Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cooking Around the World: Jamaica

It been a busy couple of weeks. And though I've been cooking, I haven't been blogging as much about the Cooking Around the World adventure as we have been eating. I'll try to catch up this week.

When looking for what to make for our tabletop travel to Jamaica, I kept singing this in my head...
Down the way where the nights are gayAnd the sun shines daily on the mountain topI took a trip on a sailing shipBut when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

But I'm sad to say I'm on my wayWon't be back for many a dayMy heart is down, my head is turning aroundI had to leave a little girl in Kingston town

Sounds of laughter everywhereAnd the dancing girls swinging to and froI must declare my heart is thereThough I've been from Maine to Mexico

ackee fruit photo from
But I'm sad to say I'm on my wayI won't be back for many a dayMy heart is down, my head is turning aroundI had to leave a little girl in Kingston town

Down at the market you can hearLadies cry out while on their heads they bearAckee rice, salt fish are niceAnd the rum is fine anytime of year

But I'm sad to say I'm on my wayWon't be back for many a dayMy heart is down, my head is turning aroundHad to leave a little girl in Kingston townLeave a little girl in Kingston town...
I've always wondered: What's ackee rice? What's an ackee?!? So, this was the chance for me to research that and think about making it. I mean, it's in the song, right?
Turns out that ackee is a member of the soapberry and related to the lychee and the longan. And, despite all my trips to obscure produce markets, I have never seen one. Scratch that off the list for possible Jamaican dishes.

What was definitely appearing on the table - for the tall Manns - was the Jamaican beer Red Stripe! I hadn't thought about Red Stripe until there was a story on NPR, as I was driving to the grocery store, about the James Bond connection to the Jamaican beer. Talk about serendipity...and inspiration. Apparently author Ian Fleming was a fan of the beer, keeping his fridge stocked at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye. And the beer appeared in 007's first film in 1962, Dr. No. Bond enters Puss Feller's bar where there are several cases stacked behind the bar. During an altercation, Bond throws Puss into the stack of Red Stripe cases. Sold!
We decided to make Jamaican Rice and Peas, which actually doesn't have any peas in it at all, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken. So, in addition to answering my question of - what is an ackee? - I also answered: Why is it called 'jerk'?
Here's what I found on the etymology (from the 'jerk' derives from the Peruvian word  'charqui', a word for dried strips of what we call jerky. But another food historian claims that it is called jerk because that's what people might do with errant bits of meat while it's on the spit; they might jerk off pieces to eat before the dish is served. I think I like the former versus the latter.
Jamaican Rice and PeasJamaican Rice and Peas = long-grain rice cooked in a mixture of coconut milk and chicken stock + cooked kidney beans. For added flavor, I cooked the rice with three whole shisido peppers that I removed before serving.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
  • 1/2 C fig balsamic vinegar (the traditional recipe called for malt vinegar)
  • 10 green onions, chopped
  • 2 T crushed garlic
  • 2 T dried thyme
  • 2 shisido peppers, destemmed, deseeded, and chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 t ground allspice
  • 4 t ground ginger
  • 4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 t ground nutmeg
  • 2 t organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 C ketchup (I used some homemade vanilla bean ketchup)
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 C fresh lime juice
  • chicken pieces

Blend all of the ingredients - except the chicken -  in a blender to form a thick paste. Adjust texture by adding water if it's too thick. Rub the paste on the chicken and let marinate overnight. Then you can cook the chicken however you wish - grill it, roast it, or pan fry it. I roasted mine.

This global table ambassador is signing off for now. I'm excited about our virtual travel to Japan tonight!

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