My Favorite Street Food

There’s something glorious in the way the sights, smells, sounds, and taste of Jamaican jerk chicken combine to make the ultimate street food experience. It’s a common sight in Jamaica to see men setting up their jerk pans on busy street corners near congested bus stops. Laughing with each other, the jerk men expertly splash kerosene to fire up their dusty black coals. A raucous serenade – horns noisily honking, taxis and buses jostling for passengers, streetlights popping and fizzing as they come on one by one – sets the evening atmosphere.  The jerk man’s outdoor restaurant is simple: his grill is made from a 50-gallon steel drum cut lengthwise and outfitted with hinges to open and close.  He fills the bottom half with coal and places a grate, cut to fit, on top of his grill pan. With a spout installed on the cover, the smoke wafts over the evening breeze, enticing customers even when the grill is shut. All the jerk man needs to finish setting up shop is a small side table with his chopper, cutting board, and extras. Jamaican hardough (or hard dough) bread soaks up the juices that escape from the deliciously smoky and charred chicken meat.  Add bottles of street condiments – pepper sauce and watered-down ketchup – and he’s ready for business. The most popular jerk men have secret chicken recipes that their legions of loyal customers swear by. Preparations and seasonings are confidential; even if I knew the formula, I probably wouldn’t share with you, either. Click […]

Feeding the Wolf – Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp, Broccoli & Lots of Garlic

The wolf is gray The wolf is hunger The wolf is primal Feed the wolf! The question of the wolf has been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve been struggling to explain what the concept of the wolf means to a cook. Obviously, it’s not a literal description of an animal with hair, fur, claws, and teeth. In my mind, the wolf is figurative; he resides in a deeper, darker place. I like to think of the wolf as hunger. Our desire to eat and feed lets the wolf loose; it hunts and does what it will. In pursuit of food, we’re all reduced to our basest instincts. Cooks deal with this transformation every day; we are professionally trained to feed the wolves. In exposing this truth, it bears well to remember that the wolf resides in all of us. Even cooks succumb to the gut-wrenching pangs of hunger. We cook for the hungry and in turn are fed. Wolves can be particular creatures and hard to please. They roam far and wide in search of a meal, and there’s no telling where a wolf may choose to feed from one day to the next. In fact, it’s the wolf’s discerning palate that keeps people like me employed. My own wolf likes to roam the tiny kitchen in my apartment. He particularly likes to rummage through the pantry, opening one door and another, touching a can here, looking at a jar there. Sometimes I’ll come home late at night and […]

Recipe for Temptation

Just in time for Valentine’s Day… or anytime you want to put some sizzle back into your life. MISS NEW YORK STRIP!!! Methodically covering your body with kosher salt and pepper, my fingers caress you. Enjoy this medium-rare feeling like a sauna, a hot grill get your juices flowing; never cook you to death, you sexy young thing. Always a tease with your racy grill marks, so seductive in my mouth, succulent between my lips Together against all odds – I don’t care what people say – I’m your baked potato to my last breath. Miss New York Strip, 16-ounce red vixen, inch-and-a-half thick, tantalizing sizzle Even better than southern swine, dressed up with a glass of red wine Aphrodite in the flesh, naughty girl, slathered in butter, smoking hot, so tempting, delicious sin To find a knife and fork my only desire.   ♥

A Bowl Of Pepperpot Soup

No Jamaican cook has ever professed to like the cold; in fact, winter is our least favorite time of the year. Snow and ice are beautiful, but only when it’s an ice carving at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Kids view the changing weather with anticipation and glee, because it means holidays are coming with snow angels, sweets, and presents. Not so for cooks. In our eyes, garden greens become gold and then turn brown as Jack Frost’s icy hand stretches across the land. With the cold comes an inevitable sense of grief that spreads like a psychic ripple, a collective sentiment that spreads from cook to cook as the cupboard goes bare. Gone are the vibrant and bright colors of papaya, mangoes, tomato and watermelon; instead we make do with a larder reduced to hardy winter vegetables. A warm-weather chef requires inspiration when faced with a seasonal menu featuring kale, collard greens, cabbage, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, beets, pulses, and gourds. But a little love and a bit of technique transform these mundane ingredients into dishes that satisfy the soul and warm the heart. Winter vegetables are not crowd favorites, but we all have to eat them. It’s a good thing these vegetables are rich in minerals, fiber, and vitamins, because they taste best slathered in fatty meats like bacon, oxtail, smoked turkey neck or salted pig tails. There’s no shame in admitting that duck cassoulet, a classic French stew with creamy white beans, luscious duck confit, smoky French garlic sausage and […]

Escoveitch – My Kind of Pickle

Pickling is described as a method of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine or vinegar. Archaeological evidence shows this method of food preservation has been around for thousands of years. The cucumber seed first traveled from Northern India along the banks of the Tigris River, where it ended up in ancient Mesopotamia: now Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. Anthropologists believe that the Mesopotamians began preserving their cucumbers in brine; a technique that spread the popularity of the cucumber through much of Europe.   Pickling began out of necessity. It was a way to preserve food in an era when refrigerators didn’t exist and fresh food spoiled quickly. The high ratio of salt and vinegar in the brine extended the edibility of fruit, meat and vegetables. The salty, sour taste of pickled foods also served to disguise any “off” flavors that may have developed during long storage. It can be argued that pickles helped early explorers circumnavigate the globe: in fact, Christopher Columbus wouldn’t have made it to the New World without rationing pickles to his sailors. These pickled vegetables, the sailors’ only source of vitamin C during long voyages, prevented them from getting scurvy.   The technique of pickling has spread worldwide and just about every culture has some beloved version of a pickled vegetable. South Korea has kimchi, Germany has sauerkraut, and Japan has umeboshi (pickled plums). In the U.S., it’s nearly impossible to find a hamburger or hot dog without a dill pickle garnish. Crisp, crunchy, sour, sweet, […]