I have never cooked Jamaican food, and I can't recall even eating Jamaican food, so I decided that would be my challenge.
I did a lot of Google searching, and came up with my best guess at what my entry should be. I decided on Jerk chicken, Jamaican rice and "peas," and some sweet slaw.
I made the slaw on Friday, a day in advance. IMO, slaws need to be made at least a day in advance. I didn't take pictures -- it's slaw.
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tsp (10 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
6 cups (1.5 L) shredded green cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
2 green onions, chopped
On to the meat -- jerk chicken leg quarters. I made up a jerk marinade, and soaked some leg quarters in it for 24 hours.
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 Scotch bonnet peppers
1 red onion, chopped
4 green onion tops, chopped
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Steen's pure cane sugar
1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper
I gotta tell you the allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg had as much impact as the peppers. The heat of the peppers did NOT drown out the flavors of the spices and herbs one bit. And the allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg were awesome.
On to the Weber they go, on indirect heat, with some Orange and Pecan wood to create some smoke.
I also made some Jamaican "rice and peas."
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups long-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
2 cups coconut milk
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 whole Scotch bonnet chile (can substitute a whole habanero)
The Scotch Bonnet pepper is sliced open, but goes in whole, kind of like a bay leaf. It does its job, and then you take it out and discard it.
Here is the final plating...
The chicken was a big surprise. I expected it to burn my taste buds, but it was actually a lot like cajun spice -- the flavor was very good, and the heat snuck up on me. The peppers did not overwhelm the herbs and spices. I loved it! It really was a lot like Cajun cooking, which has a shared heritage.
The slaw was good, but not great. It was a good balance to the heat of the chicken, but on its own, it was nice, but not the star of the show -- but it wasn't meant to be the star of the show.
The biggest surprise for me was the "rice and peas." WOW, that chit is GOOD. When I read the recipe, I had some serious doubts -- the liquid to rice ratio had me expecting rice soup -- but dayum, that is some seriously good rice and beans. The coconut flavor was subtle, but there. I would definitely put this up against my favorite cajun rd beans and rice.
All-in-all, I am so glad I embarked on this cooking adventure. I will do this jerk chicken again, and the Jamaican Rice and Peas is now on my regular cooking list.
I am now seriously interested in Jamaican food. It is not just heat. It is heat plus some seriously complex flavors. I like it for the same reason I like genuine cajun cooking. Both styles of cooking seem to know the right balance of heat and flavor.