Rawlston Williams Makes Two Caribbean Dishes with Salted Cod
For episode three of our new series, Chefs at Home, we’re joined by Rawlston Williams, chef/owner of The Food Sermon in Brooklyn. Williams is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and in this video, he demonstrates how to make two staple Caribbean dishes using cod fish—Bouillon, also called broth or boiling, and Saltfish with Ground Provisions, which is one of his favorites. He also names five Caribbean dishes he thinks everyone should try (plus a bonus!), including Roti, Bake and Shark, and more. Read on for step-by-step instructions from the episode, and follow along with the video above.
First Up: Bouillon
Williams starts out by making the fish bouillon, which he says “can range from just the fish and just a bunch of green bananas that you cook to a wider range of ground provisions.” He uses a mix of fresh cod and salt cod in his recipe, which also calls for cabbage, onions, garlic, Scotch Bonnet Pepper (or habanero, if you don’t have Scotch Bonnet), okra, and carrots, along with traditional ground provisions: sweet potatoes, breadfruit, eddoes and dasheen (aka taro).
Williams makes coconut dumplings that he’ll cook in the Bouillon by blending fresh coconut chunks with water (use as little water as possible), and then combining the mixture with flour and seasoning with kosher salt. Some like to put in sugar as well, he notes, but he feels the coconut is sweet enough. After forming it into a dough, he lets it rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, he cuts up the onion half and two cloves of garlic and adds them to a pot, pouring in coconut oil and cooking over medium-high heat. As it cooks, he cuts up the salted cod (you can use any salted fish), and adds it in, along with chadon beni (aka culantro, commonly known as chadon beni in some Caribbean Islands, per the video), some salt, and a quart of water.
Williams then cuts up vegetables into chunks, including the cassava, sweet potatoes, eddoes (aka cocoyam), and breadfruit. He warns to be mindful of over-cooking the breadfruit—otherwise, it could make the dish slimy. Then, he adds another quart of water to the pot, seasons it with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper—a mix of fresh black pepper, white pepper, green peppercorns, and pink peppercorns—as well as the Scotch Bonnet Pepper, saying “you cannot make a boiling without your Scotch Bonnet Pepper, at least in the Caribbean.” He also includes coconut milk, saying that there are different opinions on what is traditional or not, and he “just [goes] based on the flavors I love from the Caribbean in general.”
As the mixture in the pot starts to boil, he cuts up the okra and adds in the denser root vegetables (e.g. the dasheen and eddoes). The broth, covered with a lid, boils over medium heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, and in the meantime, he seasons the fresh cod with a mixture made with onion, garlic, chadon beni, and vinegar, as well as kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. He lets the fish rest and cuts up the dumplings, rolling the dough into ropes and cutting them into 1.5-inch pillows “almost like you would [with] gnocchi”. He learned how to make dumplings by “just practicing, by mimicking people, and just trial by error,” and he notes his way is not a traditional way. To cook them, he drops them in the broth and says they’re done when they start floating to the top. He also makes larger dumplings, “a little bit more robust and a little firmer,” for the saltfish dish to come.
Williams adds the breadfruit and the whole cod to the broth, as well as more water, the cabbage, the okra, and some carrots for color. He squeezes juice from half a lime in the broth to brighten it up and gives it a taste, saying “adding that hit of lime totally like brings it on home.” Finally, he removes the Scotch Bonnet Pepper, serves the bouillon in a bowl and adds a little bit more lime juice to finish it off.
Dish Two: Saltfish with Ground Provisions
Next, Williams tackles the Saltfish with Ground Provisions. He says that what provisions are “depends on who you speak to,” including root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, eddoe, and dasheen, as well as vegetables or fruits that come from a tree, including bananas, breadfruit, and green bananas. To start the dish, he picks the bones out of the salt cod (try to remove as many as you can), and steams the sweet potatoes, eddoes, and dasheen (taro)—the breadfruit, he roasts whole on an open flame on the stovetop for smoky flavor.
In the meantime, he cuts up onions and bell peppers, as well as cabbage (it “might be a little controversial” to put it in the dish, he notes, but he loves it), chadon beni, and tomatoes, too. He also cuts up a christophine (a member of the gourd family, also known as chayote, the video notes), and a Scotch Bonnet Pepper.
He adds the onion, bell pepper, and christophine mixture to a pan, and then seasons it with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. After that comes the mix of tomatoes and Scotch Bonnet Pepper, and coconut oil—you can use whatever oil you want, he notes, and he also says some add butter—followed by the cod pieces. The cabbage and chadon beni come next, and then, it’s time to turn off the heat. There will be residual carryover cooking, he explains, and you don’t want the mixture to overcook. He adds a little more salt and pepper.
All that’s left is cooking the coconut dumplings in boiling salted water and peeling the steamed provisions. Just like with the previous dumplings, Williams cooks them until they float to the top, and peels the dasheen, eddoes, and sweet potatoes. He also tests the breadfruit to see if it’s done, and ultimately when he cuts it open, determines it’s not ready/usable. But regardless, the dumplings (which he drizzled with a bit of coconut oil), cut up peeled provisions, and cod mixture all come together on a plate with a drizzle of coconut oil, and Williams tries it, declaring “it’s good, it’s delicious.”
Come back next Monday, October 5 for our next episode of Chefs at Home featuring Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen.