Thursday, May 23, 2019

Smoked Jamaican Jerk Chicken

For the precious few who follow this blog, it may seem that I love Jerk Chicken. There are three recipes already on the blog for Jerk Chicken.  The first one dates back to October 2010, when I made Jerk Chicken as part of my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge to make a main course from Jamaica. (It is hard to believe that the challenge is in its 9th year, and, I have only completed 34 of the 80 challenges.  I need to get working on that!) The second recipe dates from July 2011, when I made it as part of one of the two Savage Bolek Barbecues that we hosted.  (We haven't hosted one since that time.  We need to do another one.)  The final recipe is Bob Marley's Jerk Chicken, which is one of my favorite Jerk Chicken recipes. 

What ties all three of these recipes together is that the chicken is grilled.  In fact, that is how Jerk Chicken has traditionally been made ... well, almost.  And, that story is the subject of this post.

Jerk chicken originated with the Taino, the indigenous people who lived in Jamaica and much of the rest of the Caribbean before the colonization.  The Taino developed the "jerk" method, which was to cover the meat (usually chicken, but could be pork, goat, seafood or vegetables).  The meat was then cooked slow over a fire.  Now, that is what is reflected in most recipes for jerk chicken.  There is one critical component of the cooking process that is missing.  The Taino cooked the "jerk" chicken not just over a fire, but with green pimento wood.  The use of this wood added a smoky flavor to the chicken, which gave the chicken its distinctive flavor.  Most recipes omit the use of the wood, leaving the jerk chicken something less than the original Taino version. 

For my fourth Caribbean Jerk recipe, I wanted to go back to that original version.  I decided to cook the chicken low and slow over a fire, with wood.  In other words, I would smoke the jerk chicken.  The problem is that I don't have a ready access to green pimento wood.  (Believe it or not, Amazon does not ship green pimento wood chunks.)  So, I did a little research and discovered that any fruit wood, such as apple wood, would work as an adequate substitute for pimento wood.  As I have an overabundance of apple wood, I used that to smoke the chicken.

As one would expect, there is a significant difference between jerk chicken that is just grilled and smoked jerk chicken.  The question for me is which one I liked better. The answer is a close call because, as I noted at the outset, I love jerk chicken.  However, in the end, I am always drawn to the way food was originally prepared.  It is the history buff in me that comes through in my cooking.  Thus, I have to say that I like the Taino approach, to cook the chicken over a fire with the wood. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

1 whole chicken (about 3-5 pounds)
1 bunch of scallions
6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1-2 habanero peppers, seeded and minced 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry thyme
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil

1.  Marinate the chicken.  Add all of the ingredients into a very large, non-reactive bowl.  Cover and place in the refrigerator.  Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 2-3 hours, but preferably overnight. 

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Soak some chunks of apple wood in a bowl for at least 1 hour prior to the smoke . Heat a smoker to between 250 degrees and 275 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add a couple of apple wood chunks.  Oil the grate and then place the chicken, skin side up onto the grate.  Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  The cooking time should take about 30 to 45 minutes per pound, but that will depend upon the temperature of the smoker. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Remove the chicken from the smoker, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 to ten minutes.  Carve the chicken as desired and serve immediately. 


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Indian Style Whole Masala Roast Chicken

Few things intrigue me more, as someone who loves to cook and loves to learn about food, than Indian cuisine.  As someone who loves to dive into the cuisine of a culture or a nation, I am most fascinated by the regionalization of cuisine.  When I first started cooking, I focused on Italy, and I spent a lot of time learning about northern Italian cooking and southern Italian cooking.  Then I started to focus upon the cooking of particular provinces, such as Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Abruzzo.  The focus -- from general to regional -- was fascinating to me.  

In many ways, India is a lot like Italy.  There is northern Indian food and southern Indian food.  But, then there are the regions.  From Punjab to Rajastan to Goa to Kerala (and everywhere in between), there is a wide variety of regional Indian cuisine.  I have made some dishes from some of these regions, like Goa and Kerala, but I have only scratched the surface.  Much more is to come.  

But, for now, a general Indian dish.  I say that because whenever I see a recipe that has a title of _______-style, I know that it is a dish inspired by, but may not actually constitute part of, a country's established cuisine.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, there are very many -style dishes that are very delicious.  (I have made quite a few -style dishes, and, hopefully, they are good).  So, when I saw an Indian Style Whole Masala Roast Chicken recipe, I decided that I had to make it. 

Masalas are spice mixtures.  While one can find masala spice mixtures in stores, the best ones are made at home. Dried whole seeds and pods, lightly toasted, and ground into a fine powder.  Most people don't have the whole seeds, but you can still make your own masala from ground spices, it will just not be as good.  

In any event, the masala for this recipe is very simple. Kashmiri red chile pepper, "pepper powder" and cumin. I wasn't quite sure what "pepper powder" was supposed to be, so I just used more Kashmiri peppers (which you can get from your local Indian food market). This masala was very simple and it worked for this recipe.  In the future, I may try some different masalas to see how they work with a whole roasted chicken. 

Recipe from My Food Story
Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken (about 2 1/4 pounds)
2 1/2 tablespoons Kashmiri red chile powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1/2 tablespoon pepper powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons of butter
Salt, to taste
3-4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 onions, quartered
3 cloves garlic

1.  Prepare the chicken.  Wash the chicken and pat dry.  Mix together the chile powder, ginger, garlic paste, pepper, cumin, honey, vinegar, butter and salt into a smooth paste.  Apply the chile paste all over the chicken, into the crevices and under the skin wherever there are gaps  If you have extra marinade remaining, you can use it to brush the chicken while it cooks. Cover and marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2.  Roast the chicken.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, Use an oven proof baking dish and add potatoes, onions garlic and lemon slices to the bottom.  Bake for 75 to 90 minutes.  Keep brushing the chicken with the fat and gravy from the pan every thirty minutes or so.  After 1 hour, cover the chicken with oil to avoid the breast from drying out.  Once cooked, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.  

3.  Finish the dish. Serve the chicken with all the veggies at the bottom of the pan.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Black Ankle Vineyards Pinot Noir (2015)

When one thinks of Pinot Noir, one thinks of France. If asked to direct one's attention to the "New World," one would think of California or Oregon. (I always think of Oregon, because it has the best Pinot Noir wines in the world, in my humble opinion.)  One would never think of Maryland. 

Yet, there is a Pinot Noir wine produced in Maryland.

The wine comes from Black Ankle Vineyards, which is located in Frederick County in northern Maryland.  The fact that Black Ankle can grow Pinot Noir grapes, and produce a wine worthy of having other people drink it, is quite the accomplishment.  This accolade is due to the fact that Pinot Noir grapes are very temperamental and extremely difficult to cultivate.  So many things need to go right.  The grapes are sensitive to fungus and rot.  They tend to do better in cooler climates, but produce fewer grapes.  The margin for error can be very narrow.  But, Black Ankle knows what it is doing; and, quite surprisingly, they produce a very good Pinot Noir wine.

To be sure, the Pinot Noir does not compare to those produced by vineyards such as Bergstrom, Lemelson or Prive.  But, then again, Black Ankle is in Maryland, not Oregon.  And, for a Maryland Pinot Noir, the wine proves to be quite the accomplishment. 

The Black Ankle Vineyard Pinot Noir pours a nice ruby red. Lighter hues shine through depending upon the light. The color would suggest a Pinot Noir along the lines of the California or French style.  Something more fruit forward, rather than the earthier Oregon wines.  

This fruit forward character is also present in the aroma.  Various types of cherries greet the nose, without any hint of something else. Those cherries also carry themselves through to the taste of the wine.  Perhaps this is where the Maryland wine may take a different path from an Oregonian Pinot Noir.  The fruit in the Oregon wines tend to be slightly darker, not just cherries, but perhaps dark cherries or blackberries.  There is also some minerality or earthiness in the background.  None of that is present in this Pinot Noir, suggesting that the Black Ankle Pinot Noir may not be as complex as an Oregonian wine.  But, that does not mean that the Black Ankle Pinot Noir is not good in its own right.  After all, that one can produce a Pinot Noir wine in Maryland is quite the feat. 

This wine is extremely hard to get, which is why my beautiful Angel and I bought two bottles when we had the chance.  It was only available to Wine Club members of Black Ankle.  While this wine is very good, it is not a reason to join the Wine Club.  If you want a reason to do so, try the Crumbling Rock or the Slate.