Thursday, May 6, 2010

you jerk!


So I went to Jamaica once, but I don’t remember eating anything jerked. In fact, the only food item that I remember eating was the beef patty flaking all over me as I ran through the terminal at the Montego Bay airport, all while chugging a Red Stripe. Hey, I have my priorities (and on that trip, it was beer). The trip wasn’t memorable for the food; it was memorable for the day and a half it took my friend Patty and I to get to our resort due to wonderful Hurricane Gustav; the wallet stealing incident (Patty’s); the never-ending hangovers (both of us); the boatloads of Indian soap operas that I watched on the hotel TV; the Canadian naval officers who were shocked, SHOCKED I say! at American behavior (not ours, for once); and a guy named Ricky or Ronnie or whatever his name was, a swinger from Denver, who insisted on following me around all over the place.


When I read this laundry list over, it doesn’t appear that I had a good time, but I really did. Honestly. Anyway.

I’ve made all kinds of jerk marinades and sauces over the years, and they’ve all had variations from one another. I liked this marinade recipe from Weber’s Real Grilling because I could toss it all in the food processor in the morning and keep it in the fridge until I was ready to use it later that night. My time these days is quite limited, what with starting my new Fancy Corporate Job and all, so if I can spend 10 minutes in the kitchen in between conference calls, I consider that useful therapy. In the past I’ve made the recipe listed on the side of the McCormick bottle of Jerk Seasoning, and that was fine; but these days I’m trying to stay away from putting additives and crap in my food if I can help it.


If you’re using a store-bought jalapeño and you like your food to be spicier, toss another jalapeño in the food processor. If, however, you’ve got some lovely homegrown jalapeños, such as I plan to have later this summer when my newly potted plant starts gushing out fruit, then use only one. It’s been my experience that homegrown hot peppers tend to have a lot more kick than store-bought, a LOT more. Plus they’re better for you (you won’t see me putting chemicals or Round Up anywhere near my plants).

I also think this would be good with some baked tofu instead of chicken (if you’re into tofu, that is). You could marinate cubes of tofu beforehand and either pan fry or bake in the oven. Just switch out the chicken stock for veggie stock if you want to keep it all vegetarian.

A note on the chicken: this is a great use for leftover chicken, if you roasted one up and have bits left over. This last time I made this, I roasted 3 bone-in-skin-on breasts on 350 for about 45 minutes or so, first dabbing them with a bit of canola oil and salting them liberally. You could go the extra step and marinate the chicken first in the jerk marinade, and then either bake or grill them that way. If you are going this route, save some of the marinade or make extra of it; you’ll need some for the sauce.


Jerk Chicken Pasta Toss
This feeds many. At least 5 or 6 people.

Marinade/Sauce:
adapted from Weber’s Real Grilling

. ½ cup (or one small) onion, roughly chopped
. 1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped
. 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
. 2 tablespoons soy
. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola)
. ½ teaspoon ground allspice
. ¼ teaspoon garlic flakes (you could use a regular clove of garlic if you’d like)
. ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
. ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
. 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Toss everything in a food processor and process until smooth.

For the rest:

. 3 or 4 cooked chicken breasts, or about 3 cups of cooked leftover chicken, or 3 chicken breasts marinated in some of the marinade, then grilled/broiled/baked, however method you prefer. Once they’re cooked, either chop up or shred into medium sized chunks.
. 1 green pepper, diced (not too small)
. 1 onion, diced (not too small)
. Olive oil
. 2 to 3 cloves garlic, microplaned or minced
. 1 ½ cups chicken stock
. ½ cup white wine
. Approx. 3 tablespoons to ½ cup jerk marinade/sauce
. ¼ cup chopped cilantro
. Juice of one lime
. Salt & pepper
. ¼ cup heavy cream (hey – you need some fat in your diet. The cream balances the whole dish out. And it’s not like you’re pouring it straight down your throat).
. One package of noodles. I usually get whole grain egg noodles for this dish, but I’ve made it before with linguine and it turned out swell.

1. Get some water on to boil for your pasta. Once it’s boiling, toss in a handful of salt, then your pasta. Cook according to package directions, drain, and keep to the side.

2. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium heat, pour in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then toss in the onion and green pepper. Cook until soft but not brown, about 4 or 5 minutes (if the vedge is getting too brown, turn the heat down). Add the garlic, stir and cook for one minute. Add the chicken stock, wine, jerk, cilantro, lime juice, and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes. It will reduce a bit.

3. Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream and stir to combine. Toss in the chicken; stir to combine. Toss in the noodles; stir. Turn the heat off and plate up.

Patty at the bar near our gate, Hartsfield Atlanta Airport

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