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Include Jamaican chicken chili on fall menu

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Aug 24, 2017

(Aug. 25, 2017) The warm tropical breezes that have graced our presence for the last few months will soon be shifting for new horizons.

The whirling change triggers an interest for fantastic fall menus. I do not by any means wish the summer away, but the sun’s brilliance will be soon be bidding farewell.

And with that thought the crowds will be gone and the packed beaches will return to their natural state. I miss my walks where I can be one with myself; the warm salt water puts my anxious state at ease.

Everyday the present is recorded where the endless sea and impressionable sand meet. It’s interesting how in a split second the vast ocean washes ashore and erases any embodiment of daily life. The tide of assumption is nothing but a footprint of chance.

Company comes and goes and mouthwatering jerk chicken has graced my menu throughout the summer. Garlic, habanera peppers, allspice, thyme, ginger, brown sugar, nutmeg are just a sampling of the flavor components that comprise the popular appetizer. That being said, the idea of fiery chili also tempts my taste buds. Beef, beer, pablano peppers, cumin, oregano and chili powder throw my senses into a whirlwind of delight.

Fusion is a cookery that combines elements of different culinary traditions. I am considering using certain components of both the jerk chicken and chili to create Jamaican chicken chili. Chicken and andouille sausage will add a Jamaican flair while keeping true to the theme of chili. Before we delve into the recipe, let us review some simple tips for great tasting chili.

When it comes to herbs and spices, it is not just what you add but how you add them. Chili is a bold dish and the spices need to be able to stand up to the intense flavors. “Blooming” is a method where one cooks the spices in butter or oil first; this makes them more effective and complex. In addition, fresh herbs do not hold up to long periods of cooking and should be added toward the end of the cooking process.

Cutting aromatics and other vegetables into uniform-sized pieces promotes even cooking; otherwise, you can end up with a perfect bite followed by one that is raw or overcooked. If one strives for perfection, add half of the vegetables to the chili in the beginning of the cooking process. Then one hour before the dish is ready add the remaining vegetables. This step heightens the texture factor which increases the overall essence of the chili. It is this type of detailed work that distinguishes a good chef from a great chef.

Typically chili calls for canned beans, but if one opts for dried beans, you should brine them first. This will tenderize the beans’ skin and allow them to soak up liquid without separating from the bean itself. A basic bean brining recipe follows: combine 3 tablespoons of salt and 4 quarts cold water for 1 pound dried beans. Brine the beans for 24 hours.

As a rule chili calls for ground beef as opposed to cubed beef. I prefer cubed beef but we will discuss ground beef since it is the more fashionable choice. Ground chuck is the preferred ground beef for chili. Contrary to popular belief, ground chuck benefits from prolonged cooking. Ground chuck is cut up pieces of chuck roast which means it contains the same proteins and collagen that require significant exposure to moist heat to properly break down. For optimum results, ground beef should simmer between 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours.

Ground chicken does not follow the same rules as ground beef. Ground chicken has a tendency to turn rubbery and the texture does not support the rich stew. Slowly cooking chicken breasts and thighs with the skin and bone in directly into the broth produces optimum flavor and consistency.

A little fat does wonders for sauces and stews; pork cheek is porcine perfection. I highly suggest it for any type of stew. Pork cheek can be purchased online or through your local butcher.

Chili is as versatile as it comes. Chili con carne, Cincinnati chili, chili verde, white chili and vegetable chili are just a few examples of one of America’s favorite stews. Degrees of difference season the pot of interest and keep us coming back for more.

Jamaican chicken chili brings out the best of both worlds in a unique, delicious way. Fried plantain chips and coconut rice set the tone for tropical inspiration. Enjoy this feast of island goodness.

Jamaican Chicken Chili

Ingredients

1 pound andouille sausage, sliced at an angle

1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled

8 to 9 pound whole chicken cut up (freeze heart, liver, gizzard and wings for future use)

4 ounces pork cheek, cut into 4 pieces

7 cups chicken stock

6 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 head garlic, minced

4 yellow onions, coarsely chopped

6 stalks celery, thinly sliced

4 poblano peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

3 green peppers, seeded, stems removed and chopped

3 orange peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

3 yellow peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 (28 oz.) cans peeled plum tomatoes, seeds and tough ends removed (reserve tomato broth)

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

2 (15.5 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained

2 (15.5 oz.) cans black beans, drained

1 (6 oz.) bottle of Busha Browne’s Spicy Jerk Sauce

½ cup soy sauce

2 cans (12 oz.) Dos Equis

5 to 6 teaspoons TyLing hot chili oil

4 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 packets of chili mix

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

4 teaspoons dried thyme

4 teaspoons ground cumin

4 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

fresh cilantro, green onions and cheddar cheese as a garnish

1. In a pressure cooker or Dutch oven, heat 2 cups chicken stock and olive oil over medium-low heat. Cook both types of sausages until almost done. Remove and place on plate lined with paper towels. Add the pork cheek and chicken and cook slowly with lid on until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and allow to cool, discard skin and bones. Chop and shred chicken and place chicken and sausages back into the pot. At this point, all the meat should be in the pressure cooker.

2. Turn the heat to medium and add half of the vegetables.

3. Add the remaining chicken stock, tomatoes plus their juice, beans, Jamaican sauce, soy sauce, beer, hot chili oil and stir.

4. You can either add the seasonings directly or opt to follow the blooming method with the unsalted butter.

5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally to prevent chili from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

6. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer for 1 more hour. Remove 4 pieces of pork cheek.

7. Serve immediately and garnish with fresh cilantro, chopped scallions and cheddar cheese. If one wants to present a full course, serve with plantain chips and coconut rice.

* Chili is time consuming but well worth the effort. I find it is easier to make a large pot and freeze some as opposed to making two smaller batches. If anything it saves time cleaning up the kitchen.

* TyLing hot chili oil is very hot and does not have any added flavoring. The beauty of this product is you can add small amounts until you get the desired heat level. It can be purchased at you local supermarket in the Asian section.

* Busha Browne’s Spicy Jerk Sauce can be purchased at Harris Teeter

Secret Ingredient - Fusion. “If there is knowledge, it lies in the fusion of the book and street.”

– Studs Terkel

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