Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Conch Republic of Key West


The Weekly Menu

The Conch Republic

Cuban Chicken


The Conch Republic of Key West

Thank goodness. Away from Atlanta. Better yet, away from a city. Disappearing is one of the nicest things to do when you know you need a break.
The beach, Cuba, cigars, Ernest Hemingway, the overrated Jimmy Buffet, Duval Street, Fantasy Fest, fishing, Margs, speed limit at 30 mph. All of these things and more are bound to make you forget the outside world despite the fact that this isolated hideaway is now slightly more touristy and expensive to live. Most importantly, however is I love the cuisine. It is one of the few locations where you can enjoy foods from the American south, the tropics, and Cuba all on one island.

For instance, you can enjoy a wide variety of fish including conch, shrimp, crawfish, crab, lobster, mahi mahi, yellowtail, grouper, and snapper. You can get your hands on all the plantains, bananas, limes, guavas, mangos, coconut, pork, and chicken you could desire. And then there are the dishes that come out of these great foods: the infamous conch fritters, Cuban bread, Cuban mix sandwiches, paella, baked fish, and roast pork. Key West is renown for creating the Key lime pie, margaritas, and yes, even sloppy Joe’s. This particular type of cuisine may not be everyone’s favorite, but it always influences me to extend my visit.


Some notable places worth trying: Two Friends serves great breakfast and lunch; Caroline’s is a quaint but elegant spot for dinner; the numerous bars lying along touristy Duval Street are fun if you want a good party with other visitors; Hurricane Hole is entertaining with the locals and has tasty fish, and my favorite, Sandy’s Café if you want some Cuban cuisine straight from the source. You must try the Cuban mix sandwich from this walk up window.

My favorite discovery so far has been Cuban bucci which is Cuban style espresso and by far is the strongest and smoothest espresso I have had in recent memory. Yes, that does include all the Italian espresso I have had in the past in Europe. You can find it at the laundromat or better known as Sandy’s Café which is on Truman and White Street.


Key West is a destination I always find as a pleasant experience no matter what time of year you visit. The people are always friendly, the weather is pleasant even during hurricane season, and the food is a fresh expression of its culture. I highly recommend going at least once and do extend your visit while you are there. It is well worth it.

Cuban Chicken


I have had my eye on this recipe for several years now from Florida Keys Cooking by Patricia Artman, and I finally tried it recently. The recipe calls for frying the chicken first, but I decided to make a marinade and cooked it over the stove, for I am not a general fan of fried food. Either way, this simple dish is an exceptional combination of sweet and tart flavors. I recommend serving this with yellow rice.


1/4 C Olive Oil plus 2 Tbs
1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Pepper

2 Tbs Lime Juice

2 lbs Chicken, Cut

1 Medium Onion, Cut Into Wedges

1 Sweet Pepper

1 Plug Garlic

1 6 oz. Can Tomato Sauce

1 Tbs Capers
½ C Raisins
½ C Stuffed Olives


1. Prepare Marinade: Mix the olive oil, salt, pepper, and lime juice in large pot over medium heat. I also used a tsp of jerk chicken spices I have which has chili powder and paprika so I recommend a couple of pinches of those if you have them. Allow to sit a couple of minutes before bringing chicken into pot. Cook until light brown.

2. In additional pot, cook the additional 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, and garlic until tender.. Pour tomato sauce, capers and raisins and stir.


3. Mix vegetables into the chicken and allow to simmer for at least 15-20 min. Add stuffed olives several minutes before serving. Serve over yellow rice.


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