I love Datil Peppers. Creating datil pepper products and cooking are my passions. I came up with a Jamaican inspired spice blend last fall, and it won a 1st place prize at the Scovie Awards!
Datil Jerk seasoning marries datil peppers with Jamaican allspice and cinnamon, to produce a spicy, sweet flavor that will give seafood, meat and vegetables an island flair. Datil Jerk was inspired by a trip my husband and I took to Jamaica, and a cooking class on top of a high cliff overlooking the azure blue Caribbean. Scotch Bonnet peppers are typically used in Jamaican cooking, but once again, I am all about the datil!
Chef Irie walked us through the steps to make a jerk seasoning. He emphatically stated that his was the best, but every chef on the island has their own blend of spices. The ingredients they all seem to have in common are the use of allspice berries or pimento as they are called in Jamaica, thyme, scotch bonnet peppers, and ginger.
Allspice grows wild throughout the island of Jamaica. The trees, which are similar to our laurels, produce small white flowers and red berries. The berries are dried and then ground into the allspice powder you find in your local grocery store. Jamaicans also use the leaves and wood of the pimiento tree to impart the allspice flavor into smoked meats..
Our cooking lesson took place in an outdoor kitchen on the back veranda of a plantation built in the 1800’s. The view of the gardens below and the sea beyond was spectacular. We were each set up with our own cooking station, and made the entire meal following chef Irie’s instructions. His commentary on life and food in the islands was hilarious at times as well as being informative. We prepared a jerk rub which was slathered on pieces of chicken and then placed on a grill heated by allspice wood. The aroma as it cooked was indescribable: sweet, spicy and smoky. An unbeatable combination.
While the chicken cooked, we learned how to make a fried cornbread that got is named Festival because it tastes so good. We steamed callaloo leaves with onions, a dish similar to our turnip greens, and made rice with peas. The meal was delicious. Of course we had to have a Jamaican Red Stripe beer to round out the meal.
I came home ready to cook island fare. Jamaicans use jerk mostly on chicken and pork. I was craving shrimp. We live close to the ocean and get fresh beautiful shrimp locally, so I wanted a jerk shrimp dish worthy of chef Irie.
The recipe for Blackened Jamaican Shrimp with Caribbean Rice won first place at the Scovie Awards. Blackening anything is best done outside over a burner with a smoking hot cast iron pan. (You can do this in the house, but the smoke may linger a while! I don’t recommend it.)
First Place Scovie Award Winner
Old St Augustine Datil Jerk Blackened Shrimp
1 pound fresh shrimp – (21/25#), peeled and deveined
2 Tablespoons butter (do not substitute margarine)
1 lime, sliced into wedges
6-8 medium wooden skewers, soaked in water overnight or a minimum of 30 minutes so they do not burn
In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Old St Augustine Datil Jerk Seasoning and garlic. Add the shrimp to the bowl and gently stir to completely coat the shrimp with the seasoning mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to marinate, or at least 30 minutes to one hour if you are pressed for time.
Place the skewers in water to cover and let sit at least 30 minutes or overnight to soak.
When ready to cook, prepare the rice (recipe below) as directed and keep warm until ready to serve.
Thread the shrimp on skewers – medium skewers will only hold 3 to 4 large shrimp. Drizzle the shrimp skewers on both sides with the juice of one half lime.
Over outdoor gas burner, heat well-seasoned cast iron skillet. You cannot get the skillet too hot. Once the skillet is smoking, add 1 Tablespoon of the butter, and swirl around in the pan. Immediately add the shrimp skewers. (The butter may flame up, so be careful!) Cook 1 to 2 minutes, shaking the pan to distribute the heat.
Add the rest of the butter and flip the skewers. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes until shrimp are cooked through and blackened. Do not overcook.
Serve over Caribbean Coconut Rice with lime wedges for garnish.
Caribbean Coconut Rice
2 cups Jasmine Rice (or any other long grain rice)