Country Cooking – Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas, Fried Plantains and Callao
Back in 2005 I went to Jamaica with my sister to visit my cousin who was in the Peace Corp. We flew into Montego Bay and went directly to the Pork Pit for authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Pork, and I was an instant fan. Some of the best Jerk Chicken we ate was from a street vendors. He had the flavor perfected with the spices on the farm raised chicken and cooked BBQ drums. We then drove to the other side of the island to the small fishing community of Black River, and then to a small stretch of sand called Parottee Bay. The next day we caught a fishing boat and made it out to Floyds Pelican Bar to have lunch.
Being at Floyds you felt like you were at the edge of the world; to the south was 1,000 miles of open ocean to South America. The Pelicans were diving for small fish shaped like sticks. After downing a “few” Red Stripe beers we asked “what’s on the menu?” Floyd said he didn’t have anything to eat, but if we came back the next day he would make us his specialty: grilled lobster, jerked chicken, rice and peas (red beans in coconut milk and thyme) and some fresh mangoes from his tree.
So we went back the next day and had one of the freshest, best meals in the world. I was hooked and wanted to learn how to cook Jamaican jerk chicken, rice and peas, and fried plantains for my wife when I got back to Wyoming. I know I can never compete with the authentic Jamaican food but I try! It is a really inexpensive and very flavorful meal, and a great diversion from regular BBQ chicken. So this is as close to Jamaican Jerk Chicken as we can get in Wyoming.
Jerk Seasoning: First get a free range chicken and marinate it in Soy Sauce, Thyme and hot pepper sauce. Holly Habanera Hot Sauce works pretty good. The Scotch Bonnet and Pimento peppers that are in the jerk sauce are difficult to find around here, but you can also get a Jamaican Jerk seasoning packet at most stores. It is not quite the same, but it works. And believe it or not after you BBQ the chicken it’s not too hot. Anyway, let the chicken marinate for 4-6 hours and then BBQ on the grill.
You can shiskabob the chicken or half the chicken and place on the grill. Add wood chips for a smokier flavor.
Cook for 25-30 minutes on the hot grill and make sure you check if the chicken is done in the middle.
Get some Pickapeppa Sauce form Albertsons or Safeway in the sauce isle, it is like A-1 but different and is the only sauce from Jamaica we can get in Wyoming. It is made with mangoes and raisins and has a unique Island flavor.
Side Dishes: I have narrowed the side dishes to 3 but search Jamaican food for other ideas.1. Rice and Peas (Red Beans), Fried Plantains (savory banana), and Callao (Spinach and Garlic)
Rice and Peas: I make it simple and cook it in a rice cooker. 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice. Trick is that the liquid is made up of half coconut milk and 1/4th red bean juice, and 1/4th water. Then add 2 tablespoons of Thyme and press the cook button. (You can never have enough Thyme) Sorry I always have to say that!
Fried Plantains: you must get ripe plantains and the darker they are the better! Get 3 and peel and cut into 1 inch pieces. Fry on the stove or on the grill and then press with a beer bottle- Red Stripe Beer works best- I wonder why? Then fry again until golden brown. Leave in the pan and eat hot with salt and hot sauce. Plantains are an amazing food and we should eat more of them!
Callao: It’s not really what Jamaicans’ call Callao but works well with the other dishes. Take 2 bunches of spinach and cut the stems off. Peel a whole head of garlic and put them in your wok with olive oil. Add the spinach and steam in the wok for 15 minutes on medium and check every 5 minutes so it doesn’t burn. This reduces down quite a bit so you will think you are making a lot but it serves 4.
We all went to the Black River Farmers Market for some fresh veggies. It’s just like the Laramie’s Farmers Market with a lot more crap on the ground! I thought some of the locals how to make fish tacos (with a Spanish Mackerel I caught) and we had that the next day! – See next week’s Country Cooking. My cousin was asked many times when is your cousin coming back to make more tacos? Hopefully someday I will! Soon come!