Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jerkin' Around!

I am a big fan of Jerk seasonings and the like.  I was really introduced to a barrage of Caribbean and other Island fare from some of dear friends in college.  They enlightened me to a whole new world of flavors and especially spices of varying heats and complexities.  Jerk chicken and pork are amazing dishes with such complex flavor profiles, and a variety of sweet, salty and savory combinations.  To stay true to form, one must include two principle components, allspice and scotch bonnets.  If you cannot obtain scotch bonnets, which happen to be one of the highest on the Scoville scale, you may substitute with habaneros, which are one in the same.  Other commonly used ingredients include cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic, thyme, green onions or scallions, cloves and salt.  The sweet and heat contrast is what gives 'Jerked' proteins and vegetables their luminosity!  The method of cooking is also referred to as 'jerk'.  This involves cooking the chicken in a halved, hinged, grated and aerated steel drum, filled with charcoal or other wood for fuel or fire pits that have been dug into the ground.  The meat is rubbed with a thick spice paste, marinated, ,and slowly smoked, while piercing the meat continuously to help spices permeate throughout or 'jerking', and cooked until tender.  Jerk style seasoning and cooking is not unique to Jamaica alone, as there were references made to it predating slavery in African history.  Jerk cooking has been utilized in Jamaica for over 2500 years ago, but is also highly favored on other Caribbean Islands.  The jerk spice rub I came up with is a combination of Latin and Caribbean flavors and ingredients including cilantro, radishes, orange juice, several types of peppers, Agave nectar and a couple of  acids including white wine vinegar and  limes.   These cultures have influenced one another and the complex flavor profiles are present in both.  I tried my jerk rub with several different mediums including chicken cutlets, chicken wings and some beautiful  thick cut, bone in pork chops.  They were all delicious, but I favor the chops most.  I used a stove-top grill pan, but I fully plan to use charcoal next time as the essence of the jerk art  form truly requires.  The smokiness would complete the taste-bud matrimony that is this dish!!!
On a lighter note, I want to give a shout out to my sister Terry on her birthday today!!  Happy belated birthday to the twins(sisters) Linda and Bonnie yesterday, and to my sister Brenda, whose birthday is tomorrow, 8-15!!  I love you guys! You are my best friends and may you be blessed with decades more!!:)

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