Native to Jamaica, “jerk” is a way of cooking in which meat, typically chicken or pork, is dry-rubbed or marinated in a wet mixture comprised of allspice (in Jamaica it’s called “pimento), cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, scallions – and the heat of very hot peppers, such as the Scotch Bonnet pepper. The hotness (piquancy) of a pepper is calculated on the “Scoville” scale, named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who devised it in 1912. Depending on the amount of capsaicin, or Scoville heat units (SHU’s) a pepper contains, it is given a number from zero to 10. To give you a frame of reference, sweet peppers, like bell peppers and Cubanelle peppers, under 100 SHU’s, score zero on the Scoville scale, while the searing Scotch Bonnet pepper, found mainly in the Caribbean, and habanero pepper measures a searing ten, with 100,000-350,000 SHU’s. Believe it, or not, peppers, can be hotter still, with rating of 10+. According to tests conducted in 2012, with a staggering average of 1,569,300 units of heat, the Guinness World Record for the hottest chili pepper was awarded to the “Carolina Reaper,” a hybrid chili pepper bred by cultivator “Smokin’” Ed Currie, founder of the PuckerButt Pepper Company (http://puckerbuttpeppercompany.com/about-us/) in Fort Mill, South Carolina. While some seek spicy hot cuisine with enthusiasm, many find it uncomfortably unpalatable, so the recipe here for Caribbean-style Jerk Chicken Stir Fry, is made with the relatively tame (2,500-8, 0000 SHU’s) jalapeño pepper. To balance the heat with the spice, the dish is also plenty sweet, thanks to the inclusion of honey and brown sugar, which, of course, can be adjusted according to preference. Sweet potatoes and slaw pair nicely with the meal and for dessert, the cooling, refreshing properties of citrus, found in Orange Cream Caramel Flan, will be welcome. If you’re looking to liven-up a summertime menu, a Caribbean-style meal can do that, with color, flavor and as much fire as your dare.
Caribbean-Style Jerk Chicken Stir Fry
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch strips
1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into ½-inch strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon Grace brand Browning Sauce, optional*
Jerk Marinade (recipe follows)
1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped fine*
2 cloves garlic
2 scallion bulbs, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
Cabbage Slaw with Collard Greens
Using a mortar and pestle (or a food processor), mash jalapeño pepper, garlic, scallion and oil into a paste. Place paste in a mixing bowl. Add salt, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg, stirring to blend. Whisk in lime juice, vinegar, honey and sugar. Place chicken in large zip-lock bag. Pour marinade mixture over chicken and seal bag. Shake bag a few times to coat chicken. Place bag in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 3 hours. Remove chicken from refrigerator, draining marinade into a small saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the marinade to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes thick; do not allow to burn. While the reduction sauce is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; stir fry 10 to 12 minutes or until no longer pink in center. Add onions and bell pepper; stir fry 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add some of the reduction sauce to the pan to coat and glaze chicken, cooking until the chicken achieves a nice brown color. (You may also add some Browning Sauce to enhance the color of your chicken.) Makes 4 to 6 servings. *Kitchen Ade note: For less “heat,” remove seeds from the jalapeño. (The heat from a pepper lies in its seeds.) When handling hot peppers, wear gloves and be sure not to touch your eyes or membranes of your nose. A product of Jamaica, find Grace brand Browning Sauce in the ethnic foods aisle of your supermarket
¼ small red cabbage, cored and shredded
½ small green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small bunch collard greens, cleaned, stems removed and sliced into ½-inch strips*
¼ cup golden raisins
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
Spice Island Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
In large bowl, toss cabbage, collards and raisins; set aside. Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add jerk seasoning and salt to taste. Pour mixture over slaw, mixing well. Allow to stand, covered, in the refrigerator several hours before serving. Makes 6 servings.
*Kitchen Ade note: To slice collards into strips, stack leaves one on top of the other, then slice through the stack making strips.
Sweet Potato Wedges with Cinnamon Sugar
4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Minced cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut into wedges. Place the potato wedges in a single layer on a shallow baking sheet. Brush with potatoes with oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Season with a light dusting of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn potatoes and sprinkle with additional cinnamon sugar; bake for 15 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender and slightly caramelized. Makes 4 servings.
*Kitchen Ade note: Buy ready-made cinnamon sugar in the spice aisle of the supermarket or make your own by combining 4 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Makes ¼ cup cinnamon.
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a saucepan, combine sugar with the water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to moderately high, tilting and rotating the pan until the syrup is caramelized and achieves a golden, amber color. Pour syrup into the bottom of a 1½-quart charlotte mold or deep soufflé dish. Tilt the mold to coat the bottom and sides evenly, then let the caramel cool.
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup orange juice
¾ cup heavy cream or half and half
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure orange oil or orange extract
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
Orange slices, for garnish
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Combine the milk, orange juice, cream, eggs, extracts and orange zest in the container of an electric blender. On medium speed, blend for 30 seconds, or until well combined. Pour mixture into mold and set in a baking pan. Pour boiling water two-thirds up the way of the mold. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for one hour or until a metal skewer inserted within 1-inch of the edge of the custard comes out clean. Refrigerate mold several hours or overnight before inverting onto chilled platter, allowing caramel syrup to run down sides of flan. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 8 servings.