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Recover the American kitchen.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

A Christmas Carol. God bless us, everyone.

My friend Mary is the kind of person that many aspire to be. Compassionate, caring and darn pretty.

She keeps her eye on an army of kids aging out of the Foster Care system. Once a year at this time she struggles to throw them a gigantic party. For one night they experience the things we take for granted everyday. Home cooked meal, family at the table, the warmth and light of the season. The other 364 days? Some of these kids are homeless, most are severely lacking of security, support and guidance.

Mary is also a Washington High RAM.

She calls for help, we answer. This is my second year serving as a volunteer. I wasn't alone.

I reached out to my friends at Atlasta Catering again, they came through in a big way. Cambro full of Turkey, I headed out to the church hall, hoping to make some Christmas magic.

We entered the hall, HUGE, dark.

I headed right for the kitchen, my buddy Kevin followed. Lots of work ahead. Luckily we had a big professional kitchen this year. Convection ovens, grill top. All waited to heat and hold all the food the rest of the volunteers would bring. Re-heat, slice and carve. Kevin who was just getting over a cold gave up his Birthday to be there. He got a crash course of slicing Ham and Turkey. Champ.

Our friend Jeff appointed himself as expo, ran food back and forth like a BOSS.

Jamie and her lovely daughter helped keep things from getting out of hand.

 

People given the chance are magnificent. We had a gigamountain of food this year. Kids ate until bursting and we were able to pack to-go containers for anyone who wanted. Grateful they would have food for the Holiday weekend. There was even enough Mary was able to drop some off at a homeless shelter.

The kids are tremendous. All night long they would thank us, hang out with us. Such a tight group.

I know that I'll be back next year. I hope this continues to grow. With the support of our WHS RAMS we can continue to show the kids with the least that they matter.

I still wish we could have more. Next year?

Here's some pics of my friends being RAMS

Another RAM Chef, Patti.
 
lady with the bright smile. Our Cindy.

 

Cindy hugs!

More kids!

All it takes is two hands and a willingness to help. Thank you RAMS! Tom, Jeff, Mary, Mary G. Jennifer (hi!), Jamie, Kevin, Susie, Patti, Cindy and John, and all who volunteered either their time, food, gift-cards..etc. Happiest of Holiday seasons.
Cooking poor, feeling rich
Get your grub on
Ciao

 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jerk. Keep your hands off. Caribbean style.

I love jerk. Truly. Sweet, spicy, peppery and smokey. Easy way to transform a basic protein into something unforgettable. A close friend brought me a jar for Christmas. Good thing too, I was almost out.

I'm also getting tired of Holiday leftovers. Seems like a good day to fire up the grill. Along the way I'll show ya some Sweet Potato Pudding and Collard Greens. Ja man.

First a little history (you knew this was coming) Jamaican Jerk is a miracle. It's a blend of Allspice, Scallions, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Vinegar, Black Peppercorns and Sugar. That's just the basic formula, there are many variations. It can be a dry-rub or a wet marinade. It's applied to meat and grilled. Today I'm using Chicken thighs but it's also really great with pork, goat, lamb..etc.

It came about after the British invaded the Spanish colony of Jamaica. The African slaves; rather than be recaptured, fled into the mountains and joined the native tribes. Surrounded by deep forests where game was plentiful they used whatever they could gather and their own heritage to transform humble meals into something wonderful. Truly cooking poor, eating rich.

Mise-en-Place

Today I used Chicken thighs, 'cus it's good. I took the skin off and the bone out

Jar of Jerk (this can be tricky to find) look for one that is more paste like than sauce.

 

4-5 White Sweet Potatoes, peeled

Jar of Pineapple chunks

Four large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Pinch of ground Nutmeg

Salt and Pepper

 

2 big bunches Collard Greens, stems removed and rough chopped

4 pieces Salt Pork, cubed

1-2 Jalapeño chopped, seeds and all

One whole Clove

Salt-Pepper

2 cups water

 

It's so easy

Smear a good heap of Jerk onto Chicken. Wear gloves, you do NOT want to touch anything with Scotch-Bonnet pepper in it. Turns your hands bright red and burns.

Set aside for at least an hour.

 

Onto the Collard Greens. It's a relative of Kale, has smooth leaves and a mustardy, spinach kinda thing going on. Very fibrous so it takes time to make it tender.

 

Heat up a deep pot.

Plop in the chunks of Salt Pork. Render the fat out. That'll be our Sauté medium.

Mmmmm pork fat

Add those Peppers, season. Wilt for a bit, it will shrink some. Add your water, whole clove and bring to simmer, cover and wait. Takes about an hour, I'm not kidding.

 

Next let's tackle Sweet Potato pudding.

pre-heat the oven to 375F

Peel spuds and chop into equal chunks. Place in deep pot and barely cover with salted water. Add some ground pepper in there too. Bring to boil and simmer until soft all the way through.

Once done, drain all water and put the pot back on the stove and shake it until all steam stops. Water equals lumps. Neat trick right?

Think of regular mashed 'taters.

Now, off heat add butter, Nutmeg. Use a fork and mash around, should be real easy. Add the milk. Still beating? Good, switch to a sturdy spoon. Add the eggs, mix, now empty the entire contents of the can of Pineapple chunks. Mix.

Dump the whole thing into a Casserole pan, sprinkle with a little Paprika if you like. Throw it into the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, check it. It will puff up some. Done? Good, remove from oven.

 

 

Check those greens ok? Maybe pull one out and bite it. Tender? Yes! Good, remove and drain. Done.

 

Heat up that grill, 500. Fast and smokey.

 

Keep your heat consistent. Flip once. Remove to plate and let it rest.

It's great just the way it is but I always like to hand chop it first. Simple right?

Knife and cutting board...done

Doesn't need any garnish. It's great, trust me. Scoop of pudding for sweet, greens for bitter and jerk for heat. Try it.

 

 

Cooking poor, eating rich.

Get your grub on

Ciao