Growing up in a Georgia-rooted household in the middle of a multi-ethnic Caribbean neighborhood such as Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I tasted many dishes from the Diaspora early on. I learned pretty quickly that whether its collard greens or calaloo; rice and peas or red beans and rice, when it comes to staple dishes for holidays, there are two dishes where taste and technique are so important to people in southern and Caribbean communities that they can enhance or break the tone of an event’s meal all together. For Southerner’s it’s baked macaroni and cheese and for Caribbean’s, particularly Trinidadians and Tobagonians, it’s curried crab and dumplings.
One of the biggest holidays for Brooklynites, both southern and Caribbean living in Crown Heights is Labor Day. Close to two million people from all over the city, country and parts of the West Indies descend upon Brooklyn annually to celebrate pan-Caribbean culture and pride at the legendary West Indian-American Labor Day Parade.
From Labor Day house parties to food vendors on Eastern Parkway where the parade is held, this is one weekend where baked macaroni and cheese and curried crab and dumplings can not only be found on a plate, but put to the ultimate levels of scrutiny. With the holiday upon us, I thought I’d start a little early and give you fool-proof recipes for both dishes. The baked macaroni and cheese recipe is a J’alla original and the curried crab is a proven, finger-sucking recipe I was lucky to secure during a recent trip to Tobago (the motherland of curried crab and dumplings) from Ms. Alma, a take-out restaurateur in the Store Bay area of the island.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
(Serves 10-15 people)
1-5lb box of elbow macaroni
2 tbls of vegetable oil
1 tbls of salt
1 lg box of Velveeta
1 1b (4 sticks) of unsalted butter
5-cups of whole Milk
1-cup of heavy cream
6 large eggs, beaten
4- 10 oz. bars of extra sharp cheddar cheese (Cracker Barrel brand or a higher-end cheddar cheese)
1 cup Monterey jack
1 cup Mozzarella
1 cup fresh Parmesan
1 cup Asiago cheese
1 cup sharp Muenster cheese
1 small container of bread crumbs
3 tbls of seasoned salt
4 tbls of black pepper
* Preheat oven to 350
*Butter a long, full-sized deep aluminum pan and cover with bread crumbs.
*Bring a large pot of water and the salt to a boil. Add oil and the macaroni.
Cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until macaroni is tender (al dente) but not fully cooked.
Drain and return to pot.
*Chop up Velveeta into medium-small cubes and add to pot. Melt butter and thoroughly
stir into the pot.
*Using a blender (or a large bowl and a hand whisk) mix milk, heavy cream, eggs, pepper, seasoned salt and
Â½ a cup of bread crumbs together. Blend well and pour half of the mixture in to the macaroni and stir.
* Add Â¾ of the shredded cheddar along with the rest of the cheeses into and then add the other half of the milk/egg
mixture in to the pot and stir well.
*Transfer everything in the pot to your pre-buttered aluminum pan. Spread evenly. Add remaining cheddar
to the top of the macaroni, fully covering it and garnish with more black pepper.
*Bake for 45 minutes or until edges are golden and bubbling.
Curried Crab and Dumplings
(Serves 6-8 people)
6 whole sprigs of fresh thyme – chopped
6 chopped garlic cloves
2 chopped onions
Â½ cup of curry
Â¼ cup olive oil
2 cups of water
1 cup of coconut milk.
Â½ tsp of salt or to taste
Black pepper to taste
10 snow crab clusters broken up at the joints.
*Combine all of the fresh chopped ingredients into the hot oil and mix in the curry powder. Let fry until cooked. Mix often to avoid sticking.
*Once fresh ingredients are softened, add water, coconut milk, salt and black pepper and let the mixture cook down for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.
* Add the crabs and cook together for 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Stir often and let stand.
2 small onions finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Black pepper to taste
A pinch of salt
8 oz. fl our
2 oz. cornstarch
1 tsp thyme
*Mix everything together, kneading into small flat shapes, boil in water until cooked. Place on
plate, Add curried crab and dress with curry sauce.
With olive oil pumping through her veins and hot pepper in her every step, Jâ€™alla Kafele is a born foodie and social butterfly on a mission to make food and all the aesthetic elements surrounding it taste and look great.
A busy CEO of a public relations firm by day and a catering consultant for select specialty events by night, this NYC based foodie-nista is here to take both seasoned foodies and the cooking-impaired alike on culinary excursions that will help you create the very best of what we all crave in life: awesome food and great memories.
Like Foodie? Check out the rest of Parlour’s recipes from both J’alla and Nichelle here.