Jerk Chicken (Jamaica)

If you remember, when I initially started this blog, it was for the purpose to explore food cultures from around the world. I think the culture and universality of food is so fascinating! Well, as I would have expected, my “Global Cuisine” project has taken a bit of a back seat to some of my other kitchen creations. That’s OK though. I’m still having so much fun with this blog, that the “Global” posts will just come as I get to them. This is the 19th dish in the Global project (the intial was 80. Like “Around the world in 80 days”) and I have another one in my drafts folder, so that means I’m a quarter of the way through, right?!

Anyway, we eat a lot of chicken in our house and my husband really likes spicy food, so I figured this would be a great option for us. Here is a little bit of info about Jerk: 

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica where meat, usually chicken or pork, is rubbed or marinated with a hot spice mixture called jerk spice. This is usually a combo of all-spice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. There is a slight sweetness to the mix from the sugar and cinnamon, but don’t let that fool you, it is definitely spicy! 

One common theory of how Jerk began goes back to the 1600’s African slaves. When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish colonists fled, leaving behind their African slaves. The Africans did not want to be re-enslaved by the British, so the ran to the mountains and hid out with the indigenous people of the island. So, while the jerk sauce/seasoning does have African roots, because of their new living situation, the recipe had to be manipulated a bit based on the ingredients available to them. The scotch bonnet pepper, for example, was one of the new additions.

The jerk cooking method, which comes from the term jerking which means poking holes in the meat so it absorbs the rub or marinade, could be considered a type of bbq. The meat is generally cooked over a flame or on a grill. It is often served with bread or fried dumplings, but can also be served with vegetables and fried plantains (which I wish I had done because those are really so, so good!). 

Now, I took the lazy-girl way out of this dish. McCormick makes a Caribbean Jerk Spice, already mixed up for you. I bought it, put it on some chicken and let it marinade for a couple hours. Then, since it was raining, took out my Griddler and grilled them up inside.

Looking back on it, it is a bit funny that I bought the Jerk Spice because I have all the ingredients on hand that I would need to make my own jerk spice. Oh well. It was still delicious and very spicy.

  

I grilled up some pineapple as well, which made a deliciously sweet accompaniment to the spicy chicken. Next time I will do the plantains, because just thinking about them makes me want to make some again.
    
 

I’ve never had jerk seasoning before but I really did like it. There is a new restaurant in my town that serves authentic Jamaican food and now I really want to try it. Funny story, though: It is called The Jerk Spot and every time I drive past it, all I can think of is this:  

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Tostones (Latin/Caribbean) 

Since I had plantains on hand anyway to try Mangú, I took the opportunity to try something else I’d wanted to make for awhile: Tostones.

Tostones are another popular Latin and Caribbean snack food. It is something eaten the way we eat potato chips or even french fries. Sometimes they are topped with cheese or dipped in a sauce, both options sound great to me! They are twice-fried plantains and they are super easy and delicious!

Plantains are nutritionally very beneficial. They are low in fat and calories (well, before you fry them anyway!). They are also chock full of vitamin A & C, Magnesium and potassium, even more than their cousin, the banana.

All you need are plantains, olive oil, and salt. You can buy plantains at most major grocery stores. I found mine at Sprouts for .99 each.

I initially tried to peel the plantain the same way I peel a banana, but it is too firm and it doesn’t peel the same way. I found it was much easier to cut off the ends and cut the plantain in half.

Then, cut a slit through part of the peel and slide your thumb underneath, separating the peel from the fruit. Just work your way around and the peel will come right off.

Slice the plantains into thick coins, about 1″ thick.

Fry the slices in vegetable oil until golden brown, about 3 to 3-1/2 minutes per side. Take them out of the oil and smash them. You can get a tostonera, which is a utensil for smashing out tostones, but I’m willing to bet most people don’t have one. I just used the bottom of an olive oil bottle. You can use whatever you have on hand.

Put the smashed plantains back in the oil for about 1 minute more on each side.

Take them out of the oil and add a little salt (to taste) immediately.  Let them cool for a minute before trying them because they will be hot right out of the oil.

These were so good! They were crispy on the outside and slightly creamy on the inside. I could see why these are so popular. I loved them and will definitely be making them again!

Mangú (Dominican Republic) Dish #13

Last May, my husband and I, along with a couple friends of ours, went to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It quickly jumped to the top of my favorite places in the world list (next to Italy, of course!).

Seriously, this is what I got to look at every day:
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We stayed at a resort called Majestic Elegance and I already want to go back.  The only thing I would change, though, is that none of the restaurants served local cuisine! The food was all very good, but for me, part of the fun of traveling is getting to experience new foods. One day there was a BBQ next to one of the pools and they served a rice dish that I think was a version of Moro de guandules. It was really delicious!!

Dominican cuisine has a lot of Latin and African influences, based on its history of control by other countries. Many traditional Latin and Caribbean dishes can be found here with their own Dominican twist.

Since I didn’t get the opportunity to try a dish that I wanted to recreate at home, I had to do some research and choose something “sight-unseen” so to speak. I found this great site called Aunt Clara’s Kitchen and she has a lot of really yummy recipes with great cultural connections and stories to go along with them. Check it out!

Plantains are a big part of Latin and Caribbean cuisine, and the Dominican Republic is no exception. A traditional Dominican breakfast is Mangú, which is boiled and mashed plantains. It is often served with fried eggs, fried cheese, and/or fried salami.  I made mine with eggs and cheese.

I used Aunt Clara’s recipe.

This was my first time working with plantains. They look like big, firm bananas. They are not as easy to peel, though, so make sure you have a knife available. I found it easier to cut them in half first.

Aunt Clara says to scrape out the seeds before boiling. I just used a spoon.

Final verdict? Not my favorite. It wasn’t bad, it was just pretty bland. Maybe I should have added some salt? The bites with the egg and cheese were definitely better. I can see where this would be a good base for a stewed meat of some sort (which Aunt Clara has recipes for). It is sort of like a potato or polenta, where it is a vehicle for food and not necessarily something to eat by itself. That’s my opinion though.  Plus, it is pretty healthy, so I don’t know if I’d want to write it off just yet.

It is definitely worth trying!