Food

The Memory of Jerk Chicken

Bahamas/Caribbean
|
By
Victoria
Allman

I've been stuck in Port for too long now. The yacht I work on is in the shipyard. So for now, it is a time of sitting and staying in one place; a time when my mind wanders back toearlier travels.

Today, I've been thinking about Jamaica; a place of carnal color and debaucherous tales. But, my favorite memories of the place are not so much of climbing the waterfalls at Dunn's River, leaping off the 45-foot cliffs above the Caribbean Sea at Rick's, or vibrating with the sounds of reggae. My favorite memory is of what came after a trail ride through the ganja fields on a horse called Smoke. Now, before you jump to any conclusions about what that memory might entail, or how hazy it might be, let me tell you about the jerk chicken I had.

Hot and sweaty from the ride, I tied Smoke under the shade of a logwood tree. Not 20 feet away, a caravan had parked on the side of the road. The sharp smell of chilies from a steel barrel barbecue beside the truck had lured me off the trail and set my mouth to watering.

"You ever had jerk?" A scrawny Jamaican man in long jean shorts and a white tank top asked me, steel tongs in hand. His brown eyes never left the searing meat on the grill in front of him.

"Not here." I said. My eyes could barely leave the scene either.

"Den you never had jerk." He drawled. "Dis where it comes from." His smile revealed two gold front teeth. He lifted a chicken leg from the grill and bent low to inspect the underside. His beehive of dreadlocks grazed low over the flames, threatening to ignite. "Dis one's for you." He wrapped the leg in paper and, along with the bundle, handed me a Red Stripe.

I sat at a worn and splintered wood picnic table. The hot sun seared my skin as much as the flames had done the chicken. I took a long pull of the beer before picking up the meal. It was a good thing I did. Once I brought the leg to my mouth, I couldn't put it down. The flavor exploded in my mouth. Sweetness and spice battled for dominance. Steam rose off the flesh as I tore into it. My tongue burned. Neither the heat nor the spice stopped me from devouring the whole thing in minutes. The man at the grill glanced over and laughed.

"Another one?" I nodded vigorously. He began wrapping another piece. "Nobody ever has just one."

It was that taste I thought of while I sat planning the menu for lunch today. I may not be able to travel while the boat is in drydock, but I'm always ready to try and replicate that experience again. And again.

JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN (SERVES 6)

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork and chicken. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (called pimento in Jamaica) and peppers.

1. In a food processor, combine the rum, cider vinegar, green onions, garlic, thyme, scotch bonnet, canola oil, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, pepper, brown sugar, and ketchup; process to a coarse paste. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding.

2. Light a grill. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasion- ally, until well browned and cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with lime juice.

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon ground ginger1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

12 chicken thighs

2 limes, juiced

3 tablespoons dark rum

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 2 bunches green onions

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons dried thyme

1/2scotch bonnet, minced

(depending on heattolerance)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon ground allspice

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The beach at Fleming Villa | Source GoldenEye

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THE SPY WHO LOVED JAMAICA

James Bond Dr No Poster Credit Flickr

Our story begins in 1939, when a London journalist named Ian Fleming joined the British Navy Intelligence Service. His unit specialized in military espionage and covert plans to thwart German aggression in Europe and the Caribbean.

During World War II, Fleming was engaged in Operation GoldenEye, and in 1942 he was sent to investigate suspicions about Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. During this deployment, he became enamored with Jamaica and vowed to live there some day.

When the war was over, Fleming returned to Jamaica and bought 15 acres of plush land that was once used as a donkey racetrack. In 1945, he built a house not far from the banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, and the seaside property became Fleming’s tropical sanctuary where he could focus on writing and the discrete task of taking previously tight-held secrets into a public, fictional genre.

He named the estate GoldenEye as a tribute to his Navy service and began working on a book that evolved around the dashing spy and Special Agent 007, James Bond. This protagonist would emerge as the amalgamation of agents he’d met during his maritime service. As an avid birdwatcher, Fleming took the name for his lead character from American ornithologist James Bond, an expert on Caribbean birds, who wrote the definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies.

Fleming’s first spy novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1952. This book and all 13 in the James Bond series were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of them — Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun — take place in Jamaica.

STIR IT UP

Chris Blackwell | Credit GoldenEye

Not only did the breezy island life at GoldenEye inspire Fleming’s novels, but so did his fetching neighbor, Blanche Blackwell. She was the muse who helped spark his creative drive. The Blackwell family had lived in Jamaica since 1625, exporting bananas and coconuts and crafting a distinctive brand of rum.

Blanche’s son Chris Blackwell grew up between England and Jamaica, and in his childhood spent a good amount of time with Fleming. In 1954, after Blackwell got booted from an elite British school for rebellious behavior, he came back to the island to get involved in the family rum business. Contrary to plan, he followed his instincts and made a career choice that would dramatically alter the global music scene.

For a while, he kicked around working as the aide-de-camp to the governor and as a waterskiing instructor. But after hearing the blind pianist Lance Heywood play at the Half Moon Resort, Blackwell recorded the musician, and in 1959 he launched a music studio called Island Records. In sync with his unconventional style, it became known for discovering and nurturing innovative performers who had been shrugged off or overlooked by bigger record labels.

Island Records introduced the world outside of the Caribbean to Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jamaican reggae music, showcasing island culture and universal struggles of indigenous people. It launched British bands such as Traffic, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Fairport Convention. It also cultivated artists such as Cat Stevens, Brian Eno, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and the Irish band, U2.

Throughout his success in the music industry, Blackwell remained in contact with Fleming and his projects. When the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica in 1962, Blackwell was hired as a location scout and consulted on the soundtrack. Sir Sean Connery, whom Blackwell had met during the filming of Dr. No, remained a friend until his passing in 2020. Using a family recipe, Blackwell launched his boutique rum in 2008 that is distributed around the globe.

Live and Let Die was filmed in 1973 on the Blackwell Estate, which now includes The Fleming Villa. Scenes from the movie were shot near GoldenEye, Blackwell’s luxury hotel in Jamaica. The latest Bond flick, No Time to Die, returns to the exquisite Jamaican backdrop of GoldenEye, and the production team was treated to a supply of Blackwell Rum for inspiration while filming.

TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS OF JAMES BOND, a special bottle of Blackwell Rum has been released, along with a new memoir by Chris Blackwell, The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond. If you’re cruising around Jamaica this winter, cue up some Bob Marley tunes, open a bottle of Blackwell’s 007 Rum, and shake it (don’t stir) with pineapple juice and ice to create the GoldenEye Cocktail. And if you’re nestled in at home in a colder climate and dreaming about the Caribbean, we suggest watching a Bond flick and warming up with the Toasted Toddy.

GoldenEye | Credit GoldenEye

GOLDENEYE COCKTAIL

INGREDIENTS:

-1 part Blackwell Rum

-1 part pineapple juice

-Lime or pineapple wedge

INSTRUCTIONS:

Shake together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime or pineapple wedge

Toasty Toddy | Credit GoldenEye

TOASTY TODDY

INGREDIENTS:

-3 parts Blackwell Rum

-2 teaspoons brown sugar

-1 1⁄2 parts fresh lemon juice

-6 parts boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add all ingredients to a mug, except for the water. Pour in the boiling water, Stir well to blend

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