So I went to Jamaica and didn’t even try some food. I did eat, but it was a buffet that was a part of an all included resort that we went to. Actually, we exited the ship into the port, jumped in a van, and ended up at a resort where the drinks and food were unlimited and the beach was pretty. I like to go with the flow when I’m on vacation.
So you can see the food was laughable, but there was something great that came out of spending the afternoon at this place. I discovered Stone’s Original Ginger Wine.
I had already made friends with a bartender named “Ya Mon” when I saw a bunch of people walk up to the bar and just nod to a different bartender. That bartender picked up a green bottle I had never seen before and poured it about 3/4 the way up a glass over some small ice cubes. So, I inquired to Ya Mon about it, and he gave me some to try. It was insane! I must have gone back 5 times; I loved it so much.
It’s not a Jamaican thing at all; it’s a British thing that the people in Jamaica enjoy quite a bit. It’s almost like ginger beer in its ginger strength, but it is wine from grapes that’s fortified with ginger and raisins.
Luckily, Empire Wine in Colonie sells it for the low price of $8.95, so I picked up two bottles as soon as I got back to the area. When I got home and realized the reality that I bought two bottles of alcohol and that I don’t really drink while I’m at home, I wanted to figure out a way to cook with it. I’ve been a big fan of braising meats lately, so I thought this might work in a strange braised jerk chicken that I concocted in my mind.
So I took four chicken breasts and five chicken thighs (all boneless), and chopped them into one inch cubes. I added some chopped scallion and two good tablespoons of Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning along with a little kosher salt and black pepper. I let this marinate in the fridge for five or so hours; I would have let it go overnight if I wasn’t so damn hungry.
In a large pan, I browned the chicken in batches until it was almost cooked. I browned a sliced onion in the pan then added all of the chicken back to the pan and deglazed with about half of a bottle of ginger wine. Then I let this reduce for about 20 minutes.
The chicken was the easy part.
To go with the chicken, I made some Jamaican style rice.
I started with two cans of kidney beans, a can of coconut milk, a 2-cup bag of brown rice, an onion, dry thyme, and two garlic cloves.
I drained the beans but reserved the liquid for cooking. Actually, the rice called for 5 and 1/2 cups of liquid, and that was comprised of the liquid from the beans, the coconut milk, and water. This went into a pan along with the beans, the diced onion, the chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of thyme, and a good tablespoon of olive oil.
I brought this liquid to a boil and then added all of the rice. Then I backed it down to medium low and cooked for 40 minutes.
I poured myself a glass of Stone’s ginger wine over some ice.
After letting the rice rest off the heat for 8 minutes, I served everything up.
I couldn’t believe how good this meal was. There’s usually ginger in jerk seasoning, and even the jerk crab that I ate at Garde Manger had chunks of ginger in it. I had my doubts that cooking with the stuff would result in something edible, but it ended up perfectly. Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning is no joke, so this stuff was spicy as heck, and the ginger accentuated this. I’m aware the preparation has almost nothing to do with jerk, but you gotta create your own interpretations.
The rice was creamy and delicious. Between the buttery kidney beans and the silky coconut milk, the texture was great. I’m sure it would have come out even better with white rice, but I gotta get my whole grains where I can.
The brilliance of this was when I got a bite of the rice that had soaked up some of the ginger sauce. That’s where all of the flavors and textures came together and just popped. Washing it down with the ginger wine took me back to my time on the beach in Jamaica and was super comforting.
I had enough meals for a number of days. Many meals got frozen for easy lunches, but I ate this stuff twice a day for a few days after I made it. It was just that good.
So, even though I didn’t get to experience the cuisine of Jamaica first hand while I was there, I got exposed to ginger wine, something I would have never known was any good, and I think I have a pretty awesome cooking application for it. That’s pretty damn cool!