Saturday, February 9, 2013

In the Mix: Jerk Chicken & Rice and Peas with Reggae

This month, I'm going to start a new section on my blog called "In the Mix" where I mix food with music.  I love to listen to music while I cook, and I thought other people might too and would love some thoughts on what food goes well with different music.  

I think food and music are similar in a lot of ways - both are a creation of someone's passion and tastes and are very powerful.  Food and music can invoke a sense of nostalgia -- like the memory of a particular moment, a feeling of home, a snapshot in time.   So now I'm going to pair food with a playlist. Good food, good music, good times.

First in the cue is Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas paired with a reggae mix.  

The Jerk Chicken recipe is created using Doctor Dread's Jerk Seasoning and Rub.  I used Doctor Dread's Jerk Seasoning for my chicken for a few reasons.  First off, Doctor Dread makes both a wet and a dry rub, which is a fantastic way to flavor the meat on the inside while having a flavorful crispy skin on the outside.  Also, it is a wonderfully spicy jerk seasoning -- I find other seasonings are a little too sweet for my tastes and Doctor Dread's is the real deal (historically speaking, jerk was used to preserve meat so it should be bold).  And finally, I like this seasoning because it means something - it's not just a bottled product.  It's about spreading the Jamaican culture to the world through food.  Too often we lose sight of where our food comes from, why it was created the way it was, and the meaning it holds.  This seasoning brings you back to the roots of Jamaican food.   

I had the chance to talk to Doctor Dread about his seasonings and thoughts around Jamaican food and culture.  Doctor Dread is not just a cook of Jamaican foods, but also a reggae producer who founded RAS Records and has worked with many musical artists like Bob Marley, Black Uhuru, Jimmy Cliff, Inner Circle, Gregory Isaacs, Luciano, Mad Cobra, Freddy Mcgregor, Sly and Robbie, Steel Pulse, The Wailers, and Bunny Wailer. It was a great opportunity to understand more about origins of his jerk seasoning and sauce (ah, the mastery of perfecting the flavorings!) and the concept of 'ital' in Jamaica -- enjoying whole, unprocessed food.  Turns out, there are more Jamaican-based foods on the way from Doctor Dread in the near future... I can't wait to see (and taste) what's next!      

So here's what we did for our Jerk Chicken:

1 whole chicken, cut in half
1 cup of white vinegar
6 cups of water
1/2 bottle of Doctor Dread's Jerk Sauce
4 or more tablespoons of Doctor Dread's Jerk Rub

1.  Take the chicken and put it in a stock pot with the vinegar and water.  The chicken should be fully submerged.  Let sit for 20 minutes.

2.  Remove chicken from the water/vinegar mixture.  

3.  Pull skin away from the meat.  Rub the jerk sauce in between the skin and meat, covering all areas of the meat.

4.  Spread the dry rub on top of the chicken skin, rubbing it into the skin and covering all areas.

5.  Marinate chicken in the refrigerator overnight.

6.  Oil grill grates, heat grill on high heat for 10 minutes to heat completely.  

7.  Once the grill is hot, place chicken on the grill, bone side down for 45 minutes.  Turn chicken over to cook skin until crispy (5 - 8 minutes).  

8. Remove from grill, cut chicken into quarters.  Serve with additional jerk sauce on the side.

Make sure that skin is crispy and spicy!
To serve as a side dish with the chicken, I made Jamaican rice and peas.  Traditionally, the “peas” are pigeon peas, but are often substituted with kidney beans (which is what we used).  It is very simple to make and is the perfect sweet pairing with the spicy Jerk chicken.  The combination of tastes is delicious and creates the perfect balance -- I wouldn't serve Jerk chicken with anything else.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

2 tbl of vegetable oil
1/2 of yellow onion 
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp of dried thyme
1/2 tsp of all spice
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup of water
1 cup of chicken stock
1 15 oz can of coconut milk
2 habanero peppers
2 1/4 cups of white rice
2 stalks of green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced into wedges

1.  Dice half of the yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic.

2.  Heat a large stock pot/Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil.  When the oil is heated, add onions.  Saute for 6-8 minutes until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic.  Heat for another minute or two until softened.

3.  Add the thyme and all spice to the onion/garlic mix.  Stir and cook for one minute until fragrant.

4.  Add the water, chicken stock, coconut milk, kidney beans, and habanero peppers to to the pot.  Cook until warmed and blended, about 8 minutes.

5.  Add the 2 1/4 cups of white rice.  Reduce the heat to medium low (to a simmer) and cover with a lid.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked, stirring occasionally.

6.  Remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes.  

7.  Slice green onions and lime.

8.  Add green onions to the rice, gently mixing in, and serve with a wedge of lime (don't forget to squeeze the lime juice on the rice and over the chicken when ready to eat!).  

Now your dinner is ready!  Serve with Red Stripe...

It's a requirement!
 ...and this reggae mix created by my friend Mike over at the Midnight Raver Blog, which was an awesome accompaniment to our food and friends:
1. Run Run - Delroy Wilson 2. Run Run (Version) – Delroy Wilson 3. Natty Inna Babylon Dub – Impact All Stars 4. Natty Don’t Go – Cornell Campbell 5. Struggle – Gladiators 6. Sinsemilla – Barrington Levy 7. Peace Begins Within – Nora Dean 8. Poor Man Style – Barrington Levy 9. Guts – Gladiators 10. Addis Ababa – Willi Williams 11. Declaration of Rights – Abyssinians 12. Far Beyond – Leroy Williams & New Establishment 13. Streets of Gold – Gladiators 14. Murderer Dub – Augustus “Gussie” Clarke 15. I Love I Love You – Barrington Levy

 and is posted here for your listening pleasure. 

Don't worry, Mike (and his lovely wife) got to eat the Jerk chicken with rice and peas, while listening to the mix... we had our own little Sunsplash Sunday Reggae party. 

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