Monday Meal Review: Jamaica

THE SCENE:

My lips started off with a low-grade tingle and then flared up into a fire engine burn.

Careful not to touch the jerk seasoning again, I put the lid back on the blender.

“So that’s what three habeneros taste like.” I said to the faded photo of my Great Aunt, Lulla Rina.

She smiled back at me, as she had for decades. She was holding my brother Damien – a chubby baby boy – in her soft, grandmotherly arms. He’d be 33 if he were alive today. And he’d probably love habeneros.

I silently promised him I’d be brave. I’d eat my share.

I’ve lived longer without Damien than with him, yet he remains one of the most important, influential people in my world.

Life’s funny that way. We remember the shooting stars so vividly, even when the sky is full of trillions of other stars.

Looking back at the mixture, I considered suiting up with gloves, goggles, and a clothespin to pinch my nose shut.

I settled on just the gloves.

As I poured the jerk over the chicken, I could smell the allspice and fresh herbs, the ginger and nutmeg. It was intoxicating.

Just then the doorbell rang. Keith’s parents were here.

Good thing they like spicy food.

Get ready for Jamaica, I thought.

Well… Jamaica with a little Ireland.

And why not? Mr Picky requested our Guinness Chocolate Cake for his birthday.

Happy Birthday, Superman Keith. We love you.


AVA’S CORNER

THE FOOD

Jerk Chicken [Recipe]


What I liked most about this dish:

The heat was perfect – spicy (enough to make me sit up and drink my water but not enough to make me cry). Ava ate and ate and ate on this chicken. We simply removed the skin (even still, it was a little spicy – she drank a lot of water, too). The smoke flavor was lovely and the chicken came out tender. Divine.

What I liked least about this dish:

Not much, although it is hard to wait 2 hours for the chicken to smoke.

Jerk Seasoning [Recipe]


What I liked most about this dish:

This was easy to whip together. With a seasoning blend like this you end up with restaurant quality flavor every single time. Also, it makes a fantastic gift.

What I liked least about this dish:

If you don’t have a powerful blender, you might have to do lots of chopping (or resort to a food processor). I invested in a vitamix for exactly these sorts of intense blends and I LOVE its power.

Escovitch Fish [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I’m all about Vinegar City! I love this tart, tangy, veggie combo.

What I liked least about this dish:

I’m not quite used to the idea of eating vinegary fish for breakfast, despite the fact that this is traditional in Jamaica. I was also sad that I was the only one in my family who loved this. While Ava enjoyed some vinegar on her fish, she stayed clear of the veggies – one potent taste was enough for her.

Sorrel Drink [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The flavor of this traditional Christmas drink was outstanding. I felt at once refreshed and festive. Also, Ava could not stop drinking this one – she was a major fan. In fact, she used the word “delicious” for the first time ever to describe this drink. Adorable!

What I liked least about this dish:

I should have grated the ginger – I felt the slices gave it too mild of a ginger flavor (although some will like the subtlety). If you do slices, the dominant flavor will most likely be the cinnamon with ginger peaking out in the background.

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Comments

  1. She likes what she likes….

  2. Jessica Bennett says:

    Love the Superman shirt. My Mr. Picky has one too (although his is BRIGHT blue- it REALLY stands out- I think I prefer the black). Anyway, happy birthday, Mr. Picky :)

    I love your comparison of important people in your life to shooting stars- you really do write so beautifully.

    And is orange juice common in jerk seasoning? I’ve had it many, many times (I went to high school across from a Jamaican restaurant and then later worked down the street from one) but never made it myself. I never would have guessed there was orange juice in it.

  3. Clarification: Escoveitch fish isn’t necessarily a breakfast item. If we do smaller fish (like sprat) some persons may eat that at breakfast time. For the most part, it’s lunch or dinner. The escoveitch “sauce” is also kept in a jar or bottle so that it can be sprinkled on your dish whenever you want.

  4. Jessica: Your average Jamaican does not add orange juice to jerk seasoning.

  5. Sasha Martin says:

    Jessica & Kelster – As I looked around I saw several different forms of acid added to Jerk seasoning (the wet one, not the dry) – some used lime juice, orange juice and – as Kelster says, others used none at all. That being said, I liked how the sweetness of the OJ balanced the heat.

    Also, good to know about escovitch not always being a breakfast dish. I really enjoyed it when we had it (for dinner) – so I’m glad we weren’t off target there.

    All in all it was a fabulous meal. We have a second batch of jerk ready for smoking and made a batch of the seasoning for a friend… it’s been a big hit!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I should also mention, some liquid is needed to get the veggies moving in the blender, so if you don’t use OJ you have to use something else – or switch to a food processor. Otherwise your blender won’t be able to handle it.

      • Jessica Bennett says:

        Thanks for the info. And, of course I would use liquid- I have a wimpy blender. A friend of mine was on a raw diet for a while, and when he came to visit me, he brought his Vitamix. I was in awe.

  6. Shooting Star is the most perfect analogy I’ve ever heard ….

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