Hello adventurers! I have fallen ill and decided to skip cooking yesterday. I am on the mend now thanks to the wonders of antibiotics so we can shove off and head to our next destination.
The tiny Island of Dominica (not to be mistaken for the Dominican Republic) is located in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean boundary near Martinique and Guadeloupe. To pronounce it you say Doh – mih – NEE- kah against your instincts but probably more accurate historically. This is possibly the most beautiful area of the Atlantic/Caribbean. Tall volcanic islands slam up out of the sea like heavyweights and are often enshrouded in steam. The palm covered islands feature dramatic views and the contrast of the deep dark Atlantic with the more shallow turquoise Caribbean will simply take your breath away. In the smaller less well known islands like Nevis, just to the northwest of Dominica, the peaceful way of life can lull you to sleep while standing.
To get to Dominica from Djibouti we sail north into the Mediterranean just to the south of Cyprus, head west and sail thru Hurricane Alley with the high winds of the Cape Verde Islands propelling us towards our goal.
Dominica has a river for every day of the year. Exactly 365 rivers! Imagine that in a small island nation only 290 square miles in size. Dominica like most of its neighbors is a volcanic Island which Christopher Columbus allegedly described as similar to a ball of wrinkled paper “entirely covered in hills and mountains.”
Dominica was at one point a British Colony as evidenced by the use of Peas and Rice versus the many other names for the staple of the Caribbean. But, perhaps it should have remained in the hands of its original European colonizers, the French with whom the Island identifies. The people of the Island helped support a successful French Invasion during the American Revolution. Afterward the island was again recaptured by the British who repelled several more attacks by the French in the following years. Although English is the official language, many Dominicans speak French especially the older folks and Dominica is officially a Francophone nation.
In 1981 a band of untrained and unsuccessful mercenaries staged a plot to overthrow the government of Dominica and turn it into a haven for criminal activities. Fortunately they were stopped at the US docks before they even embarked for the island.
Dominica gained independence for good in 1978. Years of economic neglect by the British caused years of slow recovery. In 2003-2004 Dominica suffered a financial mess similar to the global one of today but has begun to slowly make its way back to recovery.
There are many interesting things to note about Dominica. In the northeast of the island, there is a 3700 acre territory that is settled by ancestors of the original inhabitants of the Kaliango Carib tribe. Similar to a Native American reservation, the people here elect their own government and generally remain self sufficient.
There are many types of whales found off the shores of Dominica here including pods of year round resident Sperm Whales and others. Also Dominica is home to the world’s second largest boiling lake. All in all it is a good place to visit and they have made efforts to avoid becoming overly touristy.
Leptodactylus fallax or the Giant Ditch Frog is a native species of frog in Dominica. Also known as Mountain Chicken for its large size (16 cm adults) and edible qualities(tastes like chicken), this frog has become critically endangered in its wild habitat. Extinct in several neighboring islands such as Nevis and St. Kitts, the frog has been reduced to very small habitats in only a few islands, mostly due to human consumption. Therefore, I will not be cooking Leptodactylus fallax and I would recommend against it for anyone lucky enough to travel to this beautiful place.
Instead, I have found a small package of farm raised bullfrog legs from Asia and substituted these as well as actual chicken (fortunately it tastes like Frog).
This dish rates a 3 for difficulty mainly for the number of steps in the preparation as well as the challenge of finding frog legs. Check your Asian Grocery for a similar product to the one I bought. Hint: It will probably be in the frozen section in packs of 6-8 legs should you choose to cook this dish.
In fairness to the national dish of Dominica, most likely a very large fresh Frog leg is going to taste pretty good (again, like chicken) but since I will not eat an endangered species, I will never know. The alternative tasted pretty bad. I have to place this dish firmly in the fail category. Anytime you freeze a product as delicate as frog, you will get a far inferior end result. It was marinated according to directions, cooked to perfection and ultimately wound up in the trash. I hate throwing out food, but in this case it was the best decision.
If you do not believe me here is the recipe. Enjoy!
Appearance: 3 out of 5
Aroma: 2 out of 5
Flavor: 1 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 15
6-8 Frogs (Crapaud)or 12 to 16 legs (Ideally Fresh)
2 pegs garlic
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper(Hot crushed)
1 small onion (sliced)
1 tsp vinegar
1 Lime sliced in two
1/4 tsp thyme (chopped)
1/4 cup flour
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup fry oil
1 cup water
2 dasheen (cut into 4 pieces)
2 yams (cut into 4 pieces)
1/4 tsp salt
1 green pepper (sliced)
Only the legs of the Mountain chicken are used.
Wash the Mountain chicken and remove the skin by cutting and peeling it away with a knife, (as you would chicken). Wash with lime then rinse it with cold water.
Season mountain chicken legs with garlic, pepper, vinegar, thyme. Let stand for 2 hours so that seasoning may absorb.
Pat legs dry with a clean towel, then roll in flour and prepare to fry.
Before frying, heat the fryer oil, make sure the oil is very hot (almost smoking). Place legs in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Let it stand in a bowl.
Take 1 table spoon oil, add butter, melt and add onion. Saute, then add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil
Next, add flour to thicken the gravy, let it simmer under medium fire for approximately 5 minutes
Add the mountain chicken legs to the pot of gravy, stir and simmer. (I am pretty sure this would have helped the dish a bit but I did not do this for the sake of the photo.)
Peel and clean provisions, boil in salt water. Add green pepper. Boil provisions until tender, but not crushed. Test it by sticking it with a fork.
Serve with white rice, rice & peas and mountain chicken
Serves 4 Adults