She was the new kid on the block at the 42nd Annual Virgin Islands Charteryacht League Culinary Competition. Yet Allison Shivone, chef aboard the Privilege 48, Pentesilla II, with husband, Dan, as captain, remembered the words of a college professor as she took her dish to the judges. That is, ‘be true to yourself’. The mantra paid off when Shivone’s culinary skills enabled her to beat fifteen other entries to place first with her Tamarind Glazed Chorizo Meatballs served over Coconut Rice with a Mango-Papaya Puree.
Shivone, who starts her first season of charter, has never lived far from the ocean. She grew up in New Jersey and moved to Virginia as a junior high schooler.
“Both of my parents worked and, since we were a family of six, I took weight off my mom’s shoulders by cooking the family dinner. I remember getting my first Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook at age nine. The first recipe I made was a stuffed pork roast. I’ve always been adventurous,” she says.
Shivone’s intrepid nature extended to the out-of-doors. She participated in several Outward Bound wilderness classes while in high school. Then, after attending the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, she worked for a sailing and kayaking company on Bald Head Island. It was here she met husband Dan.
“Many cruisers heading south passed through Bald Head Island. Dan and I always thought about casting off in the same direction. We talked to several of the transient sailors, many of them retirees, and they told us to follow our dream now, don’t wait,” says Shivone.
The two bought a 34ft Irwin and spent six months cruising from the Carolinas to the Bahamas. The sail proved instructive, teaching Shivone hands-on how to navigate a galley. She also practiced making use of locally-sourced fresh ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and fish to prepare scrumptious daily meals. Later, after this voyage, Shivone learned through friends about an opportunity to charter Pentesilla II out of St. Thomas. They embarked on their first charter in October.
“Contests are a great form of camaraderie and, since we were new, we wanted to get our name out there. Plus, it sounded exciting. My husband calls me ‘a fun loving competitive spirit’, in fact that wording was part of our wedding vows,” says Shivone, about her interest in entering the VICL culinary competition.
This year, charter yacht chefs were tasked with using tamarind. This tropical fruit is found in finger-long brown pods where its dark brown seeded flesh is sweet-sour in flavor. Shivone purchased several ripe tamarind and set to work experimenting a week prior to the contest.
“I enjoy the combination of sweet and savory flavors, so I steeped the tamarind to separate the pulp from the seeds, combined it with lemon juice, brown sugar and ketchup, and simmered it to make a thick sauce. This is what I used to baste the meatballs. I chose chorizo since it has more of a kick than just ground beef and would complement the flavor of the tamarind well.”
Shivone drew from her experience of serendipitously using nearly over-ripe mangoes and papayas to make a guest-wowing chili-spiked fruit puree on a previous charter and incorporated a similar recipe into her competition dish. Coconut rice proved the winning final touch.
“Inspiration? I’d say the best ingredient is love,” says Shivone. “That’s what was always so special about our family dinners growing up. Now, I enjoy watching our guests sit down, watch the sunset and enjoy a good meal. In fact, the first greeting we offer our guests as they come aboard at the start of a charter is ‘welcome home’.”
Tamarind Glazed Chorizo Meatballs, Coconut Rice with Mango-Papaya Puree
1 cup Basmati white rice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 whole ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 whole ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
Chili and paprika powder, to taste
½ pound chorizo
½ pound ground beef
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup green onions
¼ cup cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste
½ cup freshly steeped tamarind juice
½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
Bring rice, coconut milk and chicken broth to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is fully cooked.
Combine mango, papaya, yogurt, chili and paprika in a blender until liquefied. Set aside.
Combine chorizo, ground beef, bread crumbs, half of the green onions, cilantro, salt and pepper; form into small meatballs. Set aside until ready to cook.
In a large saucepan, combine fresh tamarind juice, lime juice, brown sugar and ketchup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow mixture to thicken. Add meatballs and cook, rotating and basting with tamarind mixture frequently. Once meatballs are fully cooked, remove from heat.
On a dish, add mango-papaya puree and top with coconut rice. On a skewer, top coconut rice with tamarind glazed meatballs and drizzle sauce into rice and puree. Garnish with remaining green onions and serve.