Category Archives: Travel

Ausable Chasm Grand Canyon and Rhubarb Apple Walnut Braid


Few days ago we had a special occasion. Good reason to get away from the bustle and hustle of the city, and have our computer-locked heads unwind in a fresh air and wilderness. We’ve selected Ausable Chasm Grand Canyon, NY for a destination: the nearest major powerful nature spot that works magic for body and soul to help restore the spirit somehow lost in translation. Four hours of driving (Montreal-Plattsburgh round trip with pit stops), 30 minutes of border crossing, four hours of hiking in the majestic canyon, few hours of chilling in Plattsburgh after: one wonderful day of a powerful natural healing activity equal to a week of vacation!  With rafting on the agenda it would be even better although we didn’t do it at this time. If you’ve never been there, check here or hereto see what kind of experience you are missing.  
The silence of the enchanted forest interrupted by mighty gushing roaring waters of the waterfalls whoosh all the thoughts away almost instantly, leaving you feeling serene and irrelevant tiny particle of the whole picture. I wish I could just have clipped myself to one of the rocks and stay there forever… But there are only so many hours in the day, huh?
A short picnic was a great idea to take on a trail to the Secret Vista.

We brought a few gourmet sandwiches with homemade meatloaf, garden tomatoes and avocado; our staple zucchini corn bread (I can’t believe I still didn’t post the recipe) and an absolutely decadent, totally grown up style rhubarb-apple-raisin-walnut braid that appeared to be the highlight of the little feast. 

If you can imagine a dessert that can replace a good quality wine (not allowed in the park) this would be a great pick.
For an impromptu recipe made a night before the travel, lo and behold, this braid turned out to be extraordinary.  I wanted to use the fresh rhubarb longing on the fridge shelf in a pack of newspapers,  to be eventually claimed. 
Without a question, the puff pastry was going to wrap anything that would come out as a dessert from the oven that night. There are some ingredients I prefer to buy ready-made and the pastry dough is one of them. Why wasting time on the elaborate pastry dough-making process if the one from the store has proven to be your best friend on so many occasions (PS: this grand recipe included)? 
The filling made of fresh rhubarb, green apples, sultana raisins and toasted walnuts tastes really multi-dimensional:  with the mild tartness of the rhubarb and its astringency of the hazy summer evening (when mixed with brown sugar, apples, raisins, walnuts and cooked together ); with the piquancy of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and crumbled gingersnap cookies that’s reminiscent of Christmas holidays… To me it has a bouquet that can easily be compared (or even better, when paired with), to a nicely bodied Tempranillo with the nose enticing marmalade, hints of smoke, vanilla and figs (yes, figs!). As usually, you’ll never know till you try, right? And if you do, please tell me after if I wasn’t the last fine gueule to appreciate it.
Enjoy!
***
Two years ago: Easy Banana Ice Cream
***
RHUBARB APPLE WALNUT BRAID
Ingredients:
1 ½ cup fresh rhubarb, peeled and cut in ½ inch pieces
1 cup green apple, peeled, cored and cut in small cubes
½ cup sultana raisins
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup toasted walnuts, ground
½ cup gingersnap cookie, crumbled or crushed
1 package (397 g) puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 teaspoon icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Instructions:
Mix together chopped rhubarb, apples and raisins in a small bowl. Mix together brown sugar and corn starch in a medium sauce pan. Stir in rhubarb, apples, raisins and vanilla. Cook over low to medium heat until bubbling and thickened. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely. Add walnuts and mix.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Whisk together egg and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into 12” x 9” (30 cm x 22 cm) rectangle. Place pastry onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Spread half of the crumbled ginger cookies along the middle third of the pastry. Spoon the rhubarb-raisin-apple-walnuts mix over. Top with the rest of the ginger cookie crumbles.
Cut 1-inch (2.5 cm) wide strips on either side of the filling. Fold strips on each side alternately over filling to create a braid. Brush pastry with egg mixture.
Bake the braid for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden.
Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool slightly. Dust with powder sugar if wish be. Cut carefully into slices with the bread knife. Serve warm or cold with fresh berries on a side and ice cream if you wish.

Why Don’t You Go to St. Paddy’s Parade with Us?


St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com

I asked my daughter the other day and she said: ‘Thanks Mom, but NO – it’s too cold outside to be able to enjoy things.’ Fair enough. In more ways than I care to admit, I absolutely loathe humid cold and ice wind.  Imagine facing a combination of both standing at the corner of Saint Catherine and University (OOPs, I think it was renamed recently into Robert Bourassa Boulevard, so tourists have less hard times to read French maps of the downtown Montreal), underdressed for an hour – you get the picture. The nose and ears take some good few hours to defrost after. 
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC, 2015 © letsheatit.com
And yet, we did go to the parade.  How can we miss all that buzz and honking of ceilidh ceremony? It’s festive, it’s fun, it’s traditional and there’s always something new to discover.  Like, when else can you see an openly drinking, pot-smoking crowd in front of the tons of police without being disturbed? Now, that’s the power of Saint Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Bagpipe Musicians at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The bagpipe musicians, leprechauns, princesses, munchkins and all other fairy tale characters from  the Emerald Island were there facing the severe cold with us.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
After, we were planning to join Freeway and Natasha from Virgin radio at the Irish pub for brunch, but the freezing cold and wind completely coiled us so we went home instead. It felt like the only person who was dressed properly for the weather at the parade was this highly respected Irish participant in the traditional Canadian beaver coat.
Man in the Beaver Coat, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The cold reminded us of how good a bowl of hot soup with dumplings can be. No beer would taste as good as this soup to bring us back to life from the mess of the freezing torture. In my head I was already half-way to this bowl. The soup had to be green in honor of the shamrock and all things Irish. And it was. Stay tuned for the must-try vivid green Spinach Herb & Egg Drop soup which will follow shortly.
Spinach Herb & Egg Drop Soup © letsheatit.com
Irish Flag, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
Cheers to St. Paddy!

Catch of the Day: Trout in Ham Recipe


I don’t know what pushed us to go ice fishing few week-ends ago, but it wasn’t a common sense. But it made a good story, so I guess it was worth it anyways. Although very cold, the morning was bright and shiny and promised all kind of fun nature adventures. Doggy, the house astrologer was giving us her blessings…
When we arrived at Phillipsburg, it was minus thirty in Celsius, windy (which translates into minus forty five with the wind chill factor) and unbelievably humid because the day before was much warmer. The man on duty at Activités Plein Air with lobster-red face and neck briefly explained the rules of serious ice fishing and handed us a can of worms (greeting bonus for the ice fishing newcomers). ‘Go check your place and tell me when you’re ready,’ he said chewing cigarette roach and waving to the few cabins (cabane à pêche) available, so we could take a pic before parting with Canadian $75.00. ‘Is it biting well?’ – we inquired. ‘Keeps us pas mal busy, he replied. Perhaps he was talking about his liver, I don’t know. He had a breath of the United Distillery although it was just little past the afternoon. I realized we didn’t bring any alcohol, just a six-pack of Blanche de Chambly, which sounded more like a joke in this weather condition. What were we thinking? This kind of adventure calls for some hard alcohol, like the 120-proof Jamaican rum that can curl your nose hair just by looking at it. I also realized I should have put three pairs of pants instead of two, brought snow goggles, covered the rest of my face with Vaseline and wrapped the rest of my body in extra wool and feathers…
It was around half-mile to get to the nearest free cabin walking over the frozen lake. By the time we did with our back packs and fishing gear, I couldn’t take pictures anymore because my fingers went numb. So felt my camera – the buttons froze and were not working. The shack was empty, dark and cold: we had to go back to buy and bring some fire wood to start warming it up. The neighbor within few meters flung his cabin door open to take a loud steamy piss disregarding us as if we were some kind of uninvolved bystanders stoned as much as him by that point of the day. He then gulped some moonshine from a plastic water bottle and vanished back into his cabin. Although many shacks have been already rented, we’ve seen no fish caught around and heard no screams of excitement. Everything was dead silent, steamy cold and wild.
In less than 15 minutes I felt like I’ve been ice fishing for a century. I might even have taken this image a hundred years ago in Gilford, Ontario, except I absolutely wouldn’t want to be that person…
The landscape reminded me of ‘The Red Tent’ vintage movie my parents used to make me watch as a toddler for like thousand times because they liked it and thought it was a ‘masterpiece tragedy’. Sean Connery played Roald Amundsen, Claudia Cardinale was a hot nurse Valeria. Most of the time (script) all was lost; the characters would suffer from the situation, relationships and excruciating cold. Everyone’s face was covered with icicles. Everything went epic bad to the score of eternal Enio Morricone…
‘I think we have just screwed our day. The fish is not biting. Most of my blood circulation has shut down… And our phone is dead…. What other signs do we need to stop before it’s too late? It feels to me like this kind of adventure can only give pneumonia or a prostate whatever… What if we freeze to death, or worse, drift into the ocean on break-away sea ice floes like those 220 Latvian anglers? I should have SKYPEd with my Mom this morning.’
‘Just for today, I wish I had a giant beard like Hans Langseth to keep me warm. I could wrap it around my neck and shoulders and protect myself better from the Arctic cold and hard-blowing flurries’, the idea crossed my mind while we soldiered back to the station at the sunset empty-handed. The landscape was breathtaking though…
‘I thought the catch would happen fast and easy like that Finnish angler promised in his blog. ‘Next time may be you should check the real Canadian website for more information on local conditions,’ suggested honey-bunny. Oh well. That was our tribute to cold.We did catch one fish – a small pregnant perch, which we released:
I enlarged it on purpose (like they do with many things) to compare with the Finnish angler (bottom right image is a Finnish pike):
I was happy to be back to Montreal safe and sound. We passed by Costco and I bought a pack of freshly caught trout with one single wish in my head: ‘Summer, come back to me!’.
The wish manifested later in the form of Trucha Con Jamón dish – my favorite Spanish way (originating from Navarra region) to cook trout wrapped in cured ham. Crisp ham and fish skin, juicy tender fish fillet inside, contrasting exotic flavors. It guarantees to bring the sunshine back to your plate rain or shine! Next time in February, Costco will be as far as I can go for my winter catch of the day adventure, I swear.
Naturally, this recipe can be done with other wrap-able fresh fish, or even better, fish fillet. Pickerel, cod, haddock, rockfish or bass fillets would be my best bets; lean salmon would be OK  (as long as the piece is not too greasy).
Equally, some versions of Trucha Con Jamón are done with the ham going inside the cavity of the fish instead of the outside. The most known is the one called Truca a la Riohana. Still heavenly tasty!
Quick note: TOTALLY OPTIONAL – often I de-bone the fish (which is easy in case of the fresh trout) for the comfort of consumption, but it’s really not necessary if you’re OK with fish bones (although it does give you a hint that you can do the same with any pair of fish fillets – sounds to me like a great idea for a restaurant menu):
Another quick note/disclaimer: although it makes quite a stretch from the classic recipe, thinly sliced fresh pork belly makes a great riff on this dish for both, to stuff or to wrap it in:
Some words on side courses:
– Excellent with simple green peas and some other steamed or sautéed veggies extra, like zucchini, broccoli, sprouts, etc.;
– Out of this world with the side course of warm sautéed leeks and carrots  and/or olive salad; 
– Festive with Waldorf;
– Light and easy with simple green watercress salad;
– Groovie with classic potato salad,
and many more…
Enjoy!
***
TROUT WRAPPED IN CURED HAM (Trucha Con Jamón)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if necessary)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 wedge of lemon to sprinkle (optional)
1 slice of bacon/lard, cut in cubes (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced (optional)
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients:
Season the trout with salt and pepper, sprinkle with lemon inside out and set aside.
Heat the skillet to medium high, add bacon and fry it for 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper to the skillet and continue frying for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the plate and let cool. Keep the liquid bacon fat leftover in the skillet for the next step.
Pat-dry trout with paper towels and stuff the cavity with bacon-red pepper mix.  Wrap the trout with cured ham making sure the cavity with the stuffing is well closed.
Re-heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout wrapped in ham carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!
TROUT STUFFED WITH HAM (Trucha a la Riohana)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if wish be)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions:
Season the trout with salt and pepper. Pat dry the trout with paper towel. Stuff the cavity with ham.  Heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5+ minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!

Hemingway Champagne & Cuban Rabbit Fricassee Recipe

With the whooping record of 3 million tourists this year and a hope for the end of the US embargo of 50 years, Cubans have something special to celebrate this New Year’s Eve. And while my festive rabbit stew (no need to advertise this light and savory Caribbean dish) is piping in the oven, I decided to drop a line to reflect on our most recent travel to Havana last summer and, particularly, the drink called Hemingway Champagne.


‘I drink to make other people more interesting,’ says the quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway. That’s quite an understatement from the celebrated writer known for his way around the women, best bars and drinks from Paris to Madrid, from Key West to Havana. A well-known fact: drinks, bars and people in them helped Hemingway to create his characters and add the depth and thrill to his prose. In a letter to poet MacLeish he explained that: ‘It’s good for us both to lay off the old liquor too; but by God it’s dull work doing it. I’d like to hunt and fish the rest of my life and be just drunk enough to sleep well every night… But instead I’ve got to write, and boil the liquor out to be able to write my best, and get my sensitivity back to be able to write where (I) have sort of burned it away in war. Hell of a job.’

I’m a big fan of Hemingway’s works, so when we went to Havana last summer my first move was to go in the footsteps of ‘Papa’.  Obviously, I’m talking about the historical bars with character, where Hemingway used to spend his afternoons to kick start his muse during those good 20 years of his Cuban residence. Let’s put some Buena Vista Club on and go for a little Havana Vieja journey.

We hit the streets of Havana on one excruciatingly hot summer day to see what’s up with Hemingway’s Caribbean drinking memorabilia in the old city.  The first stop was at recently re-opened Sloppy Joe’s seafood and cocktail bar featured in the movie Our Man in Havana, which reopened its doors in 2013 after being closed for 48 years. Hemingway used to hang out there with many other celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole, Ted Williams, Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper. Back in the 50s the bar was also a prototype of the not less famous Sloppy Joe’s in the Key West I featured in this post.

We stepped into the freshly painted sleek bar décor and ordered Cuban pork sandwiches with sweet potato fries and ‘Cuba Libre’ cocktail they offered to go with the sandwich (from ‘To Have and Have Not’).  I loved the freshly re-constructed Art Deco Miami-style flair about the area, the cleanness inside out and the fast service. Don’t forget, this place was a complete ruin for 48 years, so one should not under-estimate the effort of the Cuban government and of course the Cuban expats to reconstitute the place. Hopefully, one day it will completely return to its glory – it definitely has now a potential for that.    

Corner of Zulueta (252) e/Animas and Virtudes, Old Havana, Cuba

Armed with the few heavy calories we headed to find the El Floridita, almost two hundred years old fish and cocktail bar at the corner of Obispo and Monserrate streets, where Hemingway used to team up with the famous Cuban bartender Constante Ribailagua to create his Papa Doble Daiquiri and other signature drinks. 

After few minutes walk through the Park Central which felt like a century due to the heat and the crowds of hookers of all ages and persuasion chasing us (surprisingly, not to offer their services, but just to ask for a soap or a tooth brush: sadly, YES, that’s how desperate is current Cuban’s economy nowadays), we managed to find the El Floridita bar. 

The frozen daiquiri tasted good and refreshing indeed, although it was three times more expensive than at any other bar in Cuba (you’ve gotta pay premium for the name and I have no problem with that). The life size bronze statue of Hemingway was leaning over the bar to remind that it used to be his haunt. However, the place didn’t feel like IT and was too crowded with tourists to feel comfortable.
ADDRESS: El Floridita
Corner of Obispo (esq. 557) and Monserrate Streets
Hours: 11 AM till midnight 

Hemingway’s Photo via Wiki

Next: ‘My mojito in La Bodegita, my daiquiri in El Floridita’, and so we followed Hemingway’s tip to try the best Mojito in Havana at La Bodeguita del Medio. When we reached the place, it was packed with locals, tourists, artists and musicians all drenching in sweat (forget the conditioner – it’s too much of a luxury in most places in Havana). We had to literally elbow-fight to get through to the counter to have a speedy Mojito, which didn’t much differ from any other Mojito you pay eight-plus pesos in the rest of Habana Vieja.  The spirit of Papa was nowhere felt.  I must admit though, the place did have character with all the musicians, graffiti and surroundings (playing kids, puddles of urine, etc.) as opposed to two previous bars. Oddly enough though, it was so far my least favorite. 
ADDRESS: La Bodeguita del Medio
206 Calle Empedrado 206 (between Cuba and San Ignacio Streets), Old Havana, Cuba
Hours: Noon till midnight

Our final stop of the day was Hotel Ambos Mundos at the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes, where Hemingway spent seven years of his life in the 30ies. I was excited to see his room on the upper 5th floor, his typewriter and the views of the Old Havana and the harbor sea that inspired him daily. 

It was a bummer to see the sign ‘Hemingway’s room is closed for visitors’ next to the old elevators, of which the guards were very protective of. I was beginning to feel that the ‘lost generation’ term was actually quite literate. Hopeless to find any leftover of the spirit of Hemingway, we went through the hall with the walls covered with fading cheerless images of the writer and his life in Cuba. 

The uniform-dressed woman at the lobby desk had a major presence signifying that if we would like to find some trace of Hemingway, we’d rather go back home and read a book about him. We retreated to the empty bar in the lobby and just sat there with the gloom of disappointed kids waiting for the bartender to come… 

Catching our pointless glare, the bartender asked if we would like to try some Hemingway Champagne. We agreed. In a gesture of encouragement, he procured a bottle of absinthe from under the counter and poured some of it in the flutes. He then topped them with the iced champagne and handed us the milky mix right away. Our disappointment evanesced the minute we took a sip of that drink. ‘OMG, this is where he is,’ I realized suddenly – ‘HE IS the DRINK in this sweaty, ruined, wonderful Havana!’  
ADDRESS: Ambos Mundos Hotel /Bar

153 Calle Obispo, Old Havana, Cuba

And this is how we scored our ‘in the footsteps of Hemingway’s cocktails game’ that day. I must say it was a tough mix of alcohols. ‘You can’t handle it, little mama,’ was the last thought in my head (with the voice of Ron Burgundy (aka Will Ferrel) before I passed out in the hotel room that afternoon. Clearly, the ‘Death in the Afternoon’ (alternative name of this drink) is an acquired-taste type of the cocktail, at least in my case.  Ernest Hemingway created this drink further to his non-fiction ‘Death in the Afternoon’ about Spanish bullfighting and it was later published in the 1935 collection of celebrity cocktail recipes. His instructions were: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” If you feel like trying it, I suggest you go for the legal absinthe alternative for this drink, Pernod, in the same proportion.

Tonight we’re going to drink simple but elegant Crémant d’Alsace. There will be no Hemingway Champagne. So why was I telling you all that? Definitely, not to encourage you drinking. Because it’s the New Year’s Eve, many are going to the most popular Caribbean destination; and it’s time to have fun, reflect on 2014 and celebrate the miraculous.  There will be an upscale Cuban dish on our table though: a wonderful one-pot rabbit fricassee full of Creole flavors and sunshine.  

Lean, healthy, light, highly aromatic: it makes you feel like dancing all night long – no wonder Cubans have the historic affinity for the rabbit dishes (from Batista to Castro). 
Note for Paleo and Gluten Free people: skip dusting the rabbit in flour and proceed with browning without it.

Happy New Year Everyone – Peace on Earth!

***

CUBAN STYLE RABBIT FRICASSEE

Yields : 6 servings
Ingredients :
1 (about 3 lbs) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces
3-4 tbsp flour
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp curry powder
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
2-3 tbsp olive oil
6-8 strips of bacon cut in cubes
1 tbsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
¼ tsp saffron powder (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups chicken stock or water
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup capers, drained
1 cup raisins
¼ cup green pitted olives, whole or chopped
1 can (10 oz) green peas, drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper. Mix the flour with thyme and curry powder and cover the rabbit pieces with it (use the Ziploc bag if necessary to evenly distribute the flour mix). Heat the butter and olive oil in the deep skillet to medium high, place the rabbit pieces and brown on all sides for about 6-7 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to the Dutch oven.
Add the bacon to the skillet and brown on medium high for a few minutes. Distribute bacon pieces over the rabbit. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bring the skillet to the high heat. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, saffron and cumin to the skillet for 2-3 minutes mixing vigorously. Add diced tomatoes and wine, mix well. Add the onion-tomatoes mixture to the rabbit-bacon mix. Drizzle with lemon juice. Add bay leaf.  Pour the hot chicken stock or water over the rabbit and bring to boil.
Cover the casserole with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 minutes and drain the water. Set aside.
Remove the casserole from the oven, check the seasoning. Add parboiled potatoes, capers, raisins and olives. Cover with foil and return the casserole to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes.
Check the rabbit for tenderness: the meat should be starting to fall off the bone when it’s ready.  Stir in frozen green peas and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes uncovered.

Remove from the oven, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

No Problem Jamaican Jerk from Sunny Negril

Last weekend was blessed with sunshine, we needed so badly to catch up with endless home and garden chores and have the final year’s swim. We also made some excellent grill dedicated to Jamaican Jerk. Traditionally slow-cooked and smoked to delicious perfection, Jerk is a passport to Jamaican street food. This recipe was brought from sunny Negril. If you are anything like me, once you tried a real thing you would always want to make it at home. We make it in every season, even in winter, yes, that’s how much we like it. There is something magical about the jerk, something very West Indies about, embracing all traditional spices, condiments and the taste of Caribbean in general. And it’s super-hot! Nice green salad and beer are the must companions for the Jerk.
Away from wind, rain and cold and back to the happiest memories of so many wonderful vacations with friends and family… We are going to one of my favorite Caribbean food destinations, the reggae homeland, Jamaica. Mon, I love this country. It has everything the perfect vacation is about: clear waters, pristine beaches, lush islands, emerald rivers, fascinating falls, world’s best Blue Mountain coffee, reggae music, fun people and, of course, all kinds of JERK!
There is even a Jerk Trail guide mapwith few dozen of jerk eateries around the island featuring the best jerk dishes, which are not only limited to chicken, but also include pork, shrimp, sausage, even conch specialties. Particularly in Negril, I would currently also add my favorite 3 Dives and De Bar spots to the list of the most authentic Jamaican jerk experiences.
Something tells me a day on the beautiful beach followed by great local specialty sunset dinner to live reggae music for a pocket change is not only my idea of perfect. Speaking of the beach, the Seven Mile Beach in Negril is of course one of the best beaches in Jamaica (which is, reportedly and sadly, now slowly vanishing). Our favorite part of the beach stretch though is along the shore of the Bloody Bay lined in the forest of towering palms at the level of Breezes and Couples Negril hotels (the letter is hard to beat with their level of services and never disappoints).
No need to dress up, a nice barefoot walk in white powdery sand, with clear turquoise water lapping at your toes is all you need to discover the mini-Jamaica from day one: fresh breeze, smell of the pit-fire pimento leaves smoked Jerk, vendors and musicians in those quirky Jamaican hats, little food shacks made of the drift wood…

I’m still keeping one of the little bracelets the funky guy in marijuana glasses (he was smoking pot at the same time) was making for everyone passing by and just giving them away. For those interested, he was also giving a quick lecture about Rastafarianism…

And how about snorkeling, diving in caves, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and some ocean horseback riding experiences – who on Earth can forget that thrill…

I’ve been to different parts of Jamaica and had some of the most authentic jerk experiences from street stands to beach shacks to dinner huts to hotels and restaurants. Every Jamaican chef has his/her own variation of marinade, but there are some key ingredients to it, including allspice (pimento), scallions, thyme, onion, ginger, lime and scotch bonnet peppers.

Warning: scotch bonnet peppers are extremely hot. If you don’t like it too hot and more than one scotch bonnet pepper sounds incendiary to you, limit the recipe to one scotch bonnet pepper only and then taste the marinade to figure out if you’d like to add a few more. Keep a bunch of Red Stripe beer in your fridge to cool down the flames Jamaican way.
Some Jamaican chefs like John Bull from Reggae Kitchen, don’t use ginger in marinade (he remarkably refers to his jerk prep as ‘maya-neering’ or, sometimes, ‘money-raiding’ (perhaps when he wants to share some ganja tales at the same time). Others, like the Carribeanpot Chef, do and my final collective and tested recipe is close to his.
Don’t be put off by the list of marinade ingredients. It really takes maximum 10 minutes to prepare, as long as you are mentally ready and the list is checked off. Just put everything except chicken in a food processor or blender, and puree the ingredients into the paste. Rub it into the chicken immediately and store in the fridge overnight.  Once the chicken is marinated, you can use the classic grill-smoking, oven-baking or pan-frying methods to cook it.
Note: slightly scoring chicken helps to improve the marination process.
Grilling Method:
Traditionally, the jerk is slowly cooked over the pit fire coals with lots of added smoke from pimento leaves.  At the end it’s supposed to be charred, but not over-charred. For additional smoke in your BBQ, add some smoke chips to the grill or place a piece of smoking wood (spraying it with water when it ignites).
Preheat the grill to medium-high or build a medium hot charcoal grill. Clean and lightly oil the grill. Place chicken skin side down, grill for 5 minutes to form the crust. Turn to the other side. Grill for another 5 minutes.  Cover the grill and lower the heat to the minimum. Continue grilling until cooked through for about 30-40 minutes, turning often to prevent burning. Alternatively, (and if/or pressed with other chores), you can transfer the 10-minutes grilled chicken to 350F oven and finish by baking it for 30-40 minutes.
Oven Method:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Place chicken in foiled and greased pan skin side up. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken to the other side. Lower the heat to 350F and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn chicken back to skin side up and bake for another 15 minutes, or until cooked through and the juices are running clear. Transfer chicken to platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Pan-Frying Method:
On a cold rainy night, try a simplified ‘spatchcocking’ (flattening) pan-fried method (I described previously in other chicken recipe) for faster and juicier results. Turn on the exhaust (you really need it for this method – the nice cooking jerk smell will go all over the place). Place the chicken on a medium-heated skillet with a bit of oil (1 tsp), brown slightly on one side for 5-6 minutes, turn, cover with heat-resistant plate and weight (I used the flat stone, you can use the brick or the pan filled with water). You will be surprised how moist, tender, yet crispy your marinated jerk can come out from just a frying pan in less than 30 minutes. Of course, this no longer will be a smoked version of jerk, but you will still get most of its amazing flavors.
Serve with a big green salad (like watercress chopped salad I posted previously) and rice to offset the heat and, naturally, a tall glass of cold beer (Red Stripe would bring you closer to Jamaican experience).
Are you ready now to make Jamaican Jerk in your kitchen? Let’s put some nice reggae from a wonderful soundtrack of the Chef movie and proceed to the recipe:

Cheers to the Jerk! Indulge yourself in real Jamaican flavors…
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One year ago: Indian Summer Dinner
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SPICY JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN & MARINADE*
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
*Note: This marinade is also good for grilled pork, fish or sausages.

Ingredients:

2 small to medium-sized chicken (preferably, free range), cut in 4 parts each
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp soya sauce
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
5-6 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optionally, other vinegar)
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange (or ¼ cup of orange juice)
1 bunch of (6-10) scallions, coarsely chopped
½ small onion, coarsely chopped
1 thumb knuckle of ginger, skin on
1 tbsp allspice, (preferably, freshly ground)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tbsp fresh thyme
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic
1 to 5 scotch bonnet peppers (begin with one and add more after for more heat if desired)*
2-3 tbsp of brown sugar, or Maple Syrup (for Canadian twist)
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
*Note: alternatively, replace scotch bonnet peppers with equal amount of habanero peppers, or double of jalapeno peppers, or 1/3 cup of scotch bonnet sauce.
Instructions:
Lightly score the chicken pieces with few not too deep slits. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor (liquids first, then solids) into a puree. Taste for the salt and add more if desired. Check for spicy, sweet and sour:  the marinade should taste sour-sweet-salt-spicy good and balanced.
Rub the chicken with marinade and refrigerate overnight (to three-five days).
Use one of the cooking methods listed above with instructions: grilled, oven-cooked or pan-fried.
Serve with traditional rice and beans, green salad and beer.