Monday, September 22, 2014

Island Time


When I was a teenager, my mom took me to Jamaica one summer.  It was a very interesting trip.  We arrived at their airport at night, and we had a long shuttle ahead of us.  We got on this rickety old bus and hit the road.  The drivers there are crazy!  They drive on the wrong side of the road and they honk their horns and pass every car, bus, and even bicyclists on their tiny two-lane road.  We were terrified!  Midway to the hotel, we stopped at a roadside stand and got some jerk chicken.  I was a wimp back then and thought it was way too spicy.  We finally made it to the hotel unscathed.  

There were so many crazy things that happened on that trip. There was a thunderstorm that literally shook the hotel we stayed in.  I have never heard thunder that loud at any other time in my life.  One of our days there, we decided to go to the farmer's market.  A local Jamaican man convinced the two of us (dummies) to follow him to the back part of the farmer's market because supposedly the better produce was back there.  He then proceeded to try to sell us ganja, which we didn't know what the heck that was.  We are lucky to have survived that one.  Another day we took a raft ride down the river, which apparently takes you through the slum houses along the river.  A man on the bank farthest from us decided to drop his drawers and show us his manhood.  My mother took his picture just at the right moment.

One of the days we decided to go snorkeling.  We went off with a Rastafarian in a speedo on his boat.  Luckily, another tourist man with his son went too.  The Rastafarian's name was Peter Smith.  I don't know how I remember that because it was almost 30 years ago (telling on my age).  But he turned out to be a really nice guy.  He took us out to a reef and it was beautiful.  He swam down and retrieved a sea urchin. He broke it open and held it in his hand under water, and little fish swam up and ate from it.  It was awesome!  

We also saw a barracuda swimming very close to the beach there.  We hiked up a waterfall, where I spent the majority of the time standing behind my mother trying to keep her from falling down.  And did you know a speed bump there is called a sleeping policeman?  Funny, huh.  All in all, it was a great fun trip and we are much more the wiser now.  

Long post to get you to a recipe for Jamaican Jerk Shrimp! This is very spicy.  But, if you like spicy, you're going to love this!  You may be surprised to see cinnamon in the ingredients, but it mellows out after cooking.  This sauce is so surprisingly delicious!  You will be surprised at how the flavors come at you in waves, almost like a flavor journey. You get sweet first, then heat, then savory, then rich spices. I served this with white rice, black beans, mango habanero salsa, and fried plantains (they are a variety of a banana which is less sweet and is typically cooked before eating). The beans, rice and plaintains help cool the mouth some and balance out the heat.  Boonoonoonoos!

JAMAICAN JERK SHRIMP
12 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 T black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Juice of two limes
2-3 habaneros, seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T ketchup
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C vegetable or peanut oil
Salt, to taste

FOR THE MANGO HABANERO SALSA:
1 large mango, cubed
2 Roma tomatoes, cubed
2 T diced red onion
1 T chopped cilantro
1 T lime juice
2 habaneros, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE FRIED PLANTAINS:
2 plantains, sliced diagonally
Peanut oil, for frying
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR SERVING:
Cooked white rice
Warm black beans

Mix all of the salsa ingredients together and chill until ready to use.

Put a little peanut oil into a skillet and heat over medium high heat.  Fry the plantain slices until they are browned on both sides.  Drain them on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

For the shrimp, place all of the ingredients except the shrimp into a blender and blend until smooth.  Put the sauce and shrimp into a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cook 5-7 minutes or until the shrimp is done.  Serve the shrimp over rice with some black beans, plantains, and the salsa.

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