Almost a week later, sitting here, if I close my eyes, I can almost be transported back to Jamaica, warm sea breezes, the smell of jerk chicken, and the rhythms of Reggae. Almost that is, until I hear the rumble of the salt truck in front of the house, de-icing the roads.
The Accountant and I took a much needed break from winter’s chill and spent a week in beautiful Jamaica. While on resort we were able to sample a bit of the island fare. Jerked chicken I was familiar with. Brown Stew Chicken (aka Fricassee Chicken) I was not familiar with, but tasted, and then devoured greedily on more than one occasion. It was on the breakfast buffet so who am I to argue? A humble chicken stew, this dish is, (as is often the case) open to many interpretations. I suspect each family has its own recipe but there are are few constants. Common flavors include lime juice, scallions, garlic, ginger, sweet and hot peppers, thyme, and soy sauce.
Here is my interpretation, based on conversations with a bartender, a cookbook, and a double check against the intranet.
Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 3 lb ~ 1.5 kg) cut up and skin removed
Juice of one lime – 2 tablespoons (30 ml)
1 teaspoon (9 g) of salt
1 teaspoon (2 g) of ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar (12 g) -to help brown chicken
3 stalks of scallion rough chopped both bulbs and greens
1 medium (3” or 7.5 cm) onion rough chopped
1 hot pepper (I used a frozen habanero) minced – remove seeds – (Be careful… don’t rub your eye or any tender bits! Wear gloves if you choose)
2 cups chopped sweet bell pepper (about 1 large, seeds removed)
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 inch (1 cm) of fresh ginger peeled and grated
1 cup (250 ml) rough chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup (125 ml) oil for frying – I used canola
3 teaspoons (3 g) of dried thyme
1 tablespoon (14 g) of butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) of steak sauce – not traditional but it is replacing Pickapeppa sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of soy sauce
2 cups (500 ml) of hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine cut up chicken, lime, salt, pepper, sugar, scallion, onion, hot pepper, and ginger in a large bowl
- Toss to coat chicken
- Marinate at least 1 hour in the refrigerator – up to a day (now go make the Peas and Rice!)
- In deep pan frying pan with a lid or dutch oven (a “dutchie” in Jamaican) heat oil over medium high heat until hot
- Separate the chicken from the marinade, reserve the vegetables, discard any liquid
- Fry the chicken until well brown, work in batches if needed, don’t crowd the pot or the meat will steam and not brown as well
- Remove chicken to a plate
- Drain half the fat from the frying pan / dutchie
- Add reserved vegetable – careful it may spatter!
- Cook until vegetables are tender and onion is nearly translucent
- Add 1 cup hot water, thyme, butter, steak sauce, and soy sauce, and stir. The sauce should be turning a nice dark brown
- Check for seasoning, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. You may not need much salt due to the soy sauce
- Add chicken back to pan
- Add hot water (up to one cup) to nearly cover chicken
- Cover pan and simmer over medium low heat for 30-45 minutes, until gravy thickens and chicken is very tender
Serve with Peas and Rice, or a small side salad.
A plate of this stew, and your favorite Bob Marley recording is the perfect way to chase away those winter blues. Until of course, you go back to work.
Until next time Mon, Eat Well & Keep Digging!