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Jerk--Cook-Off 41

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#1 Chris Hennes

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 09:15 AM

Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index.

Perhaps the most internationally well-known food from Jamaica involves the spicy dry-rub Jerk seasoning, cooked in a 55-gallon drum converted into a charcoal grill, and served screaming-hot as street food across the island. While most of us don't have 55-gallon drums in our backyards, jerk-style meats (and even tofu!) are perfect for outdoor grilling, and (in a pinch) roasting for those without access to a grill.

The recipes in RecipeGullet have the common theme of Allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers, in addition to the inclusion of scallions, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. We have a recipe for Jerk Chicken and for Jamaican Jerk Paste which it seems can be readily adapted to nearly any protein, with pork, goat, and chicken being the best-known examples. In addition, entire cookbooks exist dedicated to the subject—Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style, for example.

Here on the eGullet Forums we have topics devoted to Jerk Chicken, Jerk Sauce, Jerk Pork, a discussion on the authenticity of using Soy Sauce in Jerk, and even some advice on Oil Drum Cooking.

What is your "house blend" of Jerk spices? Soy Sauce included, or sacrilege? Doin' your thing over gas, or burning Pimento Wood, or living in an apartment with no grill and winging it?

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#2 tim

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 10:49 AM

HI,

Wouldn't we all love to have a source of pimento wood.

Jerk Marinade/Sauce


1 Small Habanero – Fire roast, peel, devein, seed

Dry Ingredients: Grind dry ingredients in a coffee grinder

2 Tbsp. All-spice berries, toasted
2 tsp. Black and white peppercorns, toasted
1 Bay leaf
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Pimenton
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Wet Ingredients: Blend in a small processor

1 small Habanero from above - chopped
4 to 5 Scallions, green and white, chopped
2 large Cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp. Ginger, fresh - chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh thyme leaves

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend to mix

Drizzle in:

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Peanut oil

Blend into a paste

Use about 3/4 cup per chicken. Marinate 4 hours to 12 hours.

Roast halved chicken over smoke at 250 degrees for one and one-half to two hours.

#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 12:48 PM

I'm wondering what sides are traditional or even appropriate with jerk. Rice and peas with some fried plantains?
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#4 annecros

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 07:03 AM

Yep, Jamaica has a pretty good stranglehold on Pimenta - although my Puerto Rican and South American neighbors are cultivating it with good success. Not sure why I have never tried to grow this one - possibly because I've moved around too much in the last 5 years or so. You have to have both male and female plants. Heck, there may be some growing in the scrub west of me.

Busy the next few days, but maybe early next week I will attempt a real morter and pestle stab at this again. It is generally too spicy for me, but I love the flavor. Hubby will rave.

Pigeon peas and rice are the traditional sides I think - or at least that's what I see around and about. Malanga, maybe? It would offset the fire. Some very nice breads come out of the Islands as well. There is a Jamaican Bakery and sort of luncheonette close by - maybe they will let me take pictures.

#5 Chris Hennes

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 07:09 AM

Yep, Jamaica has a pretty good stranglehold on Pimenta - although my Puerto Rican and South American neighbors are cultivating it with good success. Not sure why I have never tried to grow this one - possibly because I've moved around too much in the last 5 years or so. You have to have both male and female plants. Heck, there may be some growing in the scrub west of me.

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I have read in various online sources that soaked allspice berries can be added to the coals to get a similar flavor. Has anyone tried this? There is an online source for Pimento (Pimiento?) wood out of Minneapolis, I think, but they are quite pricey and frequently sold out.

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#6 annecros

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 07:21 AM

The botanical name is Pimenta dioica - my friends from the region call it "pimenta" - but pimento, allspice and Jamaica Pepper all appear on the packages in the ethnic markets.

Pimiento is a true capsicum (pepper) and something entirely different. I think I read somewhere that the original explorers were looking so hard for East Asian spices that they mistook the Allspice plant for black pepper, thus the confusion in nomenclature - as they are differnt species. I would have to look all that up again though to be sure.

#7 Chris Hennes

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 11:00 AM

Today I started on the marination process: I'm using the recipe from markemorse over here: it does call for soy sauce, incidentally:
Posted Image

I picked these babies up at the farmers' market this morning:
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What do you mean you don't use that many?!? Sissies... :biggrin: (OK, OK, I only used three of them, but the guy was only selling by the basket-full).

The recipe calls for "fire-roasted habañeros" so here goes with the fire roasting part:
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The ingredients are then combined into a food processor (or blender, or maybe even a mortar and pestle setup if you are hardcore...):
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I whirred it for a good long while since I didn't want any big chunks of habañero in there: better safe than sorry!
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What you finally end up with is a bit wetter than I was expecting: the recipe calls for a quite large quantity of orange juice (fresh-squeezed, of course) which serves as the liquid base. Having never made Jerk before I was imagining more of a paste-like texture that would get rubbed on, but this is definitely more of a marinade:
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Next up, the pork shoulder. I ordered this one up from Niman Ranch since I don't have a local pork supplier yet:
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I didn't actually want the whole thing to go Jerk, I am making some pulled pork as well, so I cut off a good looking chunk to get marinating Jerk-style:
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Finally, I put it one of those Reynolds' Vacu-Seal bags and sucked the air out to keep the marinade in good contact with the meat:
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My plan is to let this marinate for 48 hours, then slow-smoke it over charcoal with some soaked allspice berries added to the coals in an attempt to get some Pimento flavor. No idea if it will work, and I've never tasted something smoked over Pimento wood, so I guess I won't know! Hopefully it tastes good, anyway.

Edited because I can't type...

Edited by Chris Hennes, 26 July 2008 - 11:07 AM.

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#8 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 12:40 PM

I'll be interested to know how this turns out. With that 1/4 c of allspice, I can't imagine you'll lack for pimento flavor, but the soaked berries seem like a good tweak.
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#9 markemorse

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:01 PM

I'll be interested to know how this turns out. Did that recipe really call for 1/4 cup of allspice? :shock: Sounds like a lot, but really, how much less would make sense for 3kg (6.6lbs) of pork?

Time will tell.....

#10 Chris Hennes

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 01:41 PM

I'll be interested to know how this turns out. Did that recipe really call for 1/4 cup of allspice?  :shock:  Sounds like a lot, but really, how much less would make sense for 3kg (6.6lbs) of pork?

Time will tell.....

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Well, in the defense of the recipe, it calls for 1/4 cup of Allspice berries: once ground up I estimate it was more like a tablespoon. The flavor is definitely strong, but not overwhelming. I'm smoking it right now, so I guess we'll find out how well it worked in a couple hours. I only used a fraction of the recipe: I made a whole batch, but added just enough to the bag to make an effective marinade: maybe 1/4 of it?

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#11 markemorse

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 02:11 PM

Ah, yes, guess I could've clicked on that handy link to the recipe...:raz: this makes more sense. Carry on.

ETA: that amount of marinade looks right based on the photos....

Edited by markemorse, 28 July 2008 - 02:11 PM.


#12 johnnyd

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 02:33 PM

I'm wondering what sides are traditional or even appropriate with jerk. Rice and peas with some fried plantains?

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Hey we did lazy-persons jerk chicken this weekend (walkerswood/oil marinade - 4hrs) and cubed some plantain, fried in butter & oil (5min), stirred in garlic, ginger and allspice. After 10 min, added thyme, sugar, salt and some flat ginger ale!

Came out great!

Edited by johnnyd, 28 July 2008 - 02:34 PM.

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#13 Chris Hennes

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 06:24 PM

After a 48-hour marination, this is what the pork shoulder looked like:
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I soaked some allspice berries in water to add to the coals and create some smoke. In hindsight with was probably not worth the trouble: I did not detect much scent from them while smoking, and I think the standard smoke from the hardwood charcoal overpowered any slight flavor they may have imparted.
Posted Image

I set up an offset fire in the trusty Weber:
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I held the temperature between 200F and 250F for approximately five hours, to get this:
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That only brought the temp up to about 150F, so another hour or so in a 350F oven finished it off and brought it up to 200F. Action shot courtesy of my wife:
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Close-up of the pork:
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I followed markemorse's recommendations for the sauce, though I don't think the additional sugar was necessary:
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And finally:
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I served it with cilantro-lime rice and some sauteed squash, since I am not familiar with the appropriate authentic Jamaican accompaniments. The verdict? Tasty, but not enough heat, and too much allspice. I think I would cut the allspice in half, and double the habaneros next time. I know in markemorse's original post he was trying to keep the heat down, and I wasn't sure exactly how much heat there would be since habaneros can be a bit touchy, so that's no big deal, but your instincts about the amount of allspice called for seem correct: I think about half that quantity would be more appropriate. Maybe that was a typo?

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#14 petite tête de chou

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 09:50 PM

Hi Chris. I like quite a bit of heat in my food, too. So perhaps double the amount of habaneros? Too much? Also, do you find that habañeros have that often referred to "fruity" flavor about them? When I was first getting into chilies I wasn't too sure what that meant but I think that I do now. And while habañeros are bud-searing they really do have an almost diabolically citrus note about them.

I have a Weber that needs new handles- are your plastic or ceramic or something else entirely? They look nice and sturdy.

And that picture of your wet (oily?) hands with the flowers in the forefront, the milk, the vitamin..it just sings of happy, attentive domesticity. Love it!
Shelley: Would you like some pie?
Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

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#15 markemorse

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:54 PM

hey chris,

sorry that didn't really work out...that allspice conversation yesterday had me looking through my notes. I think the plan was to try another pass in the test kitchen, using some tips from here. Which happens to use twice the habaneros and only 2tbsp of allspice. But I think that's why this never went into RecipeGullet...I never did try it again....

hopefully it still made for passable eatin'...

#16 Chris Hennes

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 06:26 AM

hopefully it still made for passable eatin'...

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It wasn't bad per se, it was just dominated by the allspice. Some tinkering with the marinade will be required to get the ingredients in balance. In retrospect I should have done some adjustments when I first tasted it, but I sometimes have a hard time imagining the effect of a marinade based on its initial flavor. Gotta work on that!

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#17 Chris Hennes

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:39 AM

Anyone else out there doing the Jerk thing? I ran and grabbed another bag of charcoal last night so I am going to give a new batch a shot, this time with a few modifications.

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#18 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:55 AM

I have been thinking about jerk lamb, as it turns out, this weekend....
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#19 Prawncrackers

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 01:04 PM

I posted a jerked poussin on the Dinner! thread a couple of weeks go, here it is again:

Posted Image

Been making Jerk for a few years now and with any recipe like this it's evolved over time, here is mine as it stands. This amount makes enough marinade for 4 to 6 big chicken legs:

3 Big Scotch Bonnets - stalks removed but left whole
2-3 limes - Juice and zest
Dozen stalks of stripped thyme leaves
2-3 Fat Scallions - whites only
1 Tbl Pimento
2 Tbl Molasses Sugar
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tsp Salt
Splash of Soy
Splash of Coconut Rum - optional nearer the end of the marination time.

Blend everything very well and marinate overnight. Make sure plenty of the marinade sticks when you're cooking.

For me, Jerk has to be lip-smackingly hot with the fruity freshness of citrus and pimento. The sugar helps with the nice caramelisation and the coconut rum gives a pleasing twist if used. Also, i find the Scotch Bonnet chillies vary in quality and they are the most important ingredient. From the supermarkets around here they are small and bland, but from the Jamaican stall at the market they are big, wrinkly and fiery. The problem is you can't really try them before you buy - a really fiery one would kill you!! Ok call me chicken but i think y'all know what i mean :wink:

#20 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 05:24 AM

Boned leg of lamb was on sale this week, and I've been wondering what would happen if you tried to prepare a jerk lamb leg the way you'd prepare pulled pork: smoked then finished low and slow. Lamb leg lacks the internal fat of a pork shoulder, of course, but I think that I could get a pretty good, if inauthentic, result nonetheless.

I didn't have much time this morning to prepare a paste, so I used this Inner Beauty hot sauce knock-off, which has a jerk base though adds mustard and lacks thyme. The mustard seemed a good idea with the lamb, and I could easily supply thyme. Finally, since I was going to let this sit in the fridge overnight, I didn't want to add any additional uncooked acid, so no lime.

The lamb leg butterflied so that the marinade could get in deep:

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Lots of thyme laid out:

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IB sauce poured over and massaged in:

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Roughly rolled pre-wrap:

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Rolled in plastic wrap:

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Tomorrow I'll tie it, smoke it in the Bradley until 140F or so, and then bring it inside to finish. Pics to come.
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#21 RAHiggins1

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 06:14 AM

Crowder peas and rice, plantains saute'd in butter and oil like mentioned above, and possibly fried cabbage and carrots are all normal sides.

Akees are a traditional vegetable dish.
Callaloo (Amaranth) is a form of Jamacian greens, prepare it with okra and spinach water. Spinach can be substituted for the Amaranth as well.

Baked papaya would work

This is from "Time Life - Foods of the world"

Cut a 5-6# green papaya in half, scoop out pulp and coursley chop it.
Saute 1 cup of onions, and add the pulp and 4 medium tomatoes (that have been cored, peeled, and seeded) 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Let cook down until most of the pot liquor is evaporated. Stuff the papaya halves with the mixture, spread some soft butter over the top of each half and coat with a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake in a shallow roasting pan in a water bath for 20 mins or until the top is browned and the papaya tender. I suggest a 350º oven.

Edited by RAHiggins1, 16 August 2008 - 06:23 AM.

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#22 hummingbirdkiss

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 09:13 AM

best sides ..pickled peppers, okra fungi, johnny cakes or flitters (spelled correctly you want flitters not fritters)
double fried plantains ..and yes rice and peas

any recipe for jerk is made better and really if you want it to be Island style you have to add a spoonful of Grace's Jerk

seriously everyone in the islands does that they make up their own jerk recipe or use mammy's and then add a spoonful of jerk seasoning ..(just like mammy!)

Edited by hummingbirdkiss, 16 August 2008 - 09:14 AM.


#23 lennyk

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 10:41 AM

there is a common misconception that jerk food is supposed to be chili hot,
this is false, I've been to Jamaica and had jerk in a number of places
and it was not insanely hot as many assume it to be, however they typically have hot sauces to sprinkle on
Jerk is more about the process which is not much different than bbq smoking.

a typical jerk centre has a charcol grill which is then entirely covered with
the pimento sticks so that you can even see the coals from above and then the meat is placed on the sticks which will smoke from the coals below, then entire grill is then covered with sheets of metal

the sides are fries, buttered bread, roasted breadfruit and festival which is basically a fried torpedo shaped slightly sweet cornbread about 4 inches long
for me the best jerk item was the sausages

#24 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 04:03 PM

What it looked like coming out of the Bradley:

Posted Image

I took it out a bit later than I'd have liked (it was at 150F), and because it wasn't shoulder it did dry out a little bit. But the smoke, sauce, thyme, and lamb were a great combination. I think next time I'd grab it at 130F or 135F -- or try to find a shoulder around here.

The final plating:

Posted Image

Clockwise from 12, the lamb, a nectarine and ginger compote, fried plantains, rice and peas (black beans -- daughter's favorite), and the hot sauce. Had it all with a tall Gingered Gentleman to drink.
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#25 C. sapidus

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 04:57 PM

Chris, that looks like a killer meal. I hope to try smoking jerk pork one of these days.

We made grilled jerk chicken thighs and drumsticks (clicky for recipe), shortcut rice and “peas”, and roasted sweet potatoes. No habaneros to be found, so we used Korean chiles and marinated the chicken for about eight hours.

I have no idea if the jerk chicken recipe is “authentic” or not. The marinade and low heat kept the chicken falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy, but my baseline jerk chicken -- from Jamaica Joe’s in Silver Spring – was more saucy (probably braised rather than grilled).

I do miss the accompaniments at Jamaica Joe’s: Jamaican Hellfire Sauce mixed with Pickapeppa Sauce, DG ginger beer, meat patties, Bob Marley videos, and, on occasion, the wait staff softly joining the chorus of “No Woman, No Cry”.

Posted Image

#26 Chris Hennes

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 06:25 AM

OK, I took another stab at Jerk, using chicken this time, and the recipe from Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style. It had similar ingredients, though in vastly different proportions, to the recipe I used above: I really need to get myself down to Jamaica to see how much intra-island variation exists. For example, her recipe for the marinade-version has no citrus in it: the acid is added as cider vinegar. The bulk of the liquid in this very thick "marinade" actually comes from the onion.

Here is the result (I meant to photograph the plated version, but by the time I remembered we had already eaten it!):
Posted Image

In the background is a piece of Festival, also from the book. This chicken recipe is a definite keeper: the result, after 3 1/2 hours of hickory smoking, was one of the best barbeque chicken recipes I have ever had anywhere. Even the white meat was tasty! The Festival was not so successful: I do not know what the correct texture is, but I hope this was not it... it was much too dense, in my opinion.

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#27 Daniel

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:14 AM

OK, I took another stab at Jerk, using chicken this time, and the recipe from Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style. It had similar ingredients, though in vastly different proportions, to the recipe I used above: I really need to get myself down to Jamaica to see how much intra-island variation exists. For example, her recipe for the marinade-version has no citrus in it: the acid is added as cider vinegar. The bulk of the liquid in this very thick "marinade" actually comes from the onion.

Here is the result (I meant to photograph the plated version, but by the time I remembered we had already eaten it!):
Posted Image

In the background is a piece of Festival, also from the book. This chicken recipe is a definite keeper: the result, after 3 1/2 hours of hickory smoking, was one of the best barbeque chicken recipes I have ever had anywhere. Even the white meat was tasty! The Festival was not so successful: I do not know what the correct texture is, but I hope this was not it... it was much too dense, in my opinion.

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If the festival was too dense then you probably got it right! Looks awesome Chris.. You need to get yourself some canned ackee...

I made jerk chicken the other day.. It was actually jerk cornish game hen.. I marinated it for two days and then pressed it down on a cast iron grill pan in my apartment..

Served with coconut rice.. The rice was wonderful.. Cooked the rice in the milk of a few coconuts and some red beans.. Added scallions and fresh grated coconut.. It was really good.

#28 Daniel

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:19 AM

there is a common misconception that jerk food is supposed to be chili hot,
this is false, I've been to Jamaica and had jerk in a number of places
and it was not insanely hot as many assume it to be, however they typically have hot sauces to sprinkle on
Jerk is more about the process which is not much different than bbq smoking.

View Post


I have had jerk food in many places in Jamaica and often times it is incredibly hot.. I have also had it cooked out of garbage cans to pretty extensive grill set ups..

#29 Chris Amirault

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 06:25 PM

I've got two pounds of jerk lamb defrosting. The flavor should be solid, but it's likely to be dry, and would therefore benefit from some sauced or sauteed treatment. Ideas? I'm stumped.
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#30 JAZ

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 07:14 PM

Chris, I've served jerk chicken skewers with a mango salsa, which goes well with the flavor. If you wanted more of a sauce consistency, you could puree some mango, onion, and lime juice. For seasoning, maybe allspice?





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