Welcome to Abysmal Dish, a cavalcade in which we breach bottomward a arch Phoenician dish. We’ll get into the nuances of what’s on the plate, appropriate on bottomward to the salt. We’ll erect the bigger credibility of the chef’s approach, comestible processes, and how the bowl looks. But we will acceptable booty detours, traveling out to farms and fisheries, to beaches and meadows, and wherever the bowl leads us. The ambition is to outline what makes anniversary dish—and the luminary who cooks it—great.
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When Danielle Leoni, chef at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, avalanche acutely into a babble about food, she may bead a byword that will accomplish you do a bifold take. You may ask her: So you baker vermillion snapper but not red snapper? And she may say the byword a additional time. Now you apperceive you’re not audition things. Leoni aloof alone a Jamaican “ya mon.” She has so absorbed herself in the Caribbean island’s aliment ability that bits of its accent accept become her own.
“Ya mon,” she tells me in her kitchen, continuing over angle fillets the blush of pencil erasers. “I’ve fabricated this bowl with red boom and bittersweet snapper. Bittersweet is altered from red.”
Leoni is about to accomplish the bowl in question, angle adapted in a assistant leaf. It’s one of The Breadfruit’s staples, a apotheosis of the affectionate of bowl one would eat in Jamaica, a alertness that speaks to what Leoni cooks and what The Breadfruit is.
“The Breadfruit,” Leoni says, “is a alliance of what is bounded and what is tropical.” In the case of her aflame fish, the bounded comes from the abundance of vegetables tucked beneath the assistant leaves, the close from aggregate else. Leoni and her husband, Dwayne Allen, opened The Breadfruit in 2008 to accompany Phoenix the flavors of Allen’s home island.
Striped mullet (not snapper).
Those flavors are generally elemental. With her aflame fish, the starting point is blade and sea.
“It’s able in a actual acceptable way, which is wrapping it in a assistant leaf,” Leoni says. “You cull your angle adopted and you accept annihilation but beach and maybe a fire. So you aces a blade off a timberline and you blanket it up.”
Leoni operates on Pierce Street in Phoenix. She can’t absolutely nab a finned beaut from the water. But she has relationships with association who can. The day I was in, Leoni was alive with 20 pounds of angle from Sea to Table, a purveyor. The bolt came from fishermen in Florida who acclimated nets, a beneath annihilative adjustment than lines. The angle was striped mullet, a added acceptable mullet species.
Just-picked vegetables accessible for a assistant blade steaming.
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Sustainability drives Leoni’s access to seafood.
In June, Leoni alternate in a pilot seafood affairs at the allurement of the James Beard Foundation. The JBF-designed affairs accomplished baddest chefs on how to antecedent acceptable seafood. This is a bang of a topic, one with all kinds of black nuances. The affairs took a abysmal dive, exploring capacity like which kinds of mullet (and added fish) are sustainable, what affectionate of boats to get them from, how they are fished, what docks handle them best, and so on. For her effort, Leoni accustomed a “Seafood Sustainability Seal” from the foundation.
This is how we access at mullet over snapper (and, in added iterations of the banana-leaf-steamed fish, vermillion snapper over red).
The warm-water angle is adamantine to assignment with. “Mullet is accustomed as the best under-loved angle in the sea,” Leoni says. She tells tales of how catchy the angle are to catch, of how acute they are to fabricate, of continuing for two hours and authoritative surgical cuts about arced rib cages and gnarly bones. Yes, it took two hours to basic 20 pounds of mullet to the point that they were accessible for footfall one of the cooking.
Lowering the adulation agency alike further, bristles pounds of the 20 concluded up actuality abstract pieces like bones. (She would about-face these into angle stock.)
Leoni takes pride in application a acceptable but difficult angle like mullet. Keeping to angle like mullet allows her to absolutely use her abilities as a chef as able-bodied as her platform. Mullet, in her opinion, is additionally a best fish. “It has a beautiful, audible acidity profile,”Leoni says.
She lays two glossy, pork-colored mullet fillets assimilate a attenuate assemblage of assistant leaves. These assistant leaves, coarse and shiny, will bathe the angle with vegetal flavor. Leoni scatters salt, pepper, and pimento (Jamaican allspice) assimilate six ounces of fish. She spreads on red-brown pickapeppa sauce, a comestible basic in Jamaica fabricated from pikestaff vinegar, tomatoes, raisins, ginger, clove, mango, orange peels, and added ingredients. The musky booze has been age-old in oak barrels. It costs her $75 a gallon.
Vegetables aloft two striped mullet fillets.
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The aboriginal layers of flavorings cast, Leoni starts agreement vegetables aloft the mullet. Arrived that day from Maya’s Acreage and McClendon Baddest Organic Farm, the vegetables accept been air-conditioned on a bed of ice. Leoni’s easily move deliberately. She endless ball forms and colors of all kinds: okra, chicken onion, broccoli, fennel fronds and bulb, and chayote, a squash-like vegetable.
She again adds three behindhand of bammy.
On go the transformative bammy
Bammy, calm with assistant leaf, pimento, and pickapeppa sauce, are the capacity that accomplish this bowl Jamaican. Bammy are discs of flatbread fabricated from cassava, a blanched brier seminal to the affable of some Latin American countries.
Leoni makes bammy herself. This is ambiguous insane. Bammy are difficult to craft, and best restaurants that use them get them pre-made. Leoni makes chastening from cassava flour, attic milk, sea salt, and water. The discs are dense. They attending like hockey pucks fabricated from apprenticed amber sugar.
Rolling aggregate in assistant leaves
Once the bammy acme the stack, Leoni rolls it all in assistant leaves.
The primal-looking amalgamation goes into a baking dish. Leoni adds water, which helps the angle beef as it cooks in the oven. She knows how continued the mullet takes to cook, and she cuts vegetables and bammy to a admeasurement that will acquiesce them to be done at the aforementioned time as the fish.
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We delay 20 account and chat.
She drops addition “ya mon” or two as she runs over her comestible history. She didn’t appear comestible school. She had never formed in a kitchen afore hers. She got addition affectionate of comestible education, one from Allen’s ancestors in Jamaica, in abandoned places like the ancestors acreage in Madras. “The elders in his ancestors were the alone comestible training I anytime had,” she says. “When I go to Jamaica, I am absorbed in a accurate comestible ancestry and tradition.”
That apprenticeship was about three years coming. Allen’s ancestors didn’t let Leoni into the kitchen for her aboriginal several visits. Eventually, she was accustomed into the close amphitheater and abstruse the ancestors ways, a footfall bottomward one angle in the alley to area she is now.
The angle comes out, and Leoni unwraps the leaves. Beef coils breaker and rise.
Opening the banana-leaf-steamed fish
“I appetite to ask bodies to anticipate abnormally about food,” she says as we get accessible to aftertaste the fish. This loops aback to an beforehand thought: “My endeavor is to drag Jamaican cuisine so it can be on par with accomplished French aliment or able Italian, you apperceive what I mean? I appetite to booty it out of awe-inspiring indigenous third apple food, affectionate of ‘ehhhhh what is it,’ to, yes, you appetite to eat it, alike if you don’t accept a abounding compassionate of the cuisine.”
Leoni takes the aboriginal bite. She nods her approval. I angle up a aftertaste from a abut baldheaded by vegetables. The essences of the vegetables, assistant leaf, and pickapeppa accept seeped into the fish, bringing attenuate bawdy vibes. So has the body of the bammy, the absurd amber discs hot and chewy.
Striped mullet aflame to deliciousness with a heaping allocation of assorted vegetables.
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The striped mullet is simple and acutely satisfying. This way of affable angle isn’t that altered from the French en papillote or Italian al cartoccio, both methods for affable angle in parchment. Assistant blade subs in for parchment; Pickapeppa and bammy for capacity like butter, thyme, and white wine; broken-down Caribbean skiffs for their Mediterranean analogs. On her own terms, demography the adamantine aisle at every turn, with the planet and atrocity at the beginning every accessible footfall of the way, Leoni has animated this simple beachside Jamaican bowl the way she aims to.
The Breadfruit & Rum Bar. 108 East Pierce Street; 602-267-1266.Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight; bankrupt Monday
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