Week 21 – Caribbean BBQ by Crispin Courtenay, Temecula Valley Chef

In honor of Mr. Wineormous’ recent sojourn to the Caribbean, this months theme follows his cruise to white sandy beaches and rum punches.

Jerk cooking is slow cooking at its finest. Most of the work is in the preparation, and then the occasional poke or prod while you are doing housework, tasting wine or watching the grass grow on a lazy Sunday.

Jerk Chicken Wrapped in Banana Leaf

The Chicken
4 to 5 pounds – chicken thighs
approximately 12 – banana leaves
long toothpicks or short wood skewers to close the banana leaf.

Take the banana leaves and cut them in half crosswise and lengthwise, place a piece of chicken in the end of one strip and wrap. Place another strip going the opposite direction and wrap (the goal is to have the chicken fully enclosed). Secure with two toothpicks.

To cook the chicken, pile the coals on one side of your BBQ (or turn on the opposing burner) to create indirect cooking. Start the fire, once it is burning well close the lid and open the vents, shooting for around 275 degrees. Place the wrapped chicken away from the fire and close the lid. Rotate every half hour or so, and check to see that the temperature is stable. It should take about 2 ½ hours

A note on Banana Leaves:
If you are from the Temecula Valley, you can find banana leaves almost year round at Stater Brothers.  Further afield, your best bet is a Mexican or Asian Vegetable Market. Banana leaves are available frozen, however they turn very brittle.

Jerk Marinade
There are a lot of ingredients listed for the marinade, don’t be intimidated, it’s worth the effort. There are two tricks of trade used here: Dry roasting the spices to release the essential oils, and simmering everything together for a half hour to allow the flavors to meld. Make the effort to use fresh spices, there is a huge difference in taste.

½ tsp – black peppercorns, ground
1 tbsp – allspice, ground
4 to 6 – cloves, ground
1 – cinnamon stick
1 – nutmeg seed, grated
dry sauté (no oil) the above ingredients until fragrant, then immediately dump onto a plate to prevent further cooking

½ cup – molasses
1 cup – dark brown sugar
6 – garlic cloves, minced
1” piece – ginger, peeled and minced
½ bunch – green onion, rough chop
2 – zested limes plus juice
4 to 10 – scotch bonnet or habanero chilies
½ cup – grape seed oil
½ cup –  dark rum
1/2 cup – water
1/3 cup – white vinegar
2 tbsp – fresh thyme
6 – fresh bay leafs
2 tbsp – dark soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients together and simmer for a half hour. Let cool then coat chicken in marinade, and let rest ideally overnight. A firm white fish or pork loin can be substituted for the chicken.

The spices can be ground in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. In a pinch, place them in between plastic and crush by rolling with a wine bottle.

Note on Chilies:
Habanero are usually much hotter than Scotch Bonnets, however they do not cause as much heartburn.

Wear gloves with habanero, as the oil is virulent, and you will likely remember this too late, just  after you use the restroom and spend the next 20 minutes in agony. In an emergency, you can apply yogurt to the afflicted areas.

Pigeon Peas and Rice

1/4 cup pigeon pea (lentils can be substituted), washed and any stones picked out

1 – can coconut milk

3 – cups water

1 – ham bone (optional)

2 – cloves garlic, peeled, but left whole

4 – fresh bay leaf

1 – onion, peeled and cut in half?* if not using the ham bone, add ½ tsp salt

Simmer all ingredients until the peas are tender. Pick out garlic, ham bone, onion and bay leaves, discard. Add rice, top up water if necessary,  and simmer until done.  Check and adjust seasoning. Fluff with a spoon and add green onion as garnish.

Jicama Slaw
1 – jicama, peeled, julienned
2 – carrots, peeled, julienned
1 – red pepper, seeded and julienned
½ bunch – green onions, sliced into 1 inch biased cuts
2 – arbol chilies, seeded and sliced length-wise
1/3 – bunch cilantro, rough chop
* a mandolin makes short work out of the cutting

Tequila Dressing
1 tbsp – minced ginger
3 – cloves garlic
3 – tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup – cider vineagar
½ cup – virgin olive oil
splash – tequila
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in pan to 140 degrees (about one minute on high). Add ginger and garlic and remove from heat. Whisk in all other dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Add salt and pepper and taste, adjust as necessary.