The Dish: Chef Alexander Smalls

Born and raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry, singing was Alexander Smalls’ first love. He toured internationally for years and won a Tony on Broadway and a Grammy for his recordings. 

But eventually, he swapped the theater for a culinary stage, drawing on his upbringing and experience traveling the world to create a unique fusion of cooking styles. The result has been a series of hit restaurants in New York, currently “The Cecil” and “Minton’s” in Harlem.

Here are some of Smalls’ signature recipes: 

She crab cakes with sweet relish tartar sauce 

Serves 6

Ingredients 

pound  lump crabmeat -- picked through for shells
2 tablespoons  onion -- minced
2 tablespoons  red pepper -- minced
2 tablespoons  celery -- minced
1 tablespoon  parsley -- chopped
2 eggs -- beaten
1 cup  white bread -- cubed & toasted
1/2 cup  breadcrumbs -- plain, more for dredging
2 teaspoons  fresh thyme -- minced
2 teaspoons  cayenne pepper
2 ears  fresh corn -- kernels removed
1 teaspoon  salt
1 teaspoon  black pepper
4 cups  canola oil -- for frying

Note: Various meats can be substituted -- for example, chicken can be substituted for the pork.

Directions

  1. Mix the first thirteen items together, and chill for one hour. 
  2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan to 325 degrees. Form cakes into 1 ounce patties. 
  3. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, and serve with sauce.

Chunky Tartar Sauce (for crab cake)

 ½ cup of Celery (Small Dice)
1 1/2 cup of red onions (dice)
1 3/4 cup of sweet pickle relish
2 bunch cilantro chopped
1 pint mayonnaise
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Fresh ground cracked black pepper TT
Salt TT

Black-eyed peas and arugula salad with poached pear

Serves 6-8

Ingredient

4 cups cooked black-eyed peas (cook in low sodium chicken stock)
10 cups cleaned arugula (or there about)
4 poached pears cut into large chunks (see below)*
2 small red onion minced
1 red pepper minced
2 cups sliced cucumbers (peeled)

Directions

  1. Toss all salad ingredients together with citrus vinaigrette (recipe below) and serve immediately.

Directions for poached pears

  1. Poach four pears in six cups of water for 30 minutes on  medium heat with 1/2 cup Splenda (sugar substitute), 1 cinnamon stick and 2 bay leaf. Let cool in liquid and chill for one hour. 

Citrus vinaigrette 

Makes 1 cup 

Ingredients

¾ cup unsweetened orange juice
2 tbs. fine chopped cilantro
¼ cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tbs. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. orange zest
4 tbs. olive oil (0ptional)
Salt & Pepper to taste (or salt substitute)   

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together and chill.

Roasted poussin yassa (bourbon dried fruit compote)

Ingredients for poussin

4 poussin, about 1 1/4 pounds each
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove neck from inside of poussin cavity, and set aside. Rinse inside and outside of poussin, and pat dry. Season each of the poussin cavities with salt and pepper. Fill each of the cavities with Coconut Curry Sticky Rice and Tie the poussin’s legs together with kitchen twine, and set aside.
  2. Rub poussin with 2 tablespoons soft butter; season with salt and pepper. Arrange poussin in roasting pan; place in oven. Roast poussin until golden brown and thigh juices run clear when pierced with a fork, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.
  3.  Add the Bourbon Apricot Dried Fruit Compote (recipes below) and serve. 

Yassa Marinade 

Ingredients 

1 bunch Mint
2 Cup soy Sauce
1 cup of orange juice 
1 each Onion
4 each Lemon Zest
3-5 Bird Eye Chilies
½  bunch Thyme  
4 teaspoons Dijon               
2 cup Grape Seed oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon 

Directions

  1. Place four to five poussins, about 1 1/4 pounds, each into marinade for three to six hours. Drain and pat dry.

Bourbon Apricot Dried Fruit Compote (Equal Parts)

Ingredients 

3 qts Apricots Chopped
1 qt Dates
2 qt Currants
2 qt Golden Raisons
2 qt Sliced White Dried Figs
1 qt Red onion shaved
5 ea. Asian pears med Dice
1-2 Cups Bourbon
1 qt Chicken stock as needed
1 Lemons Juiced and Zested
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients and simmer until fruit is reconstituted and alcohol is cooked out.

Coconut curry stick rice

Ingredients

1 qts Thai Sticky Rice (Soaked)
1/2 #10 Can Coconut Milk
8-10 ea Chinese Duck Sausage, Sliced
1 ea Onions Diced
8 ea Basil Leaves
3 ea Lime leaves
3 ea Bay Leaves
2 TBS Curry Powder
1 TBS Coriander Powder
2 TBS Garlic Powder
2 TBS Ginger Minced
1/8 Cup Soy Sauce
1/8 Cup Fish Sauce
Salt to taste

Directions 

  1. Soak rice in water. Drain and place in perforated hotel pan lined with cheese cloth and steam for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. In a pan add onions, ginger, and all spices with a tablespoon of oil and toast together. Then add sausage and sauté. 
  3. Add all other ingredients and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Place steamed rice in a bowl and pour hot coconut curry over rice and mix until well incorporated into rice. Salt to taste.


Fried okra and squid 


Ingredients

3 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper
1 cup water
1 1/2 pound okra 
2 pounds squid
2 cups canola oil
Fresh lemon slices, salt and pepper to taste 

Directions

  1. Combine rice flour, paprika and 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Add one cup of water and whisk until smooth. 
  2. Wash, pat and dry 1 1/2 pound of okra sliced lengthwise. Clean, pat, dry two pounds of squid in circle strips, leaving tentacles whole.

  3. Batter each piece separately and fry in 2 cups of canola oil till lightly crisp. TT Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh lemon slices.

Coconute cake 

Ingredients

1.5 cups butter
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
2.5 cups sugar
3/4 cups eggs
3/4 cups egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. Mix together with paddle attachment. Butter, flour, baking powder, salt and coconut until combined. Add in remaining ingredients and mix. 

  2. Spread on 3 half tray lined with parchment paper. 

  3. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 25 to 35 mins. 

Coconut mousse

Ingredients

1 tablespoon gelatin powder
3/4 cup cold water
1 cup cold water
1 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups coconut purée
3/4 cup egg whites 
3/4 cup sugar

Directions 

  1. Bloom gelatin in water and melt. Whip heavy cream to medium peaks and set aside.

  2. Heat coconut purée and add in melted gelatin. 

  3. Combine sugar and egg  in a mixing bowl and heat while stirring over a double boiler. Transfer to mixer and whip on high speed to stiff peaks and meringue is cool.  Fold in meringue to coconut purée.  Fold in whip cream. 

  4. To assemble - Make sure cake is cool down completely.  Alternate layers of coconut cake and mousse. Freeze before cutting. Thaw and serve. 

Masai cocktail 

Ingredients

2 oz Bourbon (Woodford)
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz pomegranate reduction
.5 oz simple syrup
2 orange half wheels
Garnish: orange/cherry flag

Directions

  1. Mix and serve on the rocks. This is a sour-style bourbon cocktail showcasing citrus and stone fruit notes.