Browsing articles from "January, 2012"

Jamaican Patties

Jamaican Patties
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jamaica? Sandy beaches, turquoise water, tropical breezes? How about a game of classic American football? Yup, Football and Jamaica…all rolled up into one rocking culinary adventure that we are calling our Jamaican Super Bowl Extravaganza! That’s right, you heard me. This year we are having a Jamaican themed Super Bowl party. What do you eat at a Jamaican football party? How about spicy Jerk chicken, Jamaican potato salad, rice salad with pineapple, desserts with coconut and tropical fruit, spicy avocado dip, exotic rum drinks, and of course- these tender, flaky meat filled patties.

Jamaican PattiesSo how did we get here? What brought about this sudden desire to combine America’s most beloved mid-winter excuse to get drunk on a Sunday with the cuisine of a country where football is actully soccer and is played on the beach? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Once there was a girl who met a guy from a far off land…okay maybe we won’t start that far back, I am trying to share a recipe with you, not write a fairy tale. The short version is that I have a good friend (Heather) who married a guy from Jamaica (Gary). In addition to much love and happiness, Gary also brought his passion for Jamaican cuisine into Heather’s life. Heather in turn has shared these dishes, and many of the recipes, with us- her very lucky friends (when you have a friend who shows up at your potluck with a HUGE platter of spicy jerk chicken you know you have a good thing going)! About a month ago we were sitting around with some friends and the conversation somehow turned to Jamaica and then inevitably, to the food of Jamaica, when someone (most likely me) said, “Hey, we should have a Jamaican themed potluck!” Since we were already planning on having everyone in the room over for the Super Bowl, it only made sense to combine the two together. This is how the Jamaican football extravaganza was born. I knew right away that I wanted to make these patties. Once, many years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Jamaica. In addition to the beautiful scenery, warm weather and friendly people, one of the highlights of this trip was the Jamaican Pattie that I got from a tiny one room restaurant on the side of the road for less than a dollar. The pattie consisted of a spicy, juicy meat filling that was wrapped in the most tender flaky crust I’d ever eaten. It was the kind of food that you inhale in two bites, lick your fingers and go back for more. They sell a frozen version of the Jamaican pattie in the grocery store but I’m afraid to try them for fear that I will be sorely disappointed. Of course, I don’t need to buy them from the store since I happen to have a friend who can make them from scratch. In my opinion Heather makes a pretty mean pattie. One time she came over with a baking dish mounded high with these spicy little delights. We ate them for days and still wished for more. Jamaican Patties Heather happily shared her recipe for patties with me and I happily went about making them with only a few minor adjustments (I can’t help myself- no recipe is safe in my hands). Actually, the changes were per her request. She gave me the recipe with a warning that she has never felt the crust was quite right- not as flaky yet tender as the real deal. She was anxious to see if I could remedy this problem. Not one to take a recipe challenge lightly, I eagerly set about trying to create the perfect pattie crust. Heather hasn’t tried them yet (I will make another batch the day before the Super Bowl ) but it is my humble opinion that the crust came out simply amazing. It’s flaky yet still has a chewy bite to it. It’s thick enough to handle the moist filling yet thin enough to not overpower the flavor of the meat and spice inside. The secret…a technique called Fraisage. This is a pastry making technique where you basically smear the butter into the dough with the heel of your hand creating alternating layers of butter and dough. The result in a super flaky crust. Since I couldn’t photograph myself while I was making the dough here is a YouTube video that gives you a visual tutorial of Fraisage. It’s actually a really simple technique with amazing results.

Fraisage for flaky crust

When you think about it the Jamaican Pattie really is the perfect Super Bowl food. It can be eaten with one hand while you drink beer with the other hand, it’s got a spicy kick to it, and the filling is made primarily of meat. What more could you want from a Super Bowl Food?

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Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake

Pineapple Coconut Cake
I’m a hug fan of birthdays. I’m also a huge fan of cake. Which means that when it comes to birthday cake I’m practically in love. It’s my mom’s birthday this week and while I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you exactly how old she is, let’s just say that it’s kind of significant birthday this year. The kind of birthday that demands a really special, over-the- top cake. A cake with thick gooey pineapple curd that oozes between the layers. A cake with coconut rum both in the batter and the frosting. A cake that is topped with a mountain of fresh pineapple and scattered with toasted coconut. This is the kind of cake that a special birthday demands – a cake that says “it’s your birthday…now indulge!”Pineapple Coconut Cake
Growing up we always had homemade birthday cake. About a week before your birthday my mom would ask what kind of cake you wanted and then she would make it. There was no store bought cardboard tasting sheet cake with sickly sweet frosting, or even cake made from a box mix. It was your birthday and you got a homemade cake made from scratch. She would make whatever kind you wanted, but her most famous (and most requested) was ice cream cake. It had all the good stuff layered into one mouth watering cake- cookie crust, fudgy chocolate syrup, creamy ice cream, and a layer of frozen whipped cream to top it all off- yumm! My brother and I have both gone through the pie phase where we request pie instead of cake for our birthdays. No problem- she’ll make you pie if that’s what you want. We’re both huge fans of her lemon meringue pie, but if you want apple she’ll make you apple, if you want blueberry, or strawberry rhubarb, or pecan that’s fine because she can make those too. This year on my birthday I will turn 35 (gulp) and I can guarantee that about a week before my mom will ask what kind of cake I want. Probably when I turn 50 she’ll still be making me a cake on my birthday.
This is why I make birthday cake. Because I learned from my mom how much sweeter a birthday can be with home made cake. My cakes are never perfect. Inevitably one layer is bigger than the other, they may lean a bit to one side and the frosting is always lumpy and uneven. It doesn’t matter though because homemade cakes are not about perfection. They’re not about smooth even sides or fancy swirled frosting. They are about celebration and joy and family gatherings. So I made this cake for my mom because that’s what she taught me to do. Here’s to you mom and I wish you a very, very happy birthday ♥Pineapple Coconut Cake

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Crockpot Pulled Chicken with Crunchy Slaw

Crockpot Pulled Chicken with Crunchy Slaw  Football does not excite me. Watching guys who are paid millions of dollars to dress in tight outfits and run around a field tackling other guys does not excite me. A game that turns 5 minutes into 20 minutes and makes me wait to watch The Amazing Race does not excite me. You wanna know what does excite me? Cheesy dips, spicy chicken wings, salty chips and peanut butter brownies shaped like little footballs. That’s right, the truth is out…I like football food. And I’m not alone. I recently read that in terms of food consumption the Super Bowl ranks third, behind only Thanksgiving and Christmas! I guess there’s something about this game that really makes us hungry. Crockpot Pulled Chicken with Crunchy Slaw I’m all about any excuse to have friends over for eating and sharing good food so naturally the Super Bowl is my kind of thing. Never mind the fact that I can’t follow the game, don’t know which team belongs to which city and couldn’t tell you the names of any of the players if my life depended on it. It doesn’t matter because I’m really only in it for the food. Every year we have few people over for a Super Bowl gathering. I like to keep it small because that way everyone has a comfy place to sit and also it’s a bit more conducive to eating an actual meal rather than just stuffing ourselves with appetizers and desserts. Alright, maybe the truth is that we have a meal and we stuff ourselves with appetizers and desserts. It’s okay though because it’s the Super Bowl and that’s what we do. Even though this favorite day of gluttony is still more than a week away I figured it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on one of my favorite game day dishes. Crockpot Chicken with Crunchy SlawThe best way to describe this Crockpot Chicken Sandwich is that it’s like pulled pork without the pork. After slowly simmering the chicken thighs until the meat is falling off the bone you mix it with a boldly flavored home made barbeque sauce packed with spice, sweet and plenty of tang. If that isn’t enough flavor, you then top the whole thing with a crunchy cabbage, carrot and apple slaw and serve it inside a whole wheat roll. Yup, that’s right… you put the coleslaw inside the sandwich. Trust me when I tell you how incredible this is. It’s not just the flavor – smoky sweet meets tangy fresh- but the texture of the crisp cabbage and apples combined with the melt-in-your mouth chicken that makes this sandwich so truly amazing. You don’t need a football game to make this recipe, but when you have a football game- you need this recipe! This is a great meal to make for a crowd because it serves 8 people, but even if you are only 4 (or 2 like us) make the whole thing anyway. Believe me…you will be glad you did  the next day when you’re feasting on the leftovers.

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