In some respects, Chef Douglas Rodriguez of South Beach’s iconic De Rodriguez restaurant meets all the expectations for a celebrity chef. He’s charismatic, energetic, and a genius in the kitchen.
His eponymous restaurant is stylish and sultry with unmistakable Latin swagger — the kind of place where you can’t help but participate in a little "see and be seen" neck-craning. But from the moment that first cocktail shows up, swiftly followed by a sampler of specialty ceviches, you all but forget that there’s anyone else in the dining room.
A politician and his entourage, a few Latin American luminaries, or an entire table of college coeds might be just 10 feet away (and probably are), but they dwindle to insignificance when compared with the spicy, rich, zing-on-the-tongue, melt-in-the-mouth panoply of flavors that make up a De Rodriguez dinner.
Can you try most of his recipes at home? Certainly, but don’t expect the same effect. However, because Rodriguez’ Nuevo Latino cuisine is so absolutely perfect for summertime, we asked for two recipes that the average at-home gourmet could duplicate with a minimum of hassle and a fairly good chance of success.
Tuna Watermelon Ceviche
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons sambal oeleck
2 tablespoons Lemon oil
1 ½ tablespoons yuzu juice
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chiffonade of fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 pound center –cut boneless ahi tuna, cut into ¼ -inch dice
In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Gently fold in the garnish ingredients, the tuna, watermelon, and kumquats, and serve immediately.
1 pound dried chulpe corn kernels
10 ounces sliced apple wood smoked bacon
Vegetable oil for frying
1 ½ large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin
1. Put the corn kernels in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Soak, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Drain well in a colander and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Put the bacon slices on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and then chop them into 1-inch pieces. Leave the oven on at 350 F.
3. Fill a deep heavy bottomed saucepan with 4 inches of vegetable oil, attached a frying thermometer to the pan, and heat the oil to 375 degree F. working in batches, quickly fry the corn, just until it begins to pop and is coated with oil, about 15 seconds. Be careful- it will splatter. Transfer the corn to a baking sheet and roast it in the oven until light golden brown and crunchy, about 30 minutes.
4. Working in batches, deep fry the onions slices in the same oil until very dark brown, nearly burnt about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
5. In a large bowl, gently toss together the toasted corn, bacon pieces, and fried onions until combined. Serve at room temperature as an accompaniment to ceviche.
Panela & Rum-Cured Salmon (Serves 6)
Panela is raw sugarcane. It has a sweet molasses or caramel-like flavor that marries well with rum. If you cannot find panela, just substitute dark brown sugar and molasses. The curing step takes at least 24 hours, so plan to start this recipe the day before you grill. This cure is also suitable for smoking marlin, pork tenderloin and duck breast.
Panela Rum Cure
6 allspice berries
6 star anise
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
3 Chipotle chiles, dried or in adobo
2 bay leaves
½ Cup sugar
¾ Cup Kosher salt
½ Cup grated panela OR ½ Cup brown sugar combined with 2 Tbsp molasses
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 Cup dark rum
6 (6-OUNCE) salmon filets
1. To prepare the cure, combine the allspice, anise, coriander and dried Chipotles (do not add Chipotles in adobo) in a skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant about 2 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the toasted spices with the Chipotles in adobo, if using, and the bay leaves, sugar, salt, panela, vanilla bean, rum and brandy. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugars, and to cook out the alcohol—about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 5 to 6 ice cubes to cool it down.
2. When the cure is completely cool, pour it over the salmon in a nonreactive baking dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
3. The next day, remove the salmon from the cure and pat dry with paper towels.
4. Prepare a hot fire in the grill with coals piled up on one side of the grill, or by firing only one side of a gas grill.
5. Toss a handful of presoaked wood chips onto the fire. Arrange the salmon on the grate opposite the heat source for indirect heat. Cover the grill and smoke the fish for 10 to 12 minutes, adding wood when necessary (if the smoke diminishes). The fish is done when the flesh flakes easily when pressed lightly with the spatula.