Since we spent the week talking about healthy beer, making beer, and expensive beer, let's finally cook with Beer!!
A Jamaican Chicken
|Jamaican Chicken with Shiracha over Coconut Laurel Rice|
A taste of the Islands. As you read this, pots of this are simmering all over the island of Jamaica. Sometimes referred to as ‘Brown Chicken’, this dish could be considered the national dish of Jamaica. Every family on the Island has their own version of this, making each one unique.
Being from New York City, (hey, we have a ‘Jamaica’ here in Queens, ya know) I consulted with Brother Rashan and my other my Rasta brethren; here is my version of the traditional Islands classic.
- A large heavy-bottomed Sauté Pan with high sides and a Lid that fits, large enough to hold all of the chicken in one layer
- Your trusty Wooden Spoon
- A very sharp Knife
- Handy heavy Kitchen Tongs
- A large Mixing Bowl
- A large Dinner Plate
- Some Paper Towels
- The omnipresent Coffee Mug
About three (3) lbs. (1.5 kg.) of Chicken Thighs (skin on and bone in)
For this recipe, much like my Chicken Cacciatore, I prefer the thighs only. They have much more flavor than other parts of the chicken and are easily available in “econo-packs” at your local Über-Mart. I usually use about six (6) thighs for this recipe, but you can use more or less, depending on what’s on sale. Now, whole or split breast parts can also be used, for those opposed to thigh meat only. Personally, a whole chicken cut up into eight (8) pieces works great and is the preferred method down in the Islands. Regardless, all of the techniques are the same; it’s your call.
Two (2) large Green Bell Peppers
Yes, yes, you can use another colour if you want. I just like the green one for this, so there!
One (1) Large Vidalia Onion or any other sweet onion
Or a Maui, or a Walla Walla, just make sure that it’s sweet. If you cannot find a sweet onion, a large Red Onion will do nicely.
Four (4) large cloves of Fresh Garlic
Use the real stuff guys none of that jarred crap; how many times do I have to tell you?
One can (either 10 or 14 oz.) of Unsweetened Coconut Milk
This is usually found in the Asian section of your local Über-Mart. Now, this is very important, Unsweetened Coconut Milk is not the same as regular coconut milk, crème of coconut, or that “Coco Goya Piña Colada Mix” leftover from last week’s Daquiri Thursday that you don’t ever remember buying. Do not be fooled and think that you can substitute; you can’t. If you cannot find any unsweetened coconut milk some half-and-half with a few drops of coconut extract will work or use shredded dried coconut mixed with water in a blender and strain. It won’t be the same but you can get away with it.
One (1) bottle of Red Stripe or other Jamaican Lager Beer
A few Bay Leaves
Two (2) stalks of fresh Lemongrass (partially OPTIONAL)
So, what the heck is a lemon grass? And no, it’s not grass seed that won’t sprout. Lemongrass is an herb with a light citrusy flavor (strange how that works) commonly used in Asian and African cuisines. It comes in stalks that look like green onions with rigor mortis. Many specialty markets carry this next to the fresh Cilantro. Some markets have dried or powdered Lemongrass, but that will not work here. Use the fresh if you can find it. If you cannot find this, just omit it, the dish won’t be ruined, everything cook-and-curry.
Fresh Cilantro or Coriander leaves
Fresh Scallions or Green Onions
Freshly ground Black pepper
Your favorite Reggae Music
Mighty Sparrow being a perennial favorite
Now, the rest of these ingredients are entirely OPTIONAL. I’ve found that the addition of any one of these at the end really liven up the dish. This is completely up to you.
Siracha Hot Sauce
Sambal (Thai Chili Garlic Paste)
Sundried tomato paste
Set the mood, turn on some Reggae Music. Toots and the Maytals, anyone?
Place the Sauté Pan on medium heat to warm up.
Wash the Chicken under cold water and pat dry using some Paper Towels. Season the Chicken, on both sides, with a sprinkle of Kosher Salt and a few grinds of Black Pepper.
When the Sauté Pan is hot, add the Chicken, skin side down, to the dry pan. Everything will sizzle and make lots of noise, it’s quite festive. Brown the chicken well on both sides, in batches, turning once, about fifteen (15) minutes total. Don’t worry if the Chicken sticks to the bottom of the pan; just loosen them up using your Heavy Tongs.
TECHNIQUE NOTE : Dark meat Chicken contains much more fat than white meat chicken. And, since we’re using skin-on Chicken parts, the Chicken will render out it’s own fat and lubricate the pan. If your nervous or are using a cheap pan, add a glug of Olive Oyl to the pan to get things going before you add the Chicken.
While the Chicken browns, let’s get to the rest of it. Peel and chop the Vidalia Onion into thick half-moon shaped slices using your very sharp Knife. Place the chopped Onion into the Large Mixing Bowl. Peel, smash, and chop the Garlic. Add the Garlic to the Mixing Bowl with the Onion to get the party started. Wash and de-seed the Green Bell Peppers. Slice the Peppers lengthwise into strips about the thickness of your thumb. Add the Peppers to the Mixing Bowl with the Onions and Garlic; it will be festive.
Go flip the Chicken over using your Heavy Tongs. Kick back and enjoy the sounds of Burning Spear; come back in about ten (10) minutes.
When the Chicken is well browned all over, remove them from the pan and place them on a Large Dinner Plate to cool.
Pour off all but about one (1) tablespoon of the redered Chicken Fat in the pan into the Coffee Mug (we’ll make ‘Schmaltz’ later, it’s a Jewish thing).
Shake the can of Coconut Milk to the beat of Eek-A-Mouse and add it to the Sauté Pan (the milk not the can, half-wit). Add about two thirds of a bottle of Red Stripe beer, or whatever beer that you are using, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let this boil for about two (2) minutes.
While this is boiling, return to the Chicken and remove the skin. It should come right off. Either keep the skin to make gribenes (another Jewish thing) or feed it to the dog.
Add the Chicken and any accumulated juices to the boiling Coconut Milk and Beer, reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for about thirty (30) minutes, turning the Chicken about halfway through.
Go wash the Large Dinner Plate and ease-up, mon.
After about thirty (30) minutes, remove the Chicken using your Heavy Tongs and place them onto the clean Large Dinner Plate. Set this off to the side to relax.
Remember the Onions, Garlic, and Peppers, they’ve been whooping it up for a while now. Add them to the Coconut Milk and Beer along with two (2) Bay Leaves, a sprinkle of Kosher Salt, and a few grinds of Black Pepper; give everything a good stir with your Wooden Spoon. Simmer for about ten (10) minutes.
While this begins to simmer, take the Lemongrass, if you are using it, and chop off the tough top stalk and trim the bottom. We want the tender white part only. Peel the white part and chop the Lemongrass into small rings. Add these to the Sauté Pan and give it a good stir.
After about ten (10) minutes, return the Chicken and any accumulated juices and give everything a good stir with you Wooden Spoon to combine. Simmer for another ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes or so.
At this time, if the sauce begins to look too thick, add the remaining beer, otherwise drink it! Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.
When the Chicken is just falling off the bone add any of these OPTIONS, Palm oil or Dendê Oil, for a Brasilian rhythm, Thai Chili Garlic Sauce, for a spicy Indonesian flair, or some Sundried Tomato Paste, for a North African feel. All of these are optional and only enhance what is already a very flavorful dish.
Serve with some plain White Rice and some Siracha hot sauce on the side or, if you really want to be fancy, with some Coconut and Kaffir Lime flavoured Rice or some Jeera Rice. You can go look those up yourselves!
Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped Cilantro and Scallions.
This dish can be made ahead of time and simply covered with a Lid and left alone to come to room temperature. Personally, I'll make this in the morning and just leave it covered on the stovetop until later in the day. The flavors combine and become more intense over time and, especially, the next day.
Seafood. One of the most popular options is to substitute Shrimp, Prawns, or Caribbean Spiny Lobster for the Chicken. This almost becomes a completely different dish because seafood takes much less time to cook and the cooking order is completely different. If you want to use Shrimp or Lobster, add the Coconut Milk, Beer, Lemongrass, and Bay Leaves to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about fifteen (15) minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Onions, Garlic, and Bell Peppers. Simmer for about fifteen (15) minutes. Add the Shrimp or Lobster and cook until just cooked through, depending on the size, between five (5) and eight (8) minutes. Serve immediately.
Firm Tofu would be a great way to make this dish completely vegan. If wanting to go the vegan route, simply cube up the Tofu and sauté in Olive Oyl until crispy. Remove from the pan and proceed as with the above Seafood variation.
Recipe and Photo ©2011, L. M. Sorré, Wait At The Bar