On this, our last full day in Bavaro, Domincan Republic, we set out together on a date day… surfing at the remote beach of Macao. A beach surrounded by cliffs and identifiable by two shacks set up on the beach – one renting surfboards and the other selling fish, lobster and fruit. One half of our coupling has been surfing for years – learning early in the bays of Maine. The other half of our marriage acts on a surfboard much like they do in the kitchen – a little erratic but wholehearted and earnest.
After venturing into the Macao waters for two hours and taken advantage of its best waves, we’d naturally worked up quite an appetite. We sauntered to a thatch-covered table and were at once presented with cervezas and aguas from the purveyor of the beach food shack, Nicolas. Between his broken English, and our even more shameful espanol, we ultimately decided among the three of us that fish was our best bet for lunch, along with ensalada banane (banana salad? Ummm, sure, why not?).
Nicolas left us momentarily, and returned with a tray filled with three whole, fresh fish. Their gorgeous coloring and meaty flesh were incredibly alluring, and we happily chose two to become our lunch. Wisely we asked the price, and when Nicolas flashed his caluclator and smile announcing our lunch would put us back $1,800 (pesos), we quickly altered our order to uno.
A quick glance at our combination of American dollars and Dominican pesos showed that we were in danger of needing to dine and ditch unless either of the two shacks or the taxi driver would accept the universal sign of wealth: the Visa. Unfortunately, the odds were not in our favor, and our plastic was dismissed immediately. After covering the fees for surf rental we were left with a measly $8, three debit cards and two smiling American driver’s license.
We ushered Nicolas over and explained our situation as Spanglish-ly as possible, “Umm, hey, Nick… no mas dinero, por favor. We can’t eat the piscine. Or the bananas. Sooo, what will ochos dollares get us?” Poor ole Nicolas was in no mood for our tourist poverty and walked away clucking frustratedly in his native tongue.
We silently stared at each other wondering whether we could sneakily hightail it the many, many miles back to our villa without being seen, or if we could somehow stumble upon a beachfront ATM. But, salvation arrived in the form of our cab driver who had been lazing in the sun waiting for our surfing adventure to end. He kindly offered to pay for our lunch and escort us to an ATM closer to town to cover our debts to him.
When the fish arrived it tasted spicy, fresh, and light mixed strangely with guilt, relief and shame at the circumstance. The perfect flavor conclusion for the American debtors happily surfing through paradise. We can’t wait to recreate this seaside fare with our own twist at home, and the chef in our midst spent the afternoon cat-napping in the shade beside the ocean of our villa dreaming up this recipe.
Plank Roasted Red Snapper + Grilled Leek Halves
Cedar planks soaked in water for 1 hour
1 whole red snapper
Coarse black pepper
1 leek per fish
Slice the fish in three or four places along same direction as gills, one inch apart. Season red snapper simply with salt and pepper and olive oil. Place the snapper on the cedar plank androast them slowly on charcoal or gas grill until done (when pre-slices begin to open and bones are visible and appear translucent).
Slice leek in half lengthwise (upper leaves can remain for presentation, though, they are too coarse for eating… if preferred, remove upper leaves before grilling). Wash thoroughly. Leeks are much milder than onions and have a great texture when grilled. Again, a simple seasonong of olive oil, salt and pepper is best. Place on grill cut side down and cook untiltender. Serve whole fish on top of grilled leeks.
To finish the dish, drizzle it with a simple tarragon (or dill) citrus vinaigrette.
For the vinaigrette: use fresh tarragon or dill, shallots, lime zest, champane vinegar, olive oil, salt.Whisk all ingredients, taste and adjust acid, citrus or herbs as needed.
If desired, garnish with several seared plantain slices.