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02/14/2018

~ Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry ~

IMG_4558Throughout the Caribbean, porcine reigns supreme, and, when it comes to perfectly-balanced, bright, slightly-sweet and spicy-hot curry blends, the Jamaicans have cornered the market.  That said, the world is full of curries, they are all different, and, for the home cook, it's almost impossible to prepare an authentic curry outside of the region it's prepared in, within its country of origin.  Why?  Because outside of the United States, curry is not a store-bought dried spice blend or wet paste that produces a predictable end result.  They're hand-made, mortar-and-pestle pulverized, dry or pasty concoctions of spices or herbs, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook -- on a daily basis -- Jamaican cooks are no exception.

Curry is anything but generic.  Culinarily, it's a complex topic:

"Curry" is a catch-all English (British) term used in Western cultures to denote stewike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa and the Caribbean. Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made only of vegetables (vegetarian). Some curries cook quickly, others cook slowly, some are thick, some are thin, many are economical weeknight meals, while others are expensive and reserved for celebrations.  Most curries are cooked in large shallow skillets or woks with lids, and, most curries are paired with some type of white rice.  

IMG_4551Curries can be "wet" or "dry".  What is common to wet curries is the use of cream, coconut milk or yogurt, and occasionally stock, to prepare the sauce ("kari" is the Indian word for "sauce").  They don't tend to be overly-thickened (gravylike), and, they aren't spicy hot (although they can be). This evolved out of necessity.  Water was often scarce and/or its use in cooking had to be avoided, so, the "creamers" were used as a silky, rich, substitution for water, not as a thickener. Dry curries are cooked in very little liquid in sealed pots.  Almost all of the liquid evaporates during the lengthy cooking process, leaving the ingredients heavily coated in the spice mixture.

The case for using commercial curry powders or pastes.

There are kitchen decisions that only the cook can make, and, in the American kitchen, for the average American cook, convenience typically triumphs over authenticity.  That said, it's not because the average American cook is lazy or uncreative.  In my case, I purchase high-quality blends or pastes because, on any given day, all the ingredients necessary to make a dry blend or a wet paste are not always available at the same time.  There's more.  Some concoctions contain ten or more sometimes-pricey ingredients, which after being mixed together, do not have a long shelf life, so, a portion of my investment and hard work can end up being thrown away.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d287a355970cCurry powders and pastes cannot be used interchangeably.

Curry blends and pastes are not created equal.  For example:  When I make curry, sometimes I make Thai curry (which requires green, red or yellow paste), sometimes I make Indian curry (which relies on garam masala), and, sometimes I make Jamaican curry, which has its own flavor profile.  Know the country of the curry you're preparing and don't substitute one type for another.

Jamaican-Style Curry Powder.

Jamaican curry powder contains allspice and Indian-style curry powder does not.  Indian curry powder contains cardamom and mace, Jamaican curry powder does not.  All Jamaican curries contain coconut milk, but only South Indian curries do.  Jamaican curries tend to be spicy and sweet while Indian curries are mild and slightly tart.

Tonight, creamy, spicy Jamaican curry is what I am craving:

This four-season recipe makes a good-sized quantity, twelve dinner-sized servings (or sixteen+ luncheon-sized servings). That sounds like a lot, but, leftovers reheat perfectly, so the little bit of extra slicing and dicing is worth the extra effort -- plus, it freezes well too.  There's more.  Like many stews, it tastes even better the second day, so, it can be made ahead and served with freshly-steamed rice without compromise -- which is convenient if you're entertaining. That said, if you don't want leftovers, cut the recipe in half (and prepare it in a smaller skillet).

IMG_33711  bone-in Boston butt pork roast, about 7-8 pounds total

4  tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil, for preparing skillet

2  teaspoons sea salt, total throughout recipe, 1 teaspoon for seasoning meat and 1 teaspoon for seasoning vegetables

2  cups each:  1/2" diced green and red bell pepper

IMG_45401-1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup chopped cilantro leaves + plus additional leaves for garnish

2  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, well-drained

6  tablespoons hot Jamaican curry powder

2  teaspoons garlic paste

2  teaspoons ginger paste

1/2  teaspoon habanero powder IMG_4227(Note:  Jamaicans typically use fresh Scotch Bonnet chilies for heat, which I don't always have access too, but, the slightly-citrusy flavor of incendiary habanero powder, which I keep on my spice rack, is a marvelous substitute.)

3  14-ounce cans coconut milk, shaken or stirred prior to using

6  cups uncooked jasmine rice, or, 12 cups steamed jasmine rice, cooked via your favorite method

IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376~Step 1.  Remove pork from packaging.  Trim off "fat cap" layer. Starting at bone-free-end, cut into 3/4"-1"-thick steaks, then, cut steaks into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  When you get to the bone-in-end, do your best to cut around the bone, cutting the meat into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  As you work, discard any chunks that are almost all fat.  When finished, there will be 4+ pounds of trimmed, nicely-marbled pork.  The goal is to have well-marbled pieces, not, fat-laden chunks.

IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411~Step 2.  Place and heat the 1/4 cup oil in a 14" chef's pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pork cubes and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt.  Adjust heat to sauté, using a large spatula to stir frequently, until meat is lightly-browned on all sides, and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pan, about 18-20-22 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225~Step 3.  Prep the green and red bell peppers, onion and cilantro as directed, placing them in the chef's pan as you work.  Add the diced tomatoes, curry powder, garlic paste, ginger paste and remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the coconut milk and stir to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243~Step 4.  Over medium- medium-high heat bring mixture to a rapid simmer, stirring frequently.  Once simmering, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 40-45 minutes, until nicely thickened.  Turn heat off, cover pan, and allow the curry to steep on the warm stovetop, another 40-45 minutes to allow the flavors time to marry.  Steam rice while curry steeps and serve warm curry over steamed rice.

Serve warm curry over freshly-steamed white rice:

IMG_4559A creamy-rich & spicy hot bowl of Jamaican love: 

IMG_4564Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry:  Recipe yields 4-5 quarts/16-20 cups pork curry mixture/12 large dinner-sized servings or 16+ smaller luncheon-sized servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fc4526c4970bCook's Note: I do not profess to knowing a lot about India or being an authority on authentic Indian cuisine.  I have never had the opportunity to travel there, however, I have had the pleasure of having been entertained, on several occasions back in the early 1980's, in the home of a neighborhood couple, who just happened to hail from India.  My recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~, is a testament to one of the many wonderful dishes I was introduced to at their dinner table.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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