The flavors, spices, and ingredients were ‘popping’ in my kitchen. Didn’t have to hop on a plane, bus or train to garner a Jamaican, Italian and Southern experience. With the aid of a few relatively inexpensive ingredients, I was able to turn out quite a mouth-watering dish.
My pantry yielded a pack of cornmeal for less than a $2.00. All I needed was a half of a cup to make a creamy polenta. Gave dish my Jamaican input of fresh coconut milk and added water with veggie bouillon, finely chopped onions, a pinch of nutmeg along with sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
After cornmeal slowly simmered in liquid to a thick consistency, I added a pat of butter and a little grated cheddar cheese to finish off the dish.
Decided to serve creamy polenta with grilled shrimp.
Topped grilled shrimp with serving of spicy sweet peppers which included, mini (assorted) peppers, finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper, vinegar, honey, and a pinch of salt/black pepper. A garlic spinach was also served.
Recently, my palate went on a wild ride. And, I went with it. Lo and behold, it led me to an old dish from my Jamaican roots. It has been sometime since I’ve indulged in this tasty and rustic dish. In the culinary world, it is reported that pigs’ feet have re-emerged in a huge way. A number of New York-based Japanese restaurants have included these trotters in dishes.
Pigs’ feet are also called pigs’ trotters and are widely served in Jamaican, Asian and Southern,(USA) kitchens. In recent times, this dish has been touted as the new superfood. You see, based on researches, pigs’ feet are loaded with collegen. Collegen is the protein responsible for skin and muscle tone.
Had some time on my hand and decided to pay a revisit to this anti-aging dish. Pigs’ feet were seasoned with salt, black pepper, pinch of curry powder, crushed garlic, soy sauce, etc. In a sturdy skillet, seasoned pigs’ feet were browned on both sides so as to lock in flavors.
Roughly chopped root vegetables and spices were added in the form of celery, onions, bell peppers, pimento(all spices) thyme, and finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper. Then feet were covered with cold tap water.
Pigs’ trotters were simmered on low to medium heat for approximately two and half to three hours until they were fork tender. Extra water was added during the braising process as needed. About ten to fifteen minutes to end of cooking, drained can of butter beans were added along with chopped scallion.
Braised pigs’ feet were served with a side of sweet and sour sautéed purple cabbage and steamed Jasmine rice.(not in pic)
Guys, I don’t know about you, but as I pen, my imagination has gone on overdrive. I can feel my skin tighter. And, I surmise that I look younger. Well, I’ve been told so. Eh, strangely enough, could it be those feet? You never know. Go fetch those feet and save on beauty products.
In the scheme of things, it seems like the ocean and the land were great players in my pot. It makes me wonder, “Could I survive with a net and some fertile soil?” And, the answer is, yes I could!” There goes my imagination again.
But guys, this is for real. I relied on those hardworking farmers and fisher men/women to once again place food on my table. As usual, my friendly fish monger did most of the job for me with my snapper by scaling and cleaning.
So, when I returned home, it was just left for me to score and then season fish with salt and black pepper to taste. I dried fish with paper towels and stuffed cavities with fresh thyme for added flavors. I also placed a few all spice berries or pimento inside marks.
Fish(bone-in) were pan-seared on both sides for approximately five minutes on each sides.
These were then placed in a spicy and aromatic brown sauce consisting of bell peppers, carrots, onions, minced scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, pimento, and garlic. These were simmered under low heat with a splash of vinegar/water, pinch of sugar, soy sauce and browning.
The snapper were then added back to skillet in order to soak up all the delicious and exotic flavors.
Fish was served on a bed of Jamaican spinach (callaloo) and steamed rice and gungo peas (also called pigeon peas).(Not in pic).
Earlier on, my palate and I experienced great elation with the consumption of Sunday’s supper. We indulged in one of Jamaica’s favorites,curried goat. The previous day, goat was chopped into bite-sized pieces and marinated with crushed garlic and pimento(all spice), cumin, curry powder, ginger, salt, black pepper, dash of soy sauce and vinegar.
On cooking, this was brought to room temperature. Then, in a sturdy hot skillet, a drizzle of coconut oil was added and goat pieces were sauteed under low to medium heat. At this point, a generous splash of Jamaican Wray and Nephew white rum was added and allowed to absorb in meat.
Chopped onions, celery, sprigs of thyme, finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers were added to pot. Cold tap water was added to cover meat. With lid on, goat simmered under low to medium heat for approximately two and half hours. Additional liquid was added in between cooking period.
For the last fifteen to twenty minutes, diced Irish potatoes were added along with chopped scallion and any other necessary dried seasoning and spices. Finished dish was fork tender and was served with steamed Jasmine rice stuffed into bell peppers, assorted garlic vegetables and fried plantains.
It was quite a precipitous day in my neck of the woods (South Florida, U.S.A.). Maybe, ‘Erika’, the tropical storm was informing me of the things to come. But, I didn’t allow her to distract me from the culinary plans that I had up my sleeves. I had ‘tunnel-vision’. I paid undivided attention to my ‘big boy’ (snapper fish) I had on hand. He needed me so I heeded to the call.
I placed him on the cutting board and scored my marks upon his firm body. I smiled feeling like an artist as I drizzled a little olive oil within and out. I also sprinkled a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper in both the head and cavity. I love to cook whole fish over the fillet version as it retains all the succulent moisture.
My plan was to make an oven roasted whole snapper fish with assorted vegetable stuffing. So, I grabbed my skillet and did a very quick saute of onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, vine-ripe tomatoes, crushed pimento and garlic, and some left-over chopped okra. I also added finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers along with thyme and scallion. I made sure to season along with salt and black pepper.
After the stuffing were cooled I added this to seasoned fish both inside the head as well as the body.
Of course, I had extra stuffing and I placed same adjacent to my ‘big boy’. In addition, a table-spoon of herb-butter was added on same with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Fish was placed and wrapped in parchment paper in order to give a roasting effect. Foil was placed on top of baking sheet for any spillage of sauce.
Whole snapper was placed in a pre-heated oven of 380 degrees fahrenheit for ten minutes. A few holes were poked on paper in order to allow steam to escape. After the ten minutes of roasting, parchment paper was unfolded and fish was basted with the aromatic juices released from the veggies. An additional ten minutes was given at 400 degrees.
I served my snapper with steamed coconut rice and roasted pumpkin.
I had a couple of snapper fish left out for thawing overnight in refrigerator. Fast forward to this afternoon, they perched on the square plate looking firm yet limp awaiting my attention. Clearly, they were fully thawed and ready for action. Guys, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t in the mood for fish. That happens sometimes, my dear palate made a last-minute switch on yours truly. However, I knew I had to make a dish with same as I hate to re-freeze seafood.
Thank God, it was an unseasonable dry day. Finally, spring has arrived in South Florida, USA. The temperatures were mild (Florida-style) and the humidity was low. As I flung open my windows and sliding doors, I smiled and thought, “great day for fishing.” I hate to cook fish in an enclosed space. I made my merry way to my kitchenette and did a quick scoring of my fish. I seasoned with salt, black pepper and crushed garlic. My plan was to make a sweet, sour and spicy snapper dish.
As the beautiful fluttering Florida breeze hit my drapes, I dried my fish with paper towel and removed the trace of garlic. In a hot skillet with canola oil covering the bottom, fish was pan-fried on both sides with a stuffing of fresh thyme in the cavities for extra flavoring.
My plan was to cook a crispy exterior and flaky flesh. And bingo, that was accomplished. I drained the excess oil from fish on paper towel and then discarded the used oil from skillet. To skillet, I added a drizzle of oil under low heat and tossed in carrots,onions, finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper, thinly sliced lemon along with pimento seeds.
I made sure to season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Veggies were sautéed until they were translucent Then, I diluted a teaspoon of sugar, vinegar (mainly distilled/red wine) and fresh lemon juice. This was then added to veggies and simmered to a sticky, sweet, sour and spicy consistency.
As soon as I ladled this on the fish, they sucked up every square inch of the sauce. I allowed that to soaked up all the goodness and later paired on a bed of warm corn and purple cabbage succotash.
My palate surrendered and we both became united. To say that I was happy is an understatement; I was ecstatic with the final dish.
On the Chinese calendar, this year (2015) is slanted as ‘the year of the Goat’. Based on astronomers, it’s supposed to be one for good luck. And, I could always do with an extra dose of good luck anytime.
Anyway, in honor of the goat, I’ve decided to make a dish called braised curried goat. This dish is certainly one from my roots. Over the years, I must have consumed same repeatedly. Without a doubt, in Jamaica, the beginning of the year (New Year’s Day), every householder cooks and indulges this popular dish.
My dear uncle Dan was and is still a farmer in a rural village of a parish called St. Mary, Jamaica. He rears goats and other farm animals for consumption. Uncle Dan was and is still a generous man. He often doled out sizable portions of goat meat during the holidays. Oh, I can still remember the delicious and mouth-watering dishes prepared from those goat meats.
And speaking of goat, this brings back even more memories as a girl in my island home of Jamaica. My next door neighbor kept a female goat. Let’s call her Nanny. Looking back, I’m babbled this guy was allowed to keep a goat in a residential community. But, I guess that’s what sometimes happens in a laid-back island domain.
The thing is, that goat went off and got herself pregnant. Well, her owner was the ‘love guru’ and arranged the affair. Each day, he took her out to pasture and subsequently Nanny mated and had baby goats (kids). As a girl, it was fun for me and my siblings to stretch across the fence and feed and pet them. Those kids were so cute.
After a while though, things became rather troublesome. Those cuties grew into adults and created quite a mayhem on a daily basis. Their baaing grew louder and louder in the community. They even ate and sometimes destroyed plants in neighbors’ yard. I do think that man and his family bribed the entire residents by doling out fresh goat’s milk.
So, back to my braised curried goat. I fetched a couple a pounds from the butcher at my neighborhood indoor farmer’s market. The cost was $3.99 per pound. Although they were ready for cooking size-wise, I further cut them into smaller portions.
Goat (2 lbs)
Curry powder (2 tsp or to your preference)
Cumin (1 tsp)
All spice(pimento) (1tsp)
Root ginger (1tsp)
Scotch bonnet pepper (1)
Jamaica white rum (2 tbsp)
Salt and pepper to taste
Thyme (2 sprigs)
Irish potato (2 small)
Coconut oil (2 tbsp)
Soy sauce (2tsp)
Cold tap water
After a quick rinse of goat meat, it was marinated overnight with crushed garlic, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and curry powder.
Mutton was brought to room temperature. Then, in a sturdy hot skillet with a few drops of coconut oil, mutton was added with a teaspoon of finely chopped ground ginger.
On medium heat, meat wassauteed for about five minutes. Then rum was added.
Chopped seasonings and thyme were also added. Then, cold tap water was added to cover meat.
Lid was placed on skillet under low to medium heat. Whenever water evaporated additional water was added until meat was fork tender.
Approximately fifteen minutes into cooking process, add chopped Irish potatoes. These will aid into thickening of gravy.
A taste test of dish is done and if additional seasoning or spices are needed these are added.
Guys, I served my good luck dish with steamed Jasmine rice and steamed veggies. And, like a true Jamaican, I also had a serving of avocado and fried plantains. I’m feeling lucky!