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.
So 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. 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.
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?
Recipe slightly adapted from my friend Heather and her Jamaican husband Gary
Makes 8 5-inch patties
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water
1 small onion, minced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, or two jalapeno peppers, minced (include the seeds for more spice, keep them out for less- I used two jalapenos with the seeds and it was pretty high on the spice meter)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground chicken or beef
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock (depending on which meat you are using)
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, turmeric and salt. Cut the cold butter into tablespoon size pieces and drop into the flour. Using your fingers break up the butter in the flour until it resembles pea sized pieces. Mix in the ice water with a wooden spoon until a very shaggy dough forms. You will still have big lumps of butter and lots of unincorporated flour. Dump the whole thing out on the counter and using the heel of your hand drag a portion of the dough from one end of the pile to the opposite end. Repeat this procedure until a dough forms. At this point you should not have any big lumps of butter and the dough will be smooth and uniform. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
2. In a medium size skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion and pepper. Cook, stirring often until they soften, about 4 minutes. Add the ground chicken or beef along with the thyme, chili powder and rosemary. Brown the meat for about 10 minutes until it is no longer pink. Add the stock and water, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid is reduced to a sauce.
3. Divide the dough, re-warp one half in plastic and return to the fridge. Place the other half on a floured surface and roll out to 1/8 of an inch thick. Using a 5-inch diameter round cutter (I used an upside down bowl) cut out 4 circles. Place 2 scant tablespoons of filling on one half of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border near the edge. Using you finger tip, moisten the edge with a bit of water, fold the dough over and seal with a fork. Repeat the procedure with the second half of the dough.
4. At this point you can freeze the patties if you are making them ahead. Place them on a baking sheet and stick them in the freezer for a bout half an hour. When they are frozen enough to hold their shape and not stick together, place them in a single layer in a large freezer bag. When you are ready to bake simply place the frozen patties in a 350ºF oven for about 40 minutes.
3. If you are cooking them right ways preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cook the patties on an ungreased baking sheet for 22-25 minutes. Serve hot.