Good news: you don't have to be a jerk to love this Jamaican jerk chicken. In fact, the name jerk doesn't have anything to do with obnoxiousness, or that Steve Martin character. The term might have originated with the Spanish word charqui, used to
describe dried meat, that later evolved to jerky and then jerk. Or, it might have come from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior
to cooking. The hallmark of jerk chicken, most popular in Jamaica but also found in other parts of the Caribbean, is a spicy dry rub that includes fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers and aromatic allspice. From there, the recipe varies, but always includes other spices, such as thyme or nutmeg. Scotch Bonnets lend authenticity, but the jalapeños in this recipe tone down the fire a bit while still evoking the heat of the islands. The chicken tastes best when marinated overnight, so plan ahead when you can. Store cooked jerk chicken in the refrigerator for several days, or make ahead and freeze. Serve hot, over rice, or cold, sliced and stuffed into pita sandwiches.
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Until I moved to Rhode Island, I'd never heard of coffee syrup. (It's like Hershey's chocolate syrup, except made from coffee. If that helps.) The state drink, coffee milk, combines coffee syrup with, well, milk, and the favorite iced treat, a coffee cabinet, is a milkshake made with coffee ice cream and coffee syrup. Sweet, sweet, sweet. When I met up with my friend Jen of Savor the Thyme at Dave's Coffee, in the opposite end of the state, I bought a bottle of their all-natural coffee syrup, and couldn't resist experimenting with some savory recipes. I packed this slow cooker coffee-chipotle pulled chicken into a piece of oat-bran lavash bread with some lettuce and this smoky spicy cole slaw. That's a lot of Rhode Island goodness rolled up into one great sandwich. Not to worry: you can make this in your own kitchen even if you don't have our coffee syrup. Or you can come to my kitchen and I'll make it for you.
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Here in the hills of northern Rhode Island, we're surrounded by farms -- goat farms, herb farms, blueberry farms. We have horse farms, too, and plenty of them, but I have yet to run into any cowboys. Still, our village market sells Cowboy Ketchup, a heavenly condiment that's a little bit ketchup, a little bit mustard, and a little bit barbecue sauce. It's good enough to attract cowboys, and maybe that's the plan. You can slather some on a burger, of course. I really love to use it in this cowboy turkey meatloaf, where the sauce adds moisture to the very lean turkey, along with a little bit of the smoky flavor of barbeque.
I always have a bottle or two in the pantry, so if you're reading this and you're a cowboy, come on by. I might have a meatloaf or two in the freezer.
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I'm glad you can't really tell from my photographs that these turkey pesto meatball sliders look a bit, well... green-ish. Yes, the meatballs are wearin' the green for St Patrick's Day, thanks to a good bit of garlicky basil pesto that perks up both the color and the flavor. I formed the meatballs with a two-inch ice cream scoop, a perfect fit for my favorite slider buns, but they'd be equally delicious in a smaller size, tossed with some pasta, garlic and olive oil. It takes just a few minutes to make your own pesto, or you can use good-quality store-bought pesto, if that's what you have in your pantry. Like all of the many turkey meatball variations I've shared here in The Perfect Pantry, these pesto meatballs freeze well, so whip up a double batch when you have time, and store the cooked, cooled meatballs in ziploc bags for easy worknight dinners or party fare.
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