Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Jerk Food and the Allspice Tree

The Real Jerk : New Caribbean Cuisine
by Lily Pottinger, Ed Pottinger
Paperback: 188 pages
Dimensions (in inches): 0.50 x 9.68 x 7.50
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press; (October 2002)
ISBN: 1551521156

Strange name for a cookbook I thought to myself, as I settled into an easy chair at the public library and scanned it for "goodness".

I've yet to taste Caribbean or Jamaican food that meant much to my palate. But, the Food sections and the bookstores do seem to promote this cuisine as something special. Ahh, before I forget it, I must say that the closest I've ever been to that part of the world is Cancun Mexico.

I flip open to a page of The Real Jerk and find that to jerk chicken you must make up The Real Jerk (Jerk's) jerk sauce. So far so good. The recipe for The Real Jerk jerk is pretty much the same as every else I've seen.


(as to why you should consider Jamaican cuisine important)

The foods (meat, poultry, fish) were traditionally pit cooked food! Of course this tastes good! Of course, the authors say that was then. Now-a-days, at there restaurant "The Real Jerk" (strange name for a restaurant, I thought to myself!), they have a stove and oven, et cetera.

"So where is the REVELATION" you ask?

Jamaicans use the wood of the Allspice (pimento) tree in the pit. Naturally foods taste better grilled over a spice.

So that answers the question: What is special about Jamaican cuisine.

An old recipe using an herb to flavor food on the grill:

Grilled Trout with Bay.


1 to 1 1/2 trout per person

Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Oil for wiping the grate or grid
1 lemon, cut in half
olive oil


A grill, either wood, charcoal or propane
Large Metal spatula

Here in LA, I can buy dried bay leaves, not too long off the tree, in one ounce bags for under a dollar. Unless you are rich, don't buy Shilling's or McCormick's bay leaves in a jar. The cost is prohibitive.

Cut the lemon crosswise. Put one half aside for the meal. Squeeze a few drops of juice on each side of the trout and wipe the juice over the surface of the fish with a paper towel or your finger.

Using a sharp knife, make shallow slashes diagonally across the thickest part of the fish. Viz.: / / /

The / / / represent the slashes.

Next, drip olive oil on both sides of the trout and set the fishies on a platter. In the fridge, if more than an hour from cooking time, please.

Fire up the grill, allowing a 20 minute warm-up for propane or until the charcoal turns white or until the wood glows bright orange. Fold up a paper napkin, pour a small amount of oil on it and wipe the grid or grate to slicken the surface. Drop half a dozen bay leaves on the coals. Or if you have propane, on the rocks. Throw (not literally) the fish on the grill, close the lid and cook 7 minutes per inch of thickness of fish. Turn at the half cooked time, adding more bay leaves. Close the lid and cook for the remainder of the time.

Serving ideas:

French fries
White wine
Sherbet and champagne dessert

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