It's 3 in the afternoon on my (seemingly never ending) Christmas Eve meal. Starting at 8 AM, one dish an hour til I scream no more (not close yet). Today I am revealing the top to my 2 PM dish, Spinach/mushroom Risotto... Jerk spiced SHRIMP!
This dish is very romantic for Jackie and me. We got married in Jamaica, home of JERK spices. BBQ purists will tell you that Jerk originally referred to the cooking method (very similar to American BBQ, low heat, long cooking times). But, the term has evolved to mean the spices used to cook on the islands more than the method. There are a couple of theories of where the name originated (three if you count, "That jerk down the road that cooks spicy food"). the most popular is that it's a variation on the world "charqui", a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became"jerky" in English. Another possible origin links it to the act of jerking strips of meat from an animal carcass, since whole hogs were originally used in the process.
There are many recipes for Jerk spice. The classic base contains allspice, and scotch bonnet chili peppers. There are lots of commercial jerk spice available, but know that any true Jerk spice is going to be very hot. Scotch bonnet peppers are among the hottest peppers in the world. Check the ingredient list of the commercial brands. If they advertise scotch bonnets, the spice will indeed be hot. HOWEVER, most spice packages that advertise themselves as JERK contain much milder peppers (usually just jalapeno). If you are using an unfamiliar package of pre-made spices, it is best to taste a teeny tiny amount prior to pouring the spices on. Word to the wise, a little goes a long way. But, if it is "fake" jerk spice, made with milder peppers, you will need to use much more to achieve the same taste.
Many people have an aversion to jerk spices because they have had inconsistent tastes. Painfully hot once and very mild the next. the easy way to fix that is to find a good recipe for a Jerk rub (spice), and make your own food with the rub and stop ordering from restaurants!
Here's a good recipe for a medium heat jerk rub. I make a batch of this about every six months. Lasts a long time. Also, because I use the same formula, I know what to expect when I add a teaspoon or a half a cup..
- 1 onion, minced
- 1/2 cup scallion, minced
- 2 scotch bonnet (or habanero works equally well)
peppers (no seeds, white meat "ribs" removed from the insides), minced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Like I said... make your own, or use a standard commercial variety. Have this all ready, as when you start cooking shrimp, it goes fast...
But first, I wanted to brine my shrimp.
Brining is an easy (but too often rarely used) method of adding flavor and moisture to meat. I fell in love with the method for turkeys, but the feelings grew stronger when I used the same method for shrimp.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup honey (or raw sugar)
Once all is dissolved, remove from heat and add...
- 2 cups very cold water, mix well
- add 1 pound medium shrimp (no peal, no tails). Allow to marinate covered in the fridge for just 30 minutes. Any longer, and the shrimp becomes too salty.
- Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucier pan
- Add 2 tablespoons of Jerk Spice rub
- Add the 1 pound of Shrimp
- Stir constantly over medium heat for just about 5 minutes until the shrimp turns pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SHRIMP
Just in case you aren't paying close attention, I am posting my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. We decided to recreate our culinary journey through restaurant quality meals. So far, you have missed...
Come back tomorrow to see what we did at 4 PM it's time to make another drink!!