I just got a whiff of Jerk spices in the air. My nose is tingling, my belly is growling and my mouth is certainly watering. Well, it’s almost that time of year again. Halloween has just past, Thanksgiving is a little ways off and so is Christmas. So what could I be talking about?
Did anyone mention to you that there’s a Jerk festival coming up soon? No? Well the largest Caribbean food festival outside of Jamaica is once again upon us. It’s the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival and it will held 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Markham Park in Fort Lauderdale. Here, it’s all things jerk where vendors will prepare all sorts of deliciousness from Jerk pork, chicken, lobster, goat, turkey, roasted yams; Festival – sweet fried dough and there may even be a jerk flavored ice cream sighting.
There will be entertainment for all from cultural stages; jerk cook off competition; local celebrity and celebrity chef throw downs and music concert. And yes, Chef Irie will be there, so please come out and see me under the culinary tent. You absolutely can’t miss it this year, the most fun you’ll ever have.
Jerk is a method of preparing primarily meats born and developed out of the mountains in Jamaica by the Maroons, escaped slaves of the day. The resilience of the Maroons allowed them to preserve meats by using salt, hot peppers and spices to season. The meat was wrapped and preserved ready to be cooked over hot rocks over laid with latticed pimento wood. Unlike grilling, Jerk is a slow cooking process similar to what’s seen in the smokers in Barbeque houses. The slow process allows the meats to stay moist and get color and smoked flavor at the same time.
Now jerk as I know it makes no excuses for being highly flavored and spicy with the right amounts of spices and herbs. This is not for the faint of heart, but surprisingly even those that have claimed this distinction often return to the scene of the culinary crime and beg for more. Be careful, you could quickly become a jerk addict. In every jerk seasoning, there’s one common ingredient, Scotch Bonnet peppers. No, not jalapeno, not habanero (although a good substitute), not bell peppers, not Serrano peppers; It must be Scotch Bonnet peppers because they have a fruity and hot uniqueness about them. Scotch Bonnet, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, green onions, onions, thyme, cilantro, garlic, soy, browning – burnt caramel, vinegar, water, salt & sugar are some of the must haves if you choose to make your own Jerk seasoning. Start with fresh ingredients and that sauce will last a good long while.
For the regular cook out there that doesn’t have grill pit or smoker, jerk can be prepared in your oven at home. The prepared seasonings can be found in most supermarkets these days whether in a paste, liquid or dry rub. A little jerk seasoning goes a long way depending on how much protein you are seasoning and how hot you want to make the dish. Just remember, jerk represents bold flavors, not about how spicy you can make the dish. You should be able to taste what you are eating whatever the protein be it fish, shrimp, lobster, beef, pork or even vegetables for that matter. It’s simply a matter of taste. Check out the recipes below, I hope I’ve impressed upon you enough to try some jerk soon. Make it a Food on Fiyah!!! Weekend. Till next time.
Jerk shrimp w/ cheese grits & fried spinach
1 cup water
3 cups milk
1 cup white stone ground grits, fine
1 cup white cheddar
1 cup parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp butter
Salt & white pepper to taste
1 lb large shrimp (21/25), cleaned and drained
3 Tbsp canola, vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 Tbsp Walkers wood jerk seasoning or other
2 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
1 small onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
¼ cup white wine or stock
1 tsp old bay seasoning
2 Tbsp chopped green onion
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp butter
Salt & pepper
3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 bag cleaned spinach
Salt & pepper
1. Drizzle oil over shrimp and add spices and jerk paste. Toss well. Keep chilled.
2. Over medium heat in medium sauce pot, add the milk and water and bring to a low boil. Then slowly add the grits as you stir with a whisk. Keep stirring periodically the grits until it becomes smooth, about 5 -10 minutes then add the cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted then add the butter. Stir again until smooth.
3. In large hot sauté pan over medium heat, add about two tablespoons olive oil. When hot, sauté the shrimp about 1 minute on each side then remove from heat. Then add the chopped onions and garlic to the pan and sauté for about 30 seconds to one minute then add tomato. Sauté for about 1 minute then add the wine or stock. Allow to cook for another minute or so then add the remaining ingredients. Check for seasoning. Remove from heat.
4. Add oil to large sauce pot. When oil is ready add the spinach in small batches at a time. Fry until crisp then remove to a paper towel. Season with salt & pepper, reserve for garnish.
5. Spoon grits in a bowl or large plate, then add tomato sauce over grits and place shrimp on top. Add some fried spinach to the dish.
Jerk salmon w/ coconut butter bean & tomato raga w/ panko crumbles
6ea 6 oz salmon filets
½ cup oil – reserve half
1 tsp jerk seasoning Grace or other brand
2 Tbsp Jerk BBQ Marinade Sauce, Grace or other brand
1 tsp Salt & pepper
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 Tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
¼ cup julienne red pepper
¼ cup julienne yellow pepper
1 ½ cups grape tomatoes – reserve half
2 ea 15ozs canned butter beans, drained grace or other brand
1 cup coconut milk, grace or other brand
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 cups Japanese panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
¼ cup olive oil
- Pour and rub the oil over the salmon filets then season with a little salt and pepper. Mix in a small bowl the jerk seasoning and add to salmon filet. Rub completely over filets (gloves needed) cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for an hour.
- In large sauté pan on medium heat add oil. When hot add garlic and onions and cook for about 30 seconds then add the next four ingredients. Sautee them for about two minutes then add the beans. Let them heat through before adding the coconut milk. Continue cooking until the liquid starts to thicken some about two minutes then add the remaining ingredients and the reserved tomatoes. Combine well and let cook for another 2 minutes or so and remove from heat. Keep warm.
- In small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumbs then place in a medium sauté pan on low heat and toast the crumbs just until it slightly browns then remove from the heat.
- Heat oven to 350 deg. Heat large fry pan on medium heat and add oil. Remove salmon from cooler and place filets one at a time in pan. Sear filets for about 2 minutes or so then turn them and place in oven for about 4 -5 minutes then remove from oven.
- To serve, place a serving of bean ragu on plate or large bowl then a filet on top. Sprinkle some panko crumbles on top of salmon. A side salad would be a great accompaniment to this dish.