Father’s Day, with a Jamaican Flavor

With Father’s Day approaching, many cooks turn their attention to the outdoor barbecue, which can once again enjoy its seasonal place in the sun. Michael Phillips is among these cooks.

Originally from the East Coast, Michael came to California in search of the perfect place to raise his children – Max, Alexie, Gabrielle and Katie. He found exactly that in Montecito, where his children all attended Cold Spring School.

Michael is a local real estate broker, has served on the Montecito Planning Commission for five years, is a fine art collector and is a dedicated gourmet cook with interests in a variety of cuisines (and, in the interest of full disclosure, he’s also my boyfriend).

“I discovered food in Washington, D.C., twenty years ago and there, it was all about the kitchen,” Michael explains. “When I moved here, I never really wanted to cook inside again.”

Michael says he particularly enjoys experimenting with sauces, marinades and rubs to create unexpected taste experiences. He joins many in championing the revival of the American outdoor grill.

“I’m convinced – but I can’t prove it – that cooking outdoors is good for you,” he says. “Ovens are for bakers.”

Michael’s entrée, jerk chicken, is heavily influenced by Carib-Arawak Indians, incorporating more than 10 spices and ingredients to create a hot and sweet combination that is emblematic of the Jamaican culture. So move over hamburgers and hot dogs, this is not your father’s barbecue.

As for that age-old debate of gas versus briquettes, Michael responds: “It’s best if the grill offers a direct and an indirect heat opportunity. It’s important to have differentiated heat – a hot side and a cool side.”

When determining whether your chicken (or meat) is cooked well enough, Michael takes a cue from Julia Child. If you don’t walk away from the grill, he says, it becomes easier to know when the food is ready.

“You have to listen to it, pay attention to it, feel it and you will know when it’s done,” he says.

Although Michael chose chicken for his main course, the jerk rub works equally well on tri-trip or pork.

“We all love the idea of a new chicken recipe,” he says. “However, for me they often disappoint.”

Trust me, this is one chicken that won’t disappoint. And what beverage should one serve with this flame-kissed fare?

“There isn’t a white wine nasty enough to stand up to this, so put the wine away and hope that the (Jamaican) Red Stripe Beer doesn’t run out,” says Michael.

Here’s to a great Jamaican barbecue event – and remember to put a Bob Marley CD on the list of ingredients.

Jerk Chicken

Pulse ¼ cup of local cider vinegar, ¼ cup dark rum, splash of soy sauce and olive oil, juice of two limes, two tablespoons brown sugar, bunch of scallions, all parts chopped, one teaspoon each of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, one habanera pepper, seeded and chopped, four cloves of garlic, one inch of fresh peeled and grated ginger, two tablespoons of pickapeppa sauce, in a food processor to make a slightly chunky paste sauce.

Remove skin from eight chicken thighs and stab all over with a fork. Place chicken and enough jerk sauce to coat chicken in a gallon plastic sealable bag and refrigerate overnight or at least two hours. Grill five, six or so minutes per side, remove and tent with tin foil for five minutes. Salt if you like and serve. 4-6 servings.

Note: “Jerk” is both a method of cooking and a marinade that dates back to the Carib-Arawak Indians who inhabited the island of Jamaica. There many jerk recipes and all are a bit different, so there is no “perfect” way to do it.

We found a jerk rub at Vons. The apple cider vinegar can be found at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. The pickapeppa sauce, aka “Jamaican ketchup,” is an authentic Jamaican Rasta recipe of ingredients that I’m told is available at local stores.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

2 cups canned kidney beans, drained

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 cup canned coconut milk

1 can vegetable or chicken stock

2 cups long grain rice

Bring stock and coconut milk to boil. Add everything else, cover reduce heat and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Garnish with sliced green onions. Note: Traditional recipes include some habanera heat. These peppers are universally recognized as the hottest of all peppers. Gloves are a good idea. Heat is important, but a milder pepper could be substituted.

(If you know a cook who deserves attention, please e-mail your suggestions to news@montecitojournal.net)

Cucumber Side

1 hothouse cucumber peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup yogurt

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

1 lime juiced

Handful fresh mint coarsely chopped

Combine, refrigerate and serve

Note: Jamaicans would add some heat here as well. I prefer to overweight the mint for its cooling effect.