Music to eat by: Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytalls
One of the first real cookbooks I ever received was Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook and one of the first recipes I ever made out of it was for Jerk Chicken – something I subjected my unsuspecting little brother to when our parents were out of town. Sadly for us, I did not know that the book was a little hit or miss (Note: Her Silver Palate Cookbook is fantastic!) and the recipe in that book for Jerk Chicken was, alas, a miss (although, maybe it had something to do with the really bizarre substitutions I made at the time and the fact that I was a teenager and didn’t know what I was doing…). Anyway, I put it aside and thought that someday, I’d find another recipe.
Someday turned out to be about 15 years later. Someday is today and it was worth the wait.
So what is Jerk anyway? Cause you know, it sounds rude…
Jerk is a Jamaican method of cooking that involves marinating or dry rubbing meat in jerk seasoning and then cooking it at high heat over open flame. Traditionally, the most important parts of the jerk seasoning are that it contains allspice and Scotch Bonnet or Habenero peppers.
It is thought that the method of cooking was introduced to Jamaica by the Maroons (descendents of escaped slaves). The word “jerk” may either have come from the Spanish word charqui, used to describe dried meat, or from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking.
On to the food…
In my previous post, I wrote about the beautiful hot peppers I picked up from the farmers market. One of the first recipes I decided to make with them was Jerk Shrimp. It just sounds so inviting – tender grilled shrimp slathered in a blazing hot sauce washed down with a cold beer. Like being on vacation in my own backyard. Since we are in the last days of summer, I thought it was either now or never.
The recipe I used came out of Some Like It Hot: Spicy Favorites from the World’s Hot Zones (I think I’ve mentioned this book a few times?). There are two recipes for Jerk in this book – one for shrimp and one for chicken. The shrimp one doesn’t have any citrus in it. Alas, I could not resist the call of the citrus and figured a shorter marinade time (so it didn’t cook itself in the citrus juices) would suffice.
After whirring together the ingredients for the marinade, I thought it tasted OVERWHELMINGLY like soy sauce. I was a little sad because I felt all the other ingredients got lost in the mix. But my skepticism was unfounded because after grilling, the other flavors came through.
And let me tell you, this stuff is hot. Not OMG Get Me A Jug Of Milk hot, but pretty dang hot. But I like hot.
The next day…
Since I cannot leave well enough alone, and since we had quite a bit of leftover marinade, I thought I could tweak it a little more and see if I liked it better. I boiled the leftover marinade (to get rid of any critters) and added a little vinegar and brown sugar. I then cooked up some chicken bathed marinaded in the new concoction. Consensus? Yes. This is the way to go (and to be honest, it’s closer the recipe he uses for Jerk Chicken).
To round out our Jerk Shrimp meal, I made some Grilled Mashed Plantains with Lime. Sure, I’m probably confusing Cuban food and Jamaican, but whatever. I like plantains.
Adapted from Clifford Wright.
Makes enough for 2 lb of meat. If using chicken, marinade time can be up to 24 hours. But only marinade maybe 30 minutes for shrimp.
1/2 bunch scalllions, chopped
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 habaneros, chopped (ok, I seeded them cause I was scared)
1/4 bunch cilantro (leaves only) chopped
1 T ground black pepper
1.5 t nutmeg
1.5 t allspice
1.5 T dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup peanut oil (I used vegetable)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I still think this is a little too much. Feel free to use a bit less)
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (rice, palm, apple cider, something like that)
2 lb shrimp (or other meat)
1. Place all marinade ingredients (yo – that is everything EXCEPT the shrimp) in a blender/food processor and puree until smooth.
2. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the marinade. Let marinate for 30 minutes. NOTE: If using chicken, you can marinate up to 24 hours.
3. Light your grill. Remove shrimp from marinade and place on skewers
4. Grill to your liking – I was using maybe 26 count shrimp and grilled maybe 1-1.5 minutes on each side.
5. Enjoy with your favorite beer!
Mashed Grilled Plantains with Lime
2 ripe plantains
4 T unsalted butter
2 T brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
1/2 t kosher salt
1. Ok, I was lazier than lazy here and threw the butter, lime, zest, sugar and salt together and popped it in the microwave till the butter melted. But you COULD put it in a saucepan if you are more civilized.
2. Slice plantains in half lengthwise.
3. Your grill should be nice and hot already (and if it isn’t, get to it!)
4. Grill plantains maybe 4 minutes on one side. Flip over and grill another 4 minutes on the other side. (This really depends on how ripe your plantains are and how hot your grill is. My plantains were not all that ripe, so if yours are truly black, you might want to not grill them for so long. Really, you just want to cook them to the point where they are easily mashable).
5. Add grilled plantains and butter mixture to a bowl. Mash with a fork till desired consistency.
6. Serve right away!
Ms. Pantry Raid