Nestled between the intersection of Avenue A and East 7th Street, the second location of Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily’s 7A is a Jamaican oasis in New York’s East Village. And with two decades of culinary bravado, executive chef Adam Schop is the brain behind the highly rated dishes at 7A. “People come here because they want a home cooked meal. We definitely hit a paradigm with that,” Schop says.
But getting home cooked Jamaican meals to taste like they came out of Schop’s kitchen requires authentic ingredients and a relaxed cooking style. Schop says that first-time cooks have a habit of fixating on the spice factor of a dish. “People try to make it too spicy,” he says. “The chilies have a significant amount of flavor in them as well as heat and the flavor you get out of them can’t be duplicated by using domestic chilies.” Schop advises to use traditional peppers of the Caribbean instead of jalapeños and serranos, which give the dish a more green taste unlike the fruiter, scotch bonnets.
And if you are wanting to cook fish, it’s all about getting it prepared correctly. Talking to your fishmonger about getting the freshest catch and making sure to get it filleted is the first step. Treating it with Japanese style garlic, chili, vinegar and onion brine and salting technique is the next. “I like treating fatty fishes with pre-cure and a pre-bine,” says Schop. “It helps firm it out, give it a pre-texture and gives it pre-flavor. It’s a better way of handling the fish.”
So what 7A dish can you order in house but easily recreate at home with these tips in mind? Schop decided to share the recipe for one of Miss Lily’s most popular items: Grilled Spanish mackerel with rundown sauce, charred kale and scotch bonnet puree. The mackerel is grilled with sofrito and coconut reduction, with hints of allspice and thyme. And keeping in line with Jamaican food, Schop goes for the scotch bonnet pepper in this dish, paired with grilled kale. “Using those flavors, it’s a pretty iconic dish of the Caribbean,” says Schop. “It’s really simple to prepare. There aren’t a lot of tricks and its easy cooking that translates to a home cooked meal.”
Mackerel Run Down
-4 mackerel fillets
-1 bunch of kale
-2 c. of salt
-16 oz. cider vinegar
Cover mackerel fillets in salt for 1 hour. Then rub off the salt and submerge them in vinegar for 2 hours, then refrigerate until ready to cook.
-1 tbsp. minced garlic -1 tbsp. minced ginger -1 tbsp. minced scallion
-1 minced scotch bonnet chili
-3 tbsp. grape seed oil
Brush seasoning oil on both sides of fish and place the fillets skin side down on the grill. Tip: don’t let the flames singe the fish too much. Flip and cook on flesh side for 10 seconds. Remove fillets from grill and brush it again with seasoned oil. Plate the sauce, kale and then the mackerel with the salad over fish fillets.
-400 ml. unsweetened coconut milk
-3 sprigs of thyme
-1 tbsp. all spice
-2 tbsp. chopped ginger
-1 tbsp. chopped garlic
-¼ c. chopped scallion
-20 grams of scotch bonnet
For the sauce, combine all ingredients and simmer until the volume is reduced to a custard-like consistency. If it’s too thick, adjust accordingly with water. For seasoning oil, combine all ingredients to oil and simmer on low heat until vegetables are tender.
-1 shaved red onion
-1 bunch picked cilantro leaves
-1 shaved scotch bonnet chili (very thin) -1 oz. lime juice
Mixed shaved onion, chili and cilantro in lime juice and season with salt. Toss the kale in the seasoned oil and grill it until edges are charred and leaves are tender. Continuously turn it to prevent burning.