Sunday, February 14, 2010

Your Favorite Jerk: Chicken

Finally a weekend without a white out blizzard! But it’s still the dead of winter. And you know those days where you wake up, look outside and it’s bright sunshine everywhere? It really should have been a warm Friday…all the visible signs said it was about 60 degrees outside. So I pull a t-shirt over my head and put some shorts on, ready to greet the first day of spring weather. When I step outside I am met with a gust of 40 degree wind. Then about midday, clouds cover the sky dropping the temp back down into the 30s. Awesome. So I turn on my heel, put on a sweater and begin preparing a classic summertime dish indoors. The weather cannot dictate my appetite.
The tangy sweet smell of marinade over meat has all the allure of a warm summer night, eating charcoal grilled chicken or beef kabobs over hot rice and tender vegetables. Yes, perhaps I am being unreasonable, hoping that February will yield summer-like temperatures, but we can dream right? Caribbean flavors, that spicy sweetness, came to mind and produced such a strong sensation that I knew what I was having for dinner tonight. Calypso beans and rice is another one of those recipes stolen from my parents’ cookbooks and cooking class recipe series, but it has become a family favorite for a reason. This rice dish is a conglomerate of flavors all at once; not like those fun-boxes of long grain and wild rice you pick up at the store that separates each grain into an awkward individual. In its entirety, the dish is savory with the tomatoes and kidney beans, while the capers, olives, lime juice, cilantro and cayenne pepper give you a jolt of flavor-shock in each bite. The only things I did not add this time were: capers, didn't have any; and bacon, fried up some turkey pepperoni and olive oil instead. It does make a whole ton, so either invite over your favorite bottomless-pit guest or put the leftovers to use. Try it with in a soft tortilla with sour cream and cilantro, crumble tortilla chips and some chopped breaded chicken patty into a steamy bowl of it, or just eat it plain. It is one night of leftovers you won’t regret.
When paired with some Caribbean or Jerk chicken though, Calypso Beans and Rice is extraordinary; and when you can grill the chicken, it’s even better. But all I had thawed was some stew beef. I have made this jerk recipe with chicken and it is excellent, but beef was what’s for dinner. Well, why not give it a try.
Here is why NOT to use stew beef for a Jerk recipe:
1. I didn’t have a grill, so I had to pan fry it. And stew beef cannot just be cooked in 20 minutes. It needs a few hours to become tender. Needless to say, it came out pretty chewy, but thankfully my guest still scarfed it down, accompanied with compliments as he ate.
2. The acidity of the vinegar in the marinade started to cook the beef too early.
3. The flavor of the meat did not lend itself as well to the marinade flavor as chicken did.
Don’t get me wrong, we still ate it all and enjoyed what it offered. But next time we either need to cook the beef far longer or use chicken.
Jerk Marinade
¼ c onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c olive oil
2 T vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cayenne pepper
½ t ground nutmeg
½ t dried oregano
½ t ground thyme
½ t dried rosemary
¼ t ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1. Mix all together.
2. Pour over meat [i.e.: chicken] in large bowl or plastic bag.
3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Adjust for amount of meat. NOMS: 8
Calypso Beans and Rice
4 strips bacon
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 medium sized onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ c long grain rice
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 c beef broth
2 T lime juice
1 c Spanish olives
1 ½ c diced tomatoes, canned
1 T capers
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 t allspice
1 t ground cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
¼ c green onions
2 T chopped cilantro
1. Sauté bacon over medium heat in cast iron pot until fat rendered, about 8 min.
2. Add peppers, onions, garlic. Cook over medium low heat until vegetables are tender, about 6 min.
3. Add rice and cook. Stir for about 2 min.
4. Add all remaining ingredients, except green onions and cilantro.
5. Stir, cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 min.
6. Gently combine green onions and cilantro.
7. Serve hot, nom-city.
Makes A TON! About 6 servings NOMS: 9.5

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