Pimento Grain

the recipes of a nomadic Jamaican

Category: Meat

Reverse Seared Short Rib

Roasted short rib, ready to be carved

Roasted short rib, off the grill and ready to be carved

I made my first and last corned beef brisket last year for St. Patrick’s Day. My husband, the expert on all things meat, and our guests were pleased with it but I was completely unable to get over the strong saltiness. I decided that I need a decade-long break from the dish, so this year I roasted a boneless short rib instead. I served it with the requisite spuds and cabbage for a meal so remarkable that the traditional corned beef was forgotten.

I ‘accidentally’ bought boneless short ribs – I see absolutely no point in the existence of boneless ribs but I didn’t read carefully enough so these ended up in the fridge. I had planned to make a tri-tip from the freezer but since the ribs were bought fresh, they won a spot on the St. Patrick’s Day spread. I used the reverse sear method which is possible using a conventional oven but I decided it would have been more fun to do this on my Big Green Egg barbecue. The recipe calls for green onion or scallion powder; you can use twice the amount of chopped fresh green onions instead. I made my own green onion powder by dehydrating the tops of onions from my summer garden. If you can find some, you must try it – it’s a very potent dimension of one of my absolute favorite seasonings. That being said, any good beef rub will work excellently.

1. In a small bowl, mix together a paste of:

2 tsps grapeseed oil (or other neutral cooking oil)

2 Tbsps green onion powder 

1/2 tsp desiccated onion flakes

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1/2 tsp demerara sugar

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp garlic powder

3/4 tsp salt

Combine these spices with a little oil for a delicious beef rub

Combine these spices with a little oil for a delicious beef rub

2. Rub paste generously on

2-3 lbs boneless beef short ribs

3. Seal and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

4. Preheat oven or grill to 225 – 250°F. If using a barbecue, be sure to place the short ribs in the ‘cool’ or indirect zone.

The boneless short rib on the raised grid of my Big Green Egg

The boneless short rib on the raised grid of my Big Green Egg

5. Cook beef at low heat until thermometer inserted into the thickest region registers 15°F cooler than your desired temperature. Beef is medium-rare at 135°F and well done at 160°F.

6. Once the rib is 15°F cooler than your desired temperature, turn the heat up to 450-500°F (if using a charcoal barbecue, move the roast directly over the coal and fully open up your vents).

7. Leave the meat on high temperature until desired browning has taken place, about another five or ten minutes. This will crisp your meat, generating a rich caramelized flavor.

8. Remove from oven or grill, carve and serve immediately.

Smashed roasted fingerlings a la tostones and stir fried cabbage completed the meal

Smashed roasted fingerlings (a la tostones) and stir fried cabbage completed the meal

Enjoy!

 

Beautiful myoglobin. You can let the meat rest for a while after removing it from the grill to allow the juices to recirculate, minimizing the mess

Beautiful myoglobin. You can let the meat rest for a while after removing it from the grill to allow the juices to recirculate, minimizing the mess

A Rough Guide to Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jerk chicken is a staple on the menu of every Jamaican restaurant. The most serious chefs will not prepare any jerk dish without using pimento or sweet wood smoke as a definitive mark of authenticity. There are hundreds of recipes out there that only require you to season the chicken and place it in your oven or on your grill, and I’m sure they are delicious but what defines true jerk flavor is the essential-oil laden, cinnamony sweet, clove-like, and slightly camphoraceous smoke of the pimento (allspice) or sweet wood (bay rum NOT bay laurel) plant. Jerk chicken is delicious with a myriad of side dishes including fried ripe plantains, grilled pineapple, Jamaican rice and peas, coleslaw, cucumber relish, and the beloved hard dough bread. 

Jamaican jerk chicken on pimento wood

Jamaican jerk chicken on pimento wood

1. Marinate your chicken for 6 – 24 hours

1 5-lb fryer, cut in half, quartered or spatchcocked

6 Tbsps Walkerswood Jerk Marinade for a shorter time or  Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning (for overnight marinade)

We aren't huge fans of white meat in my household but this breast was irresistibly juicy

We aren’t huge fans of white meat in my household but this breast was irresistibly juicy

2. Soak in separate containers of water for one hour (don’t soak the chips together with the sticks or leaves)

1 1/2 cups pimento smoking chips

4-6 pimento and/or sweet wood logs

1 oz pimento leaves

3. While your leaves and wood are soaking, bring the heat in your grill to 300°F using the two-zone or offset method. I use a Big Green Egg Kamado cooker, so instead of using two zones, I used my ceramic plate setter/ConvEGGtor and a tiered rack to further distance the chicken from the heat. for You can go as low as 250°F but it will take more time and the skin will not crisp up.

Pimento and Sweet Wood sticks on a bed of pimento leaves.

Pimento and Sweet Wood sticks on a bed of pimento leaves.

4. When grill is hot enough lay the leaves on the cooler side of the grill, or in the center if you are using a similar setup to mine. Place the sticks on top of the leaves.

5. Place the chicken skin-side-up directly on the pimento logs

Marinated chicken atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

Marinated chicken halves atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

6. Add the soaked wood chips directly to the coals, or use a smoker box if you have a gas grill

7. Close the grill and maintain a temperature of 300-350°F for 1.5 to 2 hours

8. When chicken has reached 160°F, generously mop with

Walkerswood Jerk Barbecue Sauce

9. Re-cover grill and continue to cook at 375°F until sauce has begun to caramelize and chicken is at least 165°F in the meatiest part of the leg and the breast.

Enjoy with your favorite Jamaican side dishes and a cold Red Stripe.

Marinated chicken atop pimento sticks

Marinated chicken atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

Tips:

  • Wash the cooled sticks, air dry and save for a future use
  • Walkerswood Jerk BBQ sauce is an amazing banana-based finish for any barbecued meat
Chicken mopped with barbecue sauce

Chicken mopped with barbecue sauce

Cajun-Spiced Smoked Steelhead

The finished product

Hot smoked steelhead

Steelhead are a coastal rainbow trout, popularly fished for an enjoyed in the Pacific Northwest; in fact, it is the official State Fish of Washington. The fish are born in freshwater streams then spend as many as four, I have heard five, years in the Pacific Ocean and return to the rivers to spawn, mostly during the winter months. While part of the salmonid family, steelhead, unlike salmon, do not die upon spawning.

I brined the fish overnight, rubbed with a mixture of creole seasoning and Demerara sugar

I brined the fish overnight, rubbed with a mixture of creole seasoning and Demerara sugar

I have not had the pleasure of catching a steelhead of my own but I have eaten quite a bit of it and enjoy it as much as I do salmon. Last week I ventured out to Taholah, where the Quinault river meets the Pacific Ocean, and came home with 32 pounds of fresh-caught steelhead for a small fraction of what I would pay in a supermarket. I challenged myself to smoking some and I consider the outcome a success so I am sharing the method with you today. You can use this method for smoking salmon and other fish as well. You will need a good nonreactive container for brining the fish. I recommend The Briner Jr.

Vacuum sealed for delayed gratification (and shipping to friends and family)

Vacuum sealed for delayed gratification (and shipping to friends and family)

1. Stir together over medium heat until sugar and salt are completely dissolved

5 quarts water

1 cup sugar (I use brown Demerara)

1 cup molasses

1 cup fine salt (not iodized)

1 cup desiccated onion or 1/3 cup onion powder

1 Tbsp granulated garlic

Six whole allspice berries

2. Allow the brine to cool completely, transfer to a nonreactive container then add

3 lbs steelhead or salmon (filleted)

3. Ensure that the fish is completely submerged. Cover the container and refrigerate for 8-12 hours

4. Remove fillets from brine, pat dry and place skin-side down on a rack.

5. Rub exposed flesh with a mixture of

1 Tbsp Cajun or Creole Seasoning (I use Slap Ya Mama’s white pepper blend)

2 Tbsps sugar

1 tsp granulated garlic

6. Return the rack to the fridge for another 6 hours, allowing the fish to air dry. In the meantime, soak your alder chips.

7. Set  smoker to 150°F and add soaked alder chips.

8. Place fish on oiled grates, skin-side down. Smoke for 2 hours at 150 °F then for another 2-4 hours at 180°F. The longer you smoke it, the firmer the fish will be.

9. Allow fish to cool then refrigerate.

Enjoy as is, or in smoked fish creations such as dip.

Brined, rubbed and ready for the smoker

Brined, rubbed and ready for the smoker

Tips.

  • I smoked the steelhead on my Big Green Egg ceramic barbecue, not a dedicated smoker. I used the plate setter for indirect heat.
  • Rubbing all over the flesh of the fish will limit secretion of albumin (the white protein that oozes out of the fish as it cooks)

Comparison of US-Based Pimento Wood Suppliers

Sweet wood from both vendors - PW's in bundle and PWP's laid flat

Sweet wood from both vendors – PW’s in bundle and PWP’s laid flat

Jerk is one of the most distinctively Jamaican flavours, and every learned connoisseur will agree that jerk chicken (or pork) is incomplete without the finishing touch of pimento wood. Pimento wood is obtained from the allspice tree – an evergreen shrub brimming with essential oils – that is found in few places outside of my homeland Jamaica. The closest substitute is the bay rum tree (not to be confused with the bay laurel tree). The logs from the bay rum plant have been dubbed ‘sweet wood’. Neither plant will survive outside of tropical or the warmest subtropical climes, and even in places where it does grow, there isn’t enough produced for the purpose of logs, so this is one of the most exotic smoking woods on the market.

Diametrical comparison

Sweet Wood diametrical comparison

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Pimento Wood’s burlap bag of chips

PWP's sack of chips

PWP’s sack of chips

 

There are two suppliers here in the United States – PimentoWood.com that has been supplying the US market since 2006 and their emerging competitor PimentoWoodProducts.com. They are both relatively expensive options but the only realistic avenue for jerkers in this country. I did find a few vendors who would ship from Jamaica but it is very likely that your wood will be confiscated by US customs if you try to import directly without a special license. Another Jamaican vendor will only sell by the container load and that isn’t an undertaking that I, a mere home cook, find appealing. So to help those of you who are longing for an authentic taste of Jamaica, I have prepared a table (pun intended) with my observations from a year of ordering from both vendors. The measurements are from the most recent (identical) order I placed with both. Neither vendor has a consistent supply so my decision is always up to which of them has wood, chips or leaves, whichever I have a need for, in stock. 

Pimento Wood Diametrical Comparison

Pimento Wood Diametrical Comparison

 PimentoWood.comPimentoWoodProducts.com
Pimento Wood Sticks
Price (four sticks)$39.95$32.00
Average Diameter1.75"0.8"
Average Length17.5"12"
Sweet Wood Sticks
Price (four sticks)$29.95$27.00
Average Diameter1.25"0.75"
Average Length18"12"
Pimento Leaves
Price (per oz)$14.95$13.95
Pimento Chips
Price (two lbs)$24.95$21.00
Consistencyshort chunksthin flakes
Pimento Chunks
Price (per lb)$12.95Does not sell
Shipping
Time5 days3 days
Expedited Shipping Available upon CheckoutYesNo
The wood chips. PW's are larger than PWP's but size doesn't matter, in my opinion.

The wood chips. PW’s are larger than PWP’s but size doesn’t matter that much with chips, in my opinion.

Personal Opinions

PimentoWoodProducts.com – To be fair to pimentowoodproducts.com, I have received slightly larger sticks from them in the past. The sweetwood sticks that I got in this shipment were listed as unavailable on the website so I called to inquire whether they could delay until they had more available, I agreed to buy the sticks they found in storage and was billed a higher price than usual for them. The pimento sticks were shown as in stock and purchased directly from the website. I appreciate the swiftness with which they ship an order. Their customer service, however, is generally poor. When I find fault with a shipment and contact them, their standard response is along the lines of “that’s the way it is” or “that’s the way you really want it”.  One time their agent went out of his way to make me a diagram on how to use the sticks that I complained about having irregular curvature. The size of their sticks means they cannot be reused as many times as the larger sticks of their competitor. Their leaves also seem fresher, which means fewer leaves per oz than their competitor. 

Pimento Wood Comparison

Pimento Wood Comparison

PimentoWood.com – This vendor sells far more products than I have listed in the table, but I have not included information on anything I haven’t personally ordered and used. I had one experience where I placed an order and received no information after two weeks, it turns out they were out of stock and the owner was in Jamaica procuring more wood. They made it right by giving me a refund and a 30% discount on a future purchase. Shipping isn’t usually very swift but the product is consistent in size and quality, nicely packaged and appears to be from more mature plants. I know I am getting value for money, and when the product arrives it is always what I expected.  I feel like, even though I pay more and wait longer, I am getting ‘brawta’.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Happy Jerking!

Update: Pimento Wood Products sent me a free replacement of the pimento wood sticks three weeks after my original order.

Skin-on Pork Loin Roast

crispy crackling falling off tender, juicy pork

crispy crackling falling off tender, juicy pork

Yesterday I labored in the kitchen at the basic country loaf from Chad Robertson’s Tartine bread, and at the end of the night when I finally put my loaves in the fridge to slowly ferment, I decided that good bread warranted delicious meat so, as if I wasn’t tired enough, I spent another hour scoring and seasoning this skin-on loin roast.  The result was definitely worth it: a superlative sandwich of extraordinary bread topped with succulent meat and fresh greens. Below is my method for the pork roast but if you want to dabble intrusion bread making, you can order Chad’s book here. Do not Google his recipe as none of the online reproductions come close to the depth of the descriptions and images in the book itself.

My beautiful loaf of Tartine country bread

My beautiful loaf of Tartine country bread

Fresh bread, homemade apple butter, delicious pork and a few green spinach leaves to absolve my conscience

Fresh bread, homemade apple butter, delicious pork and a few green spinach leaves to absolve me

1. With a sharp knife, score in a criss-cross pattern

1 3lb skin-on pork loin

2. Season pork skin between scores with

salt and pepper to taste

3. Brush pork skin with

a little oil

4. Season meat, except skin, with a finely ground blend of

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 Tbsp sea salt

3 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp fennel pollen or fennel seed (or a blend of both)

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

1 Tbsp fresh parsley

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp freshly ground peppercorn 

5. Refrigerate the roast at least four hours, uncovered, on the bottom shelf of your fridge

6. Let the roast sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking

7. Preheat oven to 475°F and cook roast for 40 minutes, then lower temperature to 400°F and cook until thermometer reads 155°F, about another 40 minutes.

8. Allow the roast to rest for 30 minutes before carving with a serrated knife.

A mouse got away with a couple crackling squares

A two-legged mouse got away with a few crackling squares

Enjoy!

Gingery Pomegranate Chicken Wings

Dig in!

Dig in!

I’ve given up trying to find excuses for my comfort food binges. There will be no end to them and I accept that fact and take full responsibility; but at least this recipe includes a superfood. I have always enjoyed pomegranates and their juice but I didn’t realize how much potassium they provided. Now that I am verse on the full nutritional benefit, pomegranate juice has become my drink of choice. In fact, I am now ordering it by the caseload and using it to supplement my electrolyte-laden coconut water, pomegranate-coconut is an excellent blend.  My husband often jokes about me putting it into everything, so he wasn’t surprised when presented with these delightful wings; my only regret is not having some arils to sprinkle on my plate.

1. Stir together in a medium bowl

16 chicken wing sections (the drum(ette)s and flats from 8 whole wings)

2 tsps desiccated chopped onion

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

2. Allow chicken to marinate, refrigerated, for at least four hours. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425°F, spread wings on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes on one side, flip over and bake for another 15 minutes, and again for a total of 45 minutes, until chicken is lightly browned.

3. During last 15 minute segment, in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan on medium heat, combine

2 tsp butter

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger

1 tsp ginger juice (just press it out of a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cardamom

4. Allow pomegranate mixture to reduce to a fourth of its volume, or just until syrupy over medium heat. Turn off heat and mix in done chicken wings.

5. Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with

Chopped scallion (green onion) or some pomegranate arils, if you may

Enjoy!

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Served with macaroni and cheese, the mother of all comfort foods.

 

Karee Curry Goat

Curry goat, or curried goat for those of you who prefer the grammatically correct to the culturally sound, is one of the traditional dishes served on special occasions in Jamaica.  At birthday celebrations, weddings, nine nights or wakes, a ram is usually killed and its intestines, head and manly parts used to make a spicy soup called mannish water. The rest is cooked down in a yellow Madras-style curry and served with fluffy white rice. This is my variant of the Jamaican classic.

Scotch Bonnet/Habanero

Habaneros are a good alternative to Scotch Bonnet peppers

A few weeks ago I bought some goat in a hispanic meat market and after 4 hours it was not entirely cooked. I ended up doubting my method but last weekend I tried again and had fork tender goat in two and a half hours. I am accustomed to getting freshly butchered goat from the open-air market in my Jamaican community but my recent move to the state of Washington put me in a position where I have very little control over the source of my meat. I will share my recipe with you but bear in mind that it is possible that the quality of the package of goat you buy will affect the cooking time. I recommend preparing goat a day ahead of serving because, from my recent experiences, you don’t know just how long it will take and the flavor is ten times better when it has been reheated after a day or two plus it is easier to skim the excess fat when the dish has cooled.  This recipe will work excellently with lamb but should take less time to cook.

Well-seasoned goat

Well-seasoned goat

1. Marinade

 3 lbs goat

overnight in

2 tsp salt or 1tbsp creole seasoning

1 tbsp powdered ginger

2 tbsp shredded or diced fresh ginger

1 tsp thyme leaves

5 pimento (allspice) berries, crushed

1 tsp ground peppercorn

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp turmeric

6 extra large cloves garlic, crushed

minced skin of one small Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper (do not use veins or seeds unless you can handle immense heat)

sprig of fresh thyme

2. Fry on medium-low heat until slightly brown but still juicy

1 large onion, sliced

in

4 tbsp preferred cooking oil

3. Stir in

2 tsp cumin

2 tbsp Madras curry powder

4. Cook covered for 5 minutes, allowing powdered seasonings to blend and permeate onions. If pan is dry at this point, add a couple tablespoons of water

5. Push onions to one side of pan, increase heat and add goat pieces, searing well on each side

6. When goat is seared, cover and return to low heat for around 30 minutes before adding

1.5 cup water

7. Bring to a slow simmer then decrease heat to lowest setting that will maintain a simmer

8. Allow meat to cook, covered, for 1.5 to 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes that the water has not dried out

9. When meat is tender, add

3/4 cup coconut milk

10. Stir and allow sauce to reduce to desired thickness

11. Serve with hot white rice and a sweet slaw to balance the pepper

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Enjoy with hot white rice and sweet, cooling sides like this apple slaw and cucumber relish.

 

Stout Beef Stew with Leeks and Baby Potatoes

The days are beginning to get progressively cooler and shorter, which means fall will soon be upon us and we will be requiring heartier meals to warm our insides. This stew is fairly simple to prepare and customize and can be served with your favorite side or by itself.

Cubed, Seasoned Beef

Cubed, Seasoned Beef

1. Combine

1 kg cubed stewing beef
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
3/4 Tbsp Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2. Cover and leave to marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour

3. Sear beef cubes in

4 Tbsp olive oil

until brown on each side. A dark crust should form in your pan.

4. In same oil lightly fry

1/2 a medium leek, sliced

then

2 cups baby potatoes, halved

Top half of a leek

Top half of a leek

5. Set leeks and potatoes aside.

6. Return beef to pan on medium heat, add

2 cups stout (I use Guinness)

7. Stir well, making an effort to dissolve the sticky dark glaze formed by searing.

8. As soon as the beef starts boiling in the stout, reduce to a simmer.

9. Add

2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp crushed pimento (allspice)

10. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hour, checking every 30 mins to ensure there is adequate liquid in the pan. If your pan is drying out, which it shouldn’t be if on low heat, add water; you can add more stout but it might make your stew a little bitter.

11. Mix in fried potatoes and leeks along with

1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped celery

12. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

13. Serve hot.

Serve hot

Serve hot

Tips.

  • Sear the beef for at least 3-5 minutes on each side for better flavor
  • Do not change the pot after searing, the glaze on the bottom will enhance the flavor of your stew.
  • Be sure to fry the leeks first as the potatoes will absorb all the remaining oil.
  • Measure the stout when the foam has settled, too much head means your stew will dry out.
  • Finally, be mindful of the cooking time of your meat. Check every 30 minutes for desired texture.
  • Add your favorite vegetables (peas, carrots, peppers) for a little pop.

Enjoy!

Flavorful caramelized crust forming on the pan during searing. Do not remove, just mix it into your stew for flavor.

Flavorful caramelized crust forming on the pan during searing. Do not remove, just mix it into your stew for flavor.

baby potatoes

These potatoes are so pretty but the color doesn’t stay after cooking.

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