I went out for lunch today and experienced an extremely underwhelming jerk halibut taco. Besides the fact that I only got about about 2 oz. of fish between two tacos, the seasoning was bland and the overall presentation was quite lackluster, so I decided to apologize to my taste buds by making my own jerk seasoning. I tend to be a little afraid of punchy spices, but I already feel quite a bit more confident after tackling this delicious seasoning. The rub is still a work in progress, but the shrimp especially were too delicious not to share. Serve with fire roasted peppers, pineapple, and rice for an easy meal.
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into thin cutlets and pounded flat (see the Chicken Paillard recipe for more detailed instructions)
24 large shrimp, deveined and shells removed (thaw ahead of time if using frozen shrimp)
3 bell peppers in different colors
3-4 pineapple rings
2 tbsp. dark rum
1 cup white rice
1 ¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Canola oil (for cooking)
Tortillas (for serving)
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. dried thyme
1½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
Start the rice. Combine 1 cup rice, 1¾ cup stock, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbsp. butter or oil in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir for 1 minute, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 25 minutes without removing the lid (about how long the rest of this will take to make!).
Combine the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl. There will be extra, so store about half of it in an airtight jar.
Warm plates, a bowl for the peppers, and a bowl for the shrimp in the oven.
Turn broiler onto high. Arrange the pineapple rings on a broiler pan and sprinkle with a small amount of the spice rub (just a pinch on each piece). Broil for a minute or two, until the pineapples caramelize just a little.
Wash the peppers. I like to char mine over the open flame of my stove, but you can also just sauté them over high heat in a little olive oil if you don’t have a gas burner. I use tongs for the jalapenos, but the bell peppers sit nicely on the grate-just turn them every 20-30 seconds so they don’t get overcooked on one side. You want them to have a good char all around. Once charred, chop them into small pieces. Chop the pineapple into similar sized pieces. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet, and then add the pineapple and peppers. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and then turn the heat to high and add the rum. Cook until the smell of alcohol is gone, salt to taste and set aside in warmed bowl.
Clean and devein your shrimp, if necessary. Remove shells and tails. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels, then transfer to a large bowl and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Use one hand to mix the shrimp while you use your other hand to sprinkle the jerk seasoning in a little at a time, until shrimp are well coated (1-2 tbsp. of seasoning). Let the shrimp marinate while you prep the chicken.
Prepare the chicken. You can buy pre-cut cutlets, or have your butcher cut them for you, or purchase whole breasts and do it yourself. Pat the chicken dry and place the cutlets on a plastic cutting board between two sheets of wax paper. Pound flat with a meat tenderizer, but don’t pulverize it-you want it to be one consistent piece, not a holey mess. Rub the chicken with the spice mix and let the pieces marinate while you cook the shrimp.
To cook the shrimp, I used a non-enameled cast iron pan. The cast iron gets really hot, which is necessary to caramelize the sugars in the rub properly. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and drizzle a 2-3 tbsp. of canola oil into the pan. You want the bottom of the pan completely covered with a very thin layer of oil, so adjust according to the size of your pan. When water flicked on the pan sizzles immediately, add the shrimp in a single layer (do two batches if necessary). Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on size. When the shrimp are firm and pink (cut one open to check if you’re unsure it is cooked through) remove from pan and let stand in warmed bowl.
Add more oil and the chicken to the pan next, cooking in batches if necessary. If you pounded it flat enough, the chicken only takes 2-3 minutes on each side. Cook until all the pink is gone and the meat feels firm when pressed with tongs. Cut into the thickest part to check for doneness if you’re unsure-you’ll get the feel for it quickly with thin cuts like this.
Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve the chicken on warmed plates topped with the pineapple pepper sauce and several shrimp, with the rice alongside. Warmed tortillas make a great accompaniment too if you’re feeling fancy. Enjoy!