Stir it Up! Bière Cuisine à la Jamaica
Ready for a vacation, yet the cost of a plane ticket is too much? Then try a palate vacation: definitely cheaper, no acclimation required and available year-round. With the warm August nights upon us, why not bring the taste of the Caribbean into your dining room. Sure, the salty breeze and the glare off the ocean isn’t there, but the flavors could transport anyone to the Jamaican coast in just hours. Just turn on some reggae music, and the aromas from the dishes that follow will start your vacation.
Jamaican Jerk Template
The cuisine of Jamaica shows its eclectic history through the spicy, complex flavors used to season the local ingredients. These distinctive flavors and recipes establish new flavor combinations that yield incredible results.
Makes about 8 ounces
Basic Jerk Marinade Ingredients:
2 each limes, zest & juice
4 each garlic cloves, peeled
2 each scallions (green onion)
1-3 each Scotch bonnets or habanero peppers, depending on your heat tolerance
1 each shallot, peeled
1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 tbsp allspice berries or Jamaican pimento pepper, ground
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
2 tbsp Double IPA
1 tbsp molasses
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
In a blender or food processor, add citrus zest and juice, garlic, onions, chili peppers, thyme, ground spices, salt, sugar, any other variant ingredients (see below) and beer. Pulse the mixture a few times, scraping the sides down with a spatula. Then purée until mixture is smooth, creating a thick paste. Add more beer if the mixture is too dry and not mixing well.
To use, coat your choice of meat/vegetable liberally, rubbing the marinade into each nook and cranny. Taste the jerk before using, as the Scotch bonnet pepper is one of the hottest peppers around and will make a spicy marinade. Give most proteins at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours of contact time. This marinade will last for two weeks refrigerated in a closed container.
Traditionally jerk was cooked over Pimento wood, imparting its unique flavor to the main course. Since this type of tree isn’t in everyone’s backyard, experiment with different woods and cooking techniques, depending on your choice of protein.
Grill: Start a small amount of coals, adding some different wood chunks (or chips soaked in water or beer for 30 minutes prior to use) atop, giving different flavors to the protein. Cook the protein indirectly at first, letting the flavor of the wood envelop the meat/vegetable for 30-45 minutes. Finish by placing the protein over the direct heat to sear the outside and form a crust.
Smoker: If using a larger piece of meat, low and slow will help the cooking and infuse a lot of flavor. Use restraint when adding wood chunks, as the main flavorings should come from the jerk, not the wood. Cook at 250-300˚F for 6-10 hours, depending on the size and type of meat being cooked.
Pit: Traditionally the way jerk is cooked. Using several cinder blocks, create a pit 3-feet high, 3- to 4-feet wide and in length. Make your fire, using some charcoal and hard wood, covering the “box” with either rebar or a heavy gage wire. Cook as you would a grill, about an hour or longer for larger size meats.
Oven: Preheat oven to 375-400˚F. Place protein on top third of the oven and cook for 20-35 minutes to sear the meat. Lower temp to 325˚F and finish until desired temperature is reached.
Variations depending on type of protein used:
Pork / Wild Boar
Beers that pair/cook well with swine: Belgian Strong Dark, Whiskey Barrel Aged Barleywine, Imperial Stouts
Whole Jerk Pig: Substitute oranges for limes, add 1 tsp of cinnamon and mace, add one peeled yellow onion and five sage leaves. Multiply Jerk recipe by eight and let marinade for two days before cooking. Cook using a pit.
Wood choices: peach, cherry or apple
Chicken / Duck / Fowl
Beers that pair/cook well with poultry: Double Wit, Tripel, Saison or Imperial Red Ale
Jerk Duck: Substitute oranges for limes, honey for molasses, adding one star anise, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp mace, 1 tsp fresh peeled ginger.
Wood choices: pecan, cherry or grapevine
Goat / Lamb / Venison
Beers that pair/cook well with game: Maibock, Doppelbock, Scotch Ale or Holiday Spiced Ale
Jerk Lamb: Add 1 tbsp of cumin, coriander, freshly peeled ginger, 1 tsp of turmeric, two peeled yellow onions and four extra garlic cloves.
Wood choices: cherry, fig or Jack Daniel’s barrel cubes
Beef / Bison / Buffalo
Beers that pair/cook well with red meat: Imperial Porter, Old Ale or Double IPA
Wood choices: oak, pecan or hickory
Fish / Seafood
Beers that pair/cook well with seafood: Wit, Saison, Specialty Ale, Citrusy IPA or Strong Golden
Jerk Halibut: Substitute one orange for a lime, honey for molasses, add 1 tbsp fresh peeled ginger root and subtract the paprika.
Jerk Soft Shell Crabs: Substitute one orange and one lemon for limes, add two stocks of lemongrass, two leaves of kaffir lime leaf.
Wood choices: alder, fig or pear
Tofu / Tempe
Beers that pair/cook well with tofu: Wit, Hefeweisen, Tripel or English Pale
Wood choices: peach, cherry or apple
Jamaican Peas & Rice
Think Cajun red beans & rice, but with a twist. This can be a main course or a side dish to go along with any jerked meats.
12 oz kidney beans, dried
3 tbsp olive oil
1 each yellow onion, large, peeled and chopped
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 each smoked pork shank (about 2 lbs) or ham hock
12 oz Union Jack IPA from Firestone Walker
1-2 tbsp Basic Jerk Marinade
2 cups white rice, long grain
sea salt and black pepper to taste
cilantro & scallions for garnish
In a large container, add dried beans and water to cover at least by 6 inches, letting sit to rehydrate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
In a large preheated Dutch oven, over medium heat, add oil and onions. Cook onions for 3-5 minutes until transparent. Add garlic and thyme, sautéing for another minute. Next add ham shank or hock and deglaze with IPA. Using a spoon, scrape the bottom to remove any caramelized bits, topping with enough cold water to completely cover the ham bones by an inch. Bring mixture to a boil, turning the heat down to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, making a ham stock.
Drain the beans from the soaking water and rinse lightly. Add the beans to the stock, cooking for 1 hour 15 minutes. Do not add any salt to the beans until the beans are cooked through or they will not cook properly. After the beans are fully cooked, add the Basic Jerk Marinade and rice, and season with salt and pepper. Check the level of the stock in comparison to the beans and rice. The rice will absorb most of the liquid. If there is not enough liquid, add enough water to cover the beans and rice by one inch. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low, cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. Check liquid level, removing the lid if there is excess stock or keep the lid on and cook for another 10 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Check seasoning, adding more Jerk marinade if more heat is needed for your tastes. Remove the ham shank/hock from the pot; take out the bone and shred the remaining meat. Stir back into the peas and rice and serve.
Omit the ham shank, adding instead 3 chopped and peeled carrots and 3 ribs of chopped celery, and add another onion. Add a bay leaf and cook for 30 minutes before adding beans. Continue with the third paragraph of the directions.
Coconut Curried Prawns
Served with a Double IPA Rice
2 cups white rice
2 cups Double IPA
2 cups water
1 pinch sea salt
1 each coconut (optional)
2 lb. prawns, peeled and deveined
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 each yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 each red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
5 each garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tsp ginger root, peeled and minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp Basic Jerk Marinade
2 tsp Madras curry powder
1 cup German Hefeweizen or Belgian Wit
28 oz coconut milk
1 each orange, juiced
sea salt & black pepper to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 each scallion (green onion), sliced thin
To make the rice, first add the raw rice to a bowl and rinse under cold water until the liquid is clear, about five times. Add the rice to a medium-size pot with a lid and top with Double IPA, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil at high heat, cooking for 5 minutes. Turn down heat to low, cover with lid and let slowly cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit another 5-10 minutes.
To crack the coconut, place a large bowl in the sink holding the coconut over it to catch the coconut water. Using the back edge of a chef’s knife (not the blade), carefully whack the equator of the shell, rotating the coconut with each hit. Continue until the coconut cracks open. Strain the coconut water of any husk debris and add the prawns. Let marinade for 10 minutes while the sauce is being made.
In a large preheated Dutch oven, over medium high heat, add oil and onions. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes, then add bell pepper. After 2 minutes, add the garlic, ginger and thyme, sautéing for another 30 seconds. Add the jerk marinade (depending on how hot you want your curry) and the curry powder, combining with the vegetables and toasting the spices slightly. Deglaze with beer, adding the coconut milk and water (from the prawns). Stir the sauce periodically for 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the sauce has thickened.
Place a sauté pan over high heat. Season the drained prawns with salt, pepper and sugar (will help give color and will accentuate the natural sweetness of the shellfish). Add 2 tbsp of oil to the hot pan, then add the prawns, cooking for 2 minutes (just as they turn from white/gray to a soft pink). Add the prawns to the curry sauce to finish cooking/poaching. This will give the prawns more texture in the final dish. Cook the prawns and curry sauce for another 2 minutes. Stir in the orange juice (giving the dish acid) and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
To serve family style on a large platter, create a large mound of rice near the center (first fluff rice with a fork to separate the individual grains). Fill the half coconut shells with the Prawn Curry, setting in the rice for support. Ladle the remaining sauce around the edge of the rice. Garnish with scallions and cilantro leaves.
Fried Sweet Plantains
Technically not in the banana family, the plantain is also known as the cooking banana. For this application, the riper the plantain is, the sweeter and more delicious the final dish will be. Pick out plantains that are dark yellow in color and full of black spots.
3 oz peanut oil
2 each plantains, dark golden in color with black spots
In a sauté pan, heat oil to 350-375˚F. Remove the tips of each plantain. Using the tip of a knife, cut through the surface of the peel, lengthwise along the plantain. Using a finger, slide along the inside of the peel, removing the skin and keeping the flesh intact. Cut on the bias, slicing the plantain into coin-size pieces. Add to the hot oil in batches, cooking 2/3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil onto paper towels. Serve immediately.
Beer pairing tips for Jamaican cuisine
With the strong and aggressive flavors from the curry and Jerk, try stronger beers that will stand up to the spices and chilies. Think IPAs, Double Reds, Imperial-style ales or even unusual spiced beers. These will stand up to the intensity of the food, rather than be muted by it. Hops will add a nice bitterness that isn’t found in this style of food, adding more complexity to the pairing. ■