this year. It is Xmas already and it seems like I just got back to Miami two months ago.
I have been extremely busy beginning both these books in May of this year. My first book is about my experiences in the Caribbean“In the Land of Misfits Pirates and Cooks”. You can see reviews online when you type in the ISBN number: 978-0-615-29778-1 Amazon and Barnes and Nobles websites. My current project is about being a chef in South Florida. It is called “Underneath a Cloudless Sky”.
Underneath a Cloudless Sky is a book written featuring the use of exotic, tropically-inspired foods and unique stories about what it is like being a chef on theNew American Riviera. Soon to be released early next year. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble next to my first cookbook.
Of course this cookbook will have a recipe collection tied into foods that I learned about while living the last four years in the Caribbean. While my first book has an easily approachable pantry list, this new book is using more food-exotica from the Caribbean. Most of the recipe were developed while I worked here in Miami but, still a feeling of the Caribbean is strewn throughout the entire manuscript.