Monday, May 5, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Jer's Jamaican Jerk

Jerk is a style of barbequed meat that originated in Jamaica in the 1700s. Word is it was created by the Maroons, who escaped slavery to live in the Jamaican bush. It is made with two key ingredients: Allspice berries and chiles. (Anyone who serves you a “jerk” without chiles is committing blasphemy). This recipe is not for the faint of heart, but you can adjust the heat to anywhere from hot to incendiary. I’ve cooked many jerk recipes and eventually settled on one that has a great mix of spices, fresh citrus, and habanero chiles. It goes beautifully with pork (tenderloin recommended), chicken, fish, ribeye steaks, or even vegis. It goes great with fresh fruit salad.

1 T. ground allspice
1 T. dried thyme
1/2 T. black pepper
½ T. dried sage
½ T. sugar
½ t. ground nutmeg
½ t. ground cinnamon
½ T. salt
3 cloves garlic
1 T. diced ginger root
¼ bunch fresh cilantro (about ½ cup)
2 T. dark soy sauce*
1/3 c fresh lime juice
¼ c fresh orange juice
2 T. vegi oil
1 cup chopped scallions
1 – 3 fresh habanero chiles, seeded and chopped.
1 – 2 pounds pork, chicken, fish, beef and/or vegis

*dark soy is a thick, sweet soy sauce that is quite unlike Kikkoman or any other soy you can buy in a regular grocery store. If you can't get dark soy at a Asian store (Pearl River Bridge is the bomb), put in 2 T regular (light) soy and add another 1/2 T. sugar.

Place all the ingredients but the meat in a blender and blend until smooth. Marinate the meat in the jerk overnight in the fridge.

Jerk is meant to be slow cooked (actually, the original jerk was dried). Use low head on your grill and/or place the meat away from the hot part of the fire. Use big chucks of meat so it doesn’t dry (this is why I prefer a pork tenderloin over chops). The heat should be low enough that your meat barbeques for around 45 minutes or 1 hour, getting done without drying out. You can use a nice big 3-pound pork roast, cooking to 150 degrees, which might take 2 hours.

(Recipe adapted from Clifford A. Wright. 2005. Some Like it Hot. The Harvard Common Press, Boston MA)