Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Oysterfest

Author Hector Bolitho once wrote, "Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods.  The stay in bed all day and night.  They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them." The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum brought these words to life on August 27, 2018 at its annual OysterFest

It was a very rainy and windy day. The gray pallor of the clouds that moved overhead.  However, it did not tamper down the enthusiasm of thousands of people from all around Maryland and beyond who came to the small town of St. Michaels, Maryland to celebrate, and more importantly, eat oysters.   Amongst the thousands were myself, by beautiful Angel, our two little kiddos and my Angel's parents.   

As one entered the OysterFest, he or she could see one of the major events at the festival: the Oyster Stew Competition.  There were six competitors: (1) Sunflowers & Greens of Easton, MD (which won the competition last year); (2) Milestone Catering of Easton, MD; (3) Bistro St. Michaels of St. Michaels, MD; (4) Theo's Steaks, Sides and Spirits of St. Michaels, MD; (5) Crab N Que of St. Michaels, MD; and (6) General Store of Royal Oak, MD. I got to be one of a few hundred who would judge the oyster stews.  The competition was blind (labelled A through F); however, so judges did not know which stew was being made by which competitor. 

Here is the thing about oyster stew, at least from my experience: there are generally two types or styles.  The first style is more like a cream colored soup, with a thinner consistency that gets its off-white color (tinged by the fat used as part of the soup's base) from the use of half and half. The other style is more like a chowder, with a whiter color and thicker consistency with heavy cream. Regardless of the type, an oyster stew should have minced vegetables (celery, shallots), potatoes and, of course, oysters (either whole, which I prefer, or chopped).    

Both types of oyster stew were on display at this competition.  To be sure, all six of the contestants produced some very tasty oyster stew.  When it came to my judging of the stews, I needed something, either in terms of texture or taste, that it the stew apart from its competitors.  Right out of the gate, the Contestant A set itself apart, with a lighter oyster stew that had a very smoky taste.  That flavor is most likely due to the use of smoked bacon as the base of the stew.  As someone who loves a smoky taste (just check out the Savage Boleks BBQ posts on this site), the stew got my attention.  Admittedly, the smoky taste may be off-putting for someone who does not like barbecued or smoked meats, but I liked it.  Contestant D also had a smoky flavor, which was more subdued.  The taming of the smoky taste is most likely because, unlike Contestant A's lighter stew, Contestant D's stew had more of a light chowder consistency.  The use of heavy cream can tamp down the smokiness of the bacon.  In the end, it came down to Contestant A and D in my mind, with Contestant A winning my vote.  (As of the date of this post, I don't know who actually won the contest, but I will update the post when I find out.)

UPDATE: The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum announced the winner of the oyster stew competition: Bistro St. Michaels.  It was Contestant F.  Contestant D -- Sunflowers & Greens -- won second place and Contestant A -- The General Store -- won third place.

The other contest was the oyster slurping contest.  After having eaten one and one-half dozen oysters, I had the chance to fill out the second dozen by trying to be the fastest person to slurp six oysters.  I was part of Round 3, along with my beautiful Angel and a third person named Jack.  To make a long story short, I lost the contest, coming in last. I won't post any excuses.  If I have any other career ahead of me, it will not be as a competitive food eater.  That was made clear after about the twenty or thirty seconds of the competition.  

The biggest event at the Oysterfest was the re-lauching of the Edna E. Lockwood, the last existing nine-log bugeye.  John B. Harrison built the Edna in 1887 -- the seventh of the eighteen bugeyes built by Harrison.  The purpose of the Edna, as it was it all bugeyes, was to dredge oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.  With its shallow draft, the bugeye could reach parts of the Bay that were not as accessible to schooners and pungies because of their deeper draft.  The bugeye's lower bulwark, as well as its less complex rigs, made it easier to engage in dredging with less crewmembers.   While a typical bugeye could be expected to be in service for about 20 years, the Edna continued in service until 1967. It outlasted not only the other seventeen bugeye built by John B. Harrison, but also the many skipjacks that were built long after the last bugeye.

The Edna had been gifted to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum with the expectation that it would be restored and used to educate the public about a true Chesapeake tradition.  The latest restoration began in 2016, with volunteers working to restore the log hull. That work continued until it was completed earlier this year, and the vessel was moved to the marine launch for the OysterFest.  

This was the first launching of a vessel that I have witnessed.  There was the traditional opening remarks, along with the thanks to all of those individuals who helped to restore the Edna.  (The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum contains its own shop where the work was performed.) This was followed by the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle -- or, in this case, three champagne bottles -- on the bow of the vessel.  After the initial ceremonies, the vessel was slowly lowered into the water, a couple of feet at a time, until the vessel could float on its own.  At that point, the Edna was immediately moored and the celebrations concluded. The Edna will eventually begin a tour of the Chesapeake Bay

Not only is the the first time that I witnessed the launching or relaunching of a vessel. This was also the first time we went to the OysterFest, or, for that matter, any oyster festival.  It was a lot of fun, even with the wind and rain.  To be sure, the weather probably depressed the turnout, which made it a little easier to navigate all of the attractions, vendors and events.  At this point, I have just realized that I did not take any pictures of any oysters from the festival.   

But, I did take some pictures after the OysterFest. We went to a local restaurant where I could sample some Maryland oysters.  This time, I remembered to take a picture so that I could remember the oysters that I tried.  I tried four different oysters.  Two are farmed: (a) Wild Ass Ponies, described as having "good salt content, briny"; and (b) Fisherman's Daughter, described as having "mild salt content, sweet finish.  The remaining two are wild: (c) Deal Island, described as "medium salt, smooth, mild brine"; and (d) Wild Divers, described as "medium salt, full-bodied, buttery."  

All of the descriptions were on the spot and demonstrated the range of Maryland oysters, from salty to smooth, briny to sweet.  The oysters are even better with a local brew, such as the St. Michael's Ale from Eastern Shore Brewing Company (it is photobombing the picture of the oysters).  A red ale with a good malty backbone, the beer was a great complement to the full range of oysters that I tried. 

A great festival, great oysters, great beer and, of course, great company.  This festival has inspired me to make my own oyster stew.  Stay tuned for that.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Five Spice Smoked Beef Ribs

It is known as the "wonder powder," a concoction whose five ingredients bring together the five flavors: namely, sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty. It is a fixture of Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, finding its way into many of the dishes.  it is Chinese Five Spice powder.

I have always had a jar of the spice mix, but it has rarely found its way into any of the dishes that I have cooked.  To be sure, I used it when I make Larb (which I love) or Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid (which is good too).  I just measure out an amount of the five spice, or I eyeball it, but I never gave much thought as to what makes up the wonder powder or how that powder even came about.

Those questions gave rise to this blog post.  The post is a story about five spices brought together to help propel some beef chuck ribs into a tasty dish.

It all began with a desire to smoke some beef chuck ribs.  I had made smoked beef ribs a few weeks earlier, and, I liked the result so much that I wanted to make them again.  And, this time, I wanted to try some thing different.  I purchased a couple packages of ribs and headed home.

The first effort at smoked beef ribs kept it simple.  Just a rub of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I needed a new rub. Something that would work with beef ribs.  I started looking through jars of different spice mixes for ideas.  That is when I saw it, the jar of Chinese five spice powder.  The eureka moment so passed and I put the jar back.

Picture from Instructables
But, that was not the end of the story.  I then went to the Internet to do some research.  Simple is great, but I did not want this to be easy.  I began researching recipes to make my own Chinese Five Spice powder, and, in the process, learn about the sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty aspects of this mixture. The "sour" and "salty" comes, presumably, from the Sichuan peppercorn.  The peppercorn is not actually a peppercorn at all.  (The Sichuan peppercorn is unrelated to black peppercorns or chiles; instead, it is the pinkish, outer husk of a prickly ash shrub of the genus Zanthoxylum.) The bitterness comes from star anise and fennel seeds, both of which also provide a slight licorice note to the powder.  The sweetness comes from cinnamon sticks, which are ground and added to the powder.  Finally, the pungency comes from cloves, which are perhaps one of the strongest spices that provides a definite sense of warmth the powder.  Together, those five spices and the powder they create is known as Chinese Five Spice Powder.  

Just like that jar of Chinese five spice powder, I set aside the internet recipes.  I decided to use a recipe from a tried and true source: Steven Raichlen.  His book, Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, contained a recipe that followed those I read on the Internet, bringing together star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and Szechuan peppercorns.  So, instead of one jar of five spices, I pulled out five jars of individual spices and created my own mix.

There is something to be said about making your own spice.  Apart from the fact that you can tweak the recipe, as many do with Chinese Five Spice (making it six or seven spices), it just seems to always taste better than the pre-made stuff.  The homemade spice definitely made these Five Spice Smoked Beef Ribs a great success, one that, lasted long after eating them (thanks to the slight numbing properties of the Szechuan peppercorn, but that will have to be left for another post). 
  

FIVE SPICE SMOKED BEEF RIBS
Rub recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, pg. 43
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 pounds of beef ribs
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches each)
3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
Sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Vegetable oil
Few chunks of alder or apple wood

Directions:
1.  Prepare the rub.  Heat a dry skillet over medium low heat.  Add the spices and toast until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer the spices to a bowl and let cool completely.  Break the star anise and cinnamon sticks into pieces, grind the spices into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or spice mill.  

2.  Prepare the ribs.  Brush all sides of the beef ribs with a little vegetable oil.  Apply the five spice rub to all sides.  Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to a few hours. 

3.  Prepare the grill.  Soak the wood chunks in water for about 1 hour.  Prepare the fire and coals in the smoker until you have a temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oil the grate and place the ribs in the smoker.  Cook until you get an internal temperature of about 185 degrees Fahrenheit, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  Remove the ribs from the smoker and let rest for 10 minutes.

4.  Finish the dish. Using a brush, dab the top of the beef ribs with the sesame oil.  Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the ribs.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Troegenator

The Troegs' Troegenator.  I have had this double bock -- or doppelbock -- beer in the past.  After all, I like beer. I like beer. And I like this beer. I could have sworn that I have reviewed the Troegenator in the past.  I checked the beer reviews page on my blog.  None. To be sure, there were other reviews of Troegs' beers. I have a review of the Pale Ale. I also have one for the Flying Mouflan.  But, no review for the Troegenator.  So, here it is.

The Troegenator is brewed using a combination of chocolate, Munich, and Pilsner malts, along with German northern brewer and magnum hops.  When it comes to a doppelbock, the objective is to brew a darker, stronger beer than an average, everyday bock beer. A beer style that has been described by some as "liquid bread."  Monks at the Paulaner monastery brewed this style during Lent because of its bready nature, providing calories to the brothers during their fast.  The monks added a suffix of "ator" to their beers, an abbreviation of Salvator  or Savior.

The Troegenator pours a very dark amber color, which one would expect with a doppelbock.  There was little to no foam when the beer was poured, which was a little unexpected.  However, the still liquid surface allows for elements of caramel, bread and dried stone fruit to greet the nose.

Some of those elements find their way into the taste of the Troegenator.  There is a definite caramel flavor to the beer, which is accompanied by raises, brown sugar and some molasses.  There is also a slight alcohol note, which reminds drinkers that this beer has an ABV of 8.2%.  There is just a slight hop bitterness, which is only present on the finish of the beer.  Such a secondary role for hops is to be expected with a beer that is so malt-forward.

A six pack of the Troegenator costs between $12 to $14 dollars.  It is well worth it as the days get shorter, while the air gets crisper and cooler.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Ghana

Maya Angelou once said, "while the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to a man."  There perhaps is no better example of this saying than Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian born diplomat who served as United Nations Secretary-General from January 1997 through December 2006.  While his tenure was not without its criticism, there is no doubt that, overall, Secretary-General Annan's made a significant contribution to world peace, but that is a subject for a different blog.

My personal culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes, takes me to the country where the former Secretary-General was born and raised.  My latest challenge is to prepare a main course from the Republic of Ghana.  This country has a long, documented history going back to at least to the fifth century B.C.  This history is one of organized states, such as the Ashanti, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira and the Maskessim. Those independent states were eclipsed by colonialist powers, namely the British Empire. While I am a big fan of history, this aspect of Ghana's past is not the subject at hand.

Rather, I want to focus on the history of Ghanaian cuisine, which seems to be a rather elusive subject.  There are a lot of websites that talk about Ghanaian foods, but very little about the history of those foods.  As much as I want to learn about fufu, bofrot and red red, I want to know how those dishes and others originated and evolved over time.  And, that has proven to be quite difficult.

After spending a lot of time looking for that elusive history, I have decided to make two dishes: Chichinga and Jollof Rice with Goat.  These dishes touch upon two aspects of Ghanaian cuisine: street food and staple foods. 

APPETIZER

According to Lydia Polgreen, "few countries reward the sidewalk chowhound like Ghana.  The good street food is where then Ghanaians converge, such as bus stations, markets, interchanges, and construction sites. Vendors are present, selling a wide range of foods, including kebabs, such as Chichinga (or kyinkyinga). These kebabs are small pieces of meat covered in peanut flour and spices, grilled with vegetables over charcoal.  Chef Zoe Adjonyoh calls it Ghana's answer to the shish kebab.

For this dish, I decided to use goat for the meat. Goat production provides a ready source of protein and their adaptability means that they can be raised in different climates. Given the number of government websites providing instructions on how one could raise their own goats, it would seem that goat production is encouraged.  I don't have to travel far to get goat, because I have a lot in my freezer at home.  So, with some vegetables that are vaguely reminiscent of the red, yellow and green of the Ghanaian flag, I made these tasty skewers.


CHICHINGA (GOAT KEBABS)
Recipe adapted from The Guardian
Serves 4 -6

Ingredients:
3-4 tablespoons of the suya spice mix (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons rapeseed or groundnut oil, plus extra for brushing
2 pounds of goat, cubed
2-3 bell peppers, cored, deseeded, cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into quarters and separated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the goat.  Mix the dry spice mix with the rapeseed oil in a bowl.  Add the goat to the bowl and massage the mixture thoroughly into the meat.  Thread the chunks of pepper, onion and beef onto skewers.  The longer the skewers can marinate, the better.  Lay the skewers in a dish, cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 1-2 hours, but preferably overnight.

2.  Prepare to cook the skewers.  Take the skewers out of the fridge and leave them to sit at room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare a charcoal or gas grill, brush the meat with ground nut oil, and season with the salt and pepper before adding to the grill.

3.  Cook the skewers.  Turn the grills after 3-4 minutes on each side depending on the size of the goat pieces.  Remove from heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

SPICE MIX

Suya refers to the style of cooking, but it is a spice mix that incorporates chiles, peanuts and a range of spices.  It is what makes chichinga.

This was the first time I used roasted, ground peanuts for a spice mix.  The thing to keep in mind is that the peanuts still have some oil in them, which results in clumping.  That just requires a little more work to smooth out the spice mix before applying it to the goat.  


SUYA
Recipe from The Guardian

Ingredients (for the suya spice mix):
1/2 cup of peanuts, ground and roasted
2 teaspoons ground hot or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Mix all of the ingredients for the spice mix together in a bowl.  Transfer to an airtight container in a cool, dark place.  Store for up to one month.  If you've added fresh ingredients, store in the fridge and use within a week.

MAIN COURSE

For the main course, I made Jollof Rice with Goat Meat.  There is some debate about whether this dish is truly Ghanian, as Nigeria lays claim to the dish, as do several other African countries.  Nevertheless,  for my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge, I am making Ghana's version of the dish.  The base of Jollof rice is, besides the rice, the use of tomatoes, tomato paste, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, spices and vegetable oil.  The tomatoes and the paste give the dish its signature red hues, while the scotch bonnet peppers provide the spicy kick.  The remaining spices round out the flavor of the dish.

This challenge produced not just a main course.  Eating one dish of Jollof Rice with Goat Meat felt like eating an entire meal.  That makes sense, since the word Jollof comes from the Wolof people.  The word means "one pot," a common term that we today associate with one-pot meals.  


JOLLOF  RICE WITH GOAT
Recipe from Biscuits and Ladles

Ingredients (for the marinade):
1/2 pound bone-in goat meat
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 scotch bonnet
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 onion
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Salt, as required
Hot water

Ingredients (for the Jollof):
1 large onion
1 tablespoon turkey berries (optional)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste or puree
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups of long or medium grain rice
Stock from cooking of goat meat
Salt, as required
1 teaspoon shrimp substitute for shrimp stock or chicken stock cube
Water, as required
Salt, as required

Directions:
1. Prepare the goat meat.  Wash and clean the goat meat and put in a sauce pan.  Blend the garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet, green bell pepper, onion, anise and cumin seeds together.  Pour over goat meat.  Add salt and curry powder and cook under high heat.  Add hot water as and when necessary to tenderize the meat.  Meanwhile, blend the onions, scotch bonnet and turkey berries (if you are using them) together and set aside.

2.  Brown the goat.  Pour oil in a heavy bottom saucepan with a tight lid and place on medium heat.  When hot, add the meat to fry, reserving the stock for later.  Remove the meat from the sauce pan and set aside.  Add additional oil if there is not enough oil in the saucepan.

3.  Continue making the stew.  Add tomato paste or puree and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add the blended onions, scotch bonnet and turkey berries.  Add chopped tomatoes and stir.  Add nutmeg and cover the lid.  Simmer on high heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through and not tasting raw.

4.  Prepare the rice.   Rinse the rice until the water is clear.  Add the rice to the stew, reserved goat meat stock from the cooked meat, ground shrimp or chicken stock, taste for salt and just enough water as needed.  Cover tightly and bring to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, remove lid, use a thin wooden ladle or a long for to stir from the bottom to top.

5.  Continue to cook the dish.  Cover tightly and let simmer on low heat for 10-12 minutes.  after the time has elapsed, remove lid, stir again  Stir in fried goat meat at this point.  Cover tightly and let simmer for 10 more minutes until it is well cooked.  Serve alone or with fried ripe plantains and coleslaw as desired.

*          *          *

In the end, this challenge was my second attempt at cooking goat (technically my second and third attempt, but who is counting anyways).  Both the Chichinga and the Jollof Rice were very good.  The only issue that I had was that goat in both of the dishes was not tender enough (especially in the Jollof Rice dish).  I will need to work on my goat cooking techniques.  Until next time...

ENJOY!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Coconut Delight

"Nicaraguan rum barrels." Those three words caught my eye.  I follow the general rule of not buying beer or wine based on the label.  But, the label had those three words: "Nicaraguan rum barrels."  Those words were intriguing to me.  After all, I don't drink Flor de Cana (Nicaraguan rum).  

Those three words also include a "story," or at least a tale told by the brewers:

Like all great legends, the facts are in dispute.  Coconut Delight is named for one of the most notorious and important pirate ships in history.  Batchelors Delight. Captained by the infamous buccaneers Davis, Wafer and Kingson, who won the ship in a card game. After years of pirating in the Caribbean, the trio were set on retiring in Virginia.  They were arrested near Hampton Roads and spent nearly 3 years in prison.  They were able to negotiate their freedom by gicing up a large portion of their booty, which King William used for the "charitable purpose" of founding the College of William and Mary.

Pirates, rum, beer. That is quite the story for what turns out to be quite the beer.  At this point, I should say that, as much as the "Nicaraguan rum barrels" intrigued me, the notion of a coconut quadrupel ale gave me some pause.  I am not a big fan of any beer that is brewed with coconut.  While I like the flavor of coconut, I have a hard time finding a beer that works with the ingredient. 

Enter Lickinghole Creek.  This is a farm brewery that produces hops, barley and beer on 290 acres in Goochland, Virginia.  The beer is begins with well water that is drawn from the property and purified on site.  And, then there is the coconut.  So, let's get to the beer. 

The Coconut Delight pours pitch black, which is a hue that one expects from an Imperial Stout, not a Belgian-style quadrupel.  Likewise, there is a cream foam that, with the pitch black color of the beer is something that is more akin to a Harviestoun Old Dubh.  

Moving to the aroma, there are strong elements of coconut, wrapped with candy sugar.  One reviewer described it as a "Mound's bar."  I can see that description, which carries through to some extent in the taste of the beer.  The flavor is very coconut forward, with some boozy liquor in the background.  There is some indications of that rum in the background, but it has a difficult time breaking through the strong coconut flavor in the beer.  That rum becomes more present as the beer warms over time. 

This beer changed my opinion about the use of coconut in beer.  The Coconut Delight is a very good beer, even if it seems to stray a little from what one would expect from a quadrupel beer.  For $12.39, this beer is definitely worth the price and if I ever find it again on a shelf, I will definitely buy it again. 

ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Bob Marley's Jerk Chicken

I needed a jerk chicken recipe. I planned on making some jerk chicken as a main savory dish for the birthday party of one of my closest friends. To be sure, I have made jerk chicken in the past. Those recipes can be found on this blog: once as my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge for the country of Jamaica and a second time for a Savage Bolek's Barbecue.  Both jerk chicken recipes were very good. However, I wanted a new and different recipe for Jamaican Jerk chicken.  A recipe that is unique.  Something that would make the chicken worthy of birthday party for my friend.  

As usual, I scoured the Internet for recipes. As with practically everything on the Internet, there is no shortage of jerk chicken recipes. I needed to focus my search.  My first step is to look for authentic recipes.  That whittled down the number, but I was still unsatisfied with the recipes.  I needed to go a step further. I began doing different types of searches.  This led me to a recipe that immediately caught my attention: Bob Marley's Jerk Chicken. I am a huge fan of reggae generally, and of Bob Marley and the Wailers in particular. The thought that I could make a jerk recipe that comes from the Marley family was an opportunity that I could not pass up.  I got the ingredients that I needed, a whole of chicken parts (breasts and thighs) and I prepped the marinade.  After ensuring the chicken was covered with the marinade, I placed the chicken in the fridge to rest overnight.  I did the same. 

The next day, as the chicken was still marinating the fridge, I got to thinking. Was this really Bob Marley's recipe?  Could this even be a recipe from the Marley family?  I returned to the Internet to explore the recipe's provenance a little further. The first clue that I fund was not too promising.  While I got the recipe from the Food Network, I did not look at the time to see where the recipe came from. Whens I returned to to the recipe, I saw that the recipe was from a segment that aired on episode of Emeril Live. The second clue was somewhat ambiguous. The recipe was provided courtesy of Bob Marley ... a Tribute to Freedom. I had no idea what or who that was.  However, I soon discovered the answer. Bob Marley ... A Tribute to Freedom is, Bob Marley ... a restaurant at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. 

Image from the New Yorker
At this point, I was very suspicious as to whether this recipe was truly a recipe of Bob Marley or even the Marley family. (I should note that, during my research, I learned that Ziggy Marley has published a cookbook, which has a jerk chicken recipe.) Nevertheless, I continued my search, trying to find any link between a Universal Studios restaurant and the Marley family. I had hoped that there was some connection between the restaurant and the Bob Marley Foundation, which could somehow provide some insight into the origin of the recipe. My search did not produce any information that would have led me to believe that this particular recipe was truly one from the Marley family. Moreover, there were significant differences between this recipe and Ziggy Marley's recipe (such as the latter using garlic but not using soy sauce) that leave me with some doubts. 

Picture from Discogs
And, then, I got to thinking again. Did it really matter if it was Bob Marley's own recipe. Perhaps I had the wrong focus in my research.  My thoughts turned to the intersection between Bob Marley and reggae, on the one hand, and Jamaican food (such as jerk chicken) on the other. Much like Americans blues music, there is a well developed line of reggae songs about cooking and food.  (That is one of the many reasons why I love both reggae and blues so much.) There is Sunday Dish by Early B and Roast Fish and Corn Bread by Lee Perry. Both of these songs are musical recipes, with the musicians working ingredients and cooking techniques into the lyrics. Someday I will have to try to recreate these dishes for my blog.  There are songs about ingredients, like Avocado by Jah9. (She really does love her avocados, by the way.) There are even songs like Eyes No See by General Trees, which delve into issues underlying food, such as being swindled by producers and stores who mislabel what they sell to their customers.

The strong connection between reggae music and cooking/food means that, if one spends enough time, he or she will inevitably find songs by reggae artists about that iconic Jamaican food: jerk chicken.  Not only songs, but an actual "anthem" for jerk chicken. Lion Pawm Twinnz recorded a catchy anthem for every jerk chicken vendor, Jerk Chicken and Sauce:


Every second, every minute, every hour of the day. Listening to the song makes me very hungry for jerk chicken. It also reminds of the need for the spicy sauce that is served jerk chicken. The recipe from Bob Marley ... A Tribute to Freedom did not include a recipe for sauce. This omission was fine in this case because, as much as I love very spicy things, I would be cooking jerk chicken for a wide range of people who may not share my love of mouth-burning sensations. So, the sauce will have to wait for a future post.  

In the end, even if this recipe is not actually Bob Marley's Jerk Chicken recipe, it nevertheless accomplished what Bob Marley would have certainly wanted: it got someone to think.  While I may not have been thinking about the big issues, such as the wide disparity of income in Jamaica or the plight of the impoverished (which is what I do during my day job), the recipe got me to explore aspects of Jamaican culture and music that, heretofore, I had only thought about in a casual way.   

One final note: the recipe from Bob Marley ... A Tribute to Freedom was for jerk chicken skewers.  I used it on grilled chicken pieces. So, the cooking instructions are different. I adapted the grilling instructions from my prior efforts at jerk chicken as well as some of those countless other recipes on the Internet.  As with the cooking of any meat, times can differ based of whether the cut is bone-in or boneless, how much you are grilling, whether you are using charcoal or gas, etc.  So, be vigilant and do not blindly follow the cooking times. (That is actually a good piece of advice for any recipe; as is the additional note to keep a meat thermometer handy.) 


BOB MARLEY'S JERK CHICKEN
Recipe adapted from Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom
available on Food Network
Serves several

Ingredients:
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup scallion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground Jamaican pimento (allspice)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 hot pepper, finely ground (or 2 Scotch bonnet peppers)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
7 pounds of chicken (legs, thighs, breasts)

Directions:
1. Prepare the marinade.  Mix together the onion, scallion, thyme, salt, sugar, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, hot pepper, black pepper, soy sauce, oil and vinegar. Add the chicken and make sure the marinade covers the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours and preferably overnight.

2.  Prepare the chicken for grilling.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Remove the chicken from the marinade and wipe away any excess marinade.

3. Grill the chicken. Heat a charcoal grill or gas grill to medium high heat. You should make sure that you have some areas where you can use direct heat and indirect heat Depending upon the pieces being grilled (breast or thigh/legs), you should grill for a total of 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The grilling process should be divided into quarters: grill the chicken for about 7-8 minutes and then rotate the chicken by 90 degrees, cooking it for another 7 to 8 minutes. This will create grill marks on the chicken.  Flip the chicken and repeat the process again.  If it is appears that some pieces are cooking faster than others, move them to the side of the grill for indirect cooking.

4.  Finish the dish.  Once the chicken reaches 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest, covered in foil, for 5 to ten minutes. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!
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