On our first night in the Florida Keys, we popped into a local bar called Cabana Breezes Oceanfront Dining & Bar in Key Colony Beach at supper time to fill our road-trip-weary tummies. An unassuming menu and open-air atmosphere greeted us, and when the kids rushed off to play corn hole, we took a deep breath of the salty air and stared into the never land of distant thunderclouds and blue-green water just beyond the restaurant’s deck.
Honestly, we didn’t expect to find such fresh, local fare hidden behind such an unimpressive exterior, but one Shrimp Cocktail order led to a second. Each shrimp offered the most unbelievably fresh and sweet locally caught shrimp we’d had in a long while served with a homemade horseradish sherry cocktail sauce.
At the top of the Cabana Breezes dinner menu is the “Slider International,” offering house made sliders served in three different styles: Cabana, French and Keys. One bite into the Keys-style sliders, and everyone’s attention was stolen from the scenery and focused directly on the food at hand. A sweet bun smeared with a key lime mayonnaise held a three ounce beef patty dripping with melted pepper jack cheese and topped with a couple of slices of fresh avocado. Each juicy bite was simple and unassuming, just like our surroundings, ending with a citrus-y reminder that said, “Welcome to the Florida Keys.” We ordered seconds, again.
As our vacation progressed, we bumped into several more variations of a key lime mayonnaise including a cilantro version we discovered at Kaya’s Island Eats, MM 14.5 in Saddle Bunch Keys. Upon arriving home, we made quick work of developing our own easy version of this tasty memory using the fresh key limes we brought home as a souvenir.
A Florida Keys Dinner Menu: “Keys” Sliders with Coconut Sweet Potatoes
Key Lime Cilantro Mayonnaise: The Cheater’s Recipe
Instead of making the mayonnaise from scratch (which you can do), try using this shortcut recipe to get a similar result in a short period of time.
4-6 servings when used as condiment
- 1 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise (or another high quality traditional mayonnaise)
- 2 teaspoons fresh key lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well. Adjust seasonings to fit your particular tastes. Chill until ready to serve.
Recipe: Coconut Sweet Potatoes
This quick and easy side dish works just as well with burgers as it does served alongside pork medallions or a filet mignon.
- 5-6 medium sized sweet potatoes
- Coconut oil
- Kosher salt
- Wash and scrub sweet potatoes, but don’t peel. Slice the potatoes by hand to 1/8 inch thickness (slightly thicker than a traditional potato chip) or use the slicing feature on your food processor or mandolin slicer.
- Preheat a thin coat of coconut oil (approximately 1/4 cup) in a nonstick skillet to medium heat. Place a single layer of sweet potato slices in the oil and saute until tender and some are beginning to get crispy on edges.
- Remove cooked sweet potatoes to a paper towel covered plate to drain and very lightly salt.
- Add another single layer of sweet potatoes to the skillet and repeat the process. Add more oil in small increments as oil adds that “island” flavor to the potatoes during cooking.
- Repeat until all sweet potatoes are cooked. Serve immediately.
Recipe: “Keys” Sliders
6 servings, 2 sliders per serving
- 12 potato slider buns
- 2 lbs Ground chuck
- 10 slices pepper jack cheese
- 2 fresh avocados
- Key Lime Cilantro Mayonnaise
- salt and pepper
- Build charcoal fire or heat gas grill or stovetop grill pan. Shape the meat into 12 (2-inch) patties of equal size and thickness. Lightly season patties with salt and pepper.
- When grill or grill pan is medium-hot, brush the grate with olive or vegetable oil to keep the sliders from sticking. Place the sliders on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the sliders over carefully and cook for another 4-6 minutes, until sliders are medium-rare (remember sliders will continue cooking after they are removed from the grill). For the last two minutes of the grilling time, place one slice of pepper jack cheese over each patty and close the grill lid, if appropriate.
- Separate the two halves of each bun and toast the halves inside facing down on the grill for approximately two minutes. Watch them and don’t let them burn!
- Remove the slider patties from the grill to a platter and cover with foil.
- Remove the buns to a separate platter with the inside of the bun facing up. Smear Key Lime Cilantro Mayo generously on each bun, top each base with a slider patty and two slices of avocado. Cover with the top of the bun.
- Serve the “Keys” Sliders immediately with Coconut Sweet Potatoes and a additional Key Lime Cilantro Mayo for dipping.
For a refreshing key lime beverage, try this recipe for Key Lime Chiller to round out your Florida Keys themed dinner menu.