Late last October ArenaNet finally released the long awaited expansion Heart of Thorns. Since there’s usually a couple of recipes released with every chapter of the living story or the various festivals, I should have known something was coming my way. I only took note of the recipes for sale in the new areas in passing though, firmly in the grips of the new chapters and all the wild, new things going on all over the place. Little. Kid. Locked. In. A. Candy. Store.
Thank you for making it pretty damn hard for me to unglue myself from my computer long enough to cook up even as much as a bowl of instant soup with the release of Heart of Thorns.
xoxo, Nahdala Darkwind
When I reached a point of just not being able to sit anymore I finally payed closer attention to the recipes released with HoT, and some of them immediately sent me drooling – in a very ladylike manner, of course. The bad news was, seeing as autumn had just begun showing its angry face, the one thing I really wanted to make sooner rather than later, was something cooked best over hot coals – the Jerk Chicken. OooOoooOOo, a challenge! Fire up the Weber in a constant downpour or make it work in the pan? Cringing away from the window after a quick glance, I ditched the BBQ idea and went to work, not sure how it would turn out. Some time into the process, when I was debating how to plate it for the pictures. I had the silly idea of using cookie cutters to shape the flatbreads, only to realize halfway through the dough that my choice of cutter made for a really bad pun… Oh well, it wasn’t intentional. Anyways, here goes my GW2 Heart of Thorns inspired Jerk Chicken and hearty Leek Flatbreads.
All of the following will net you 2 servings (as a main dish)
The Jerk Spice Blend
At first I wondered what made the devs come up with a number of recipes based on traditional carribean dishes for our deepdarkjungle crawl. I’m still not sure, but maybe they had the same desire to sit on a postcard-esque beach in the Caribbean instead, umbrella -topped drink in hand, while creating the Tangled Depths, that I have, gnawing and clawing through that area.
What we know as Jamaican Jerk actually decscribes two different things – the rub or marinade itsself and the outcome of the traditional cooking technique, the smoke-stewing over an open pit fire, meat and sauce bubbling away in a sawed-off oil barrel or its more modern version, a steel jerky pan. Wether it’s prepared in the traditional ways, grilled over charcoal or wood, pan-seared or popped into an oven, the distinguishing characteristic stays the same – the smoky flavors added to the hot spices by the way it’s originally supposed to be prepared. So quite a bit of effort has to be put into recreating the smoke, at least flavor-wise, when it’s not prepared that way.
2 Spring Onions, finely chopped
1 Scotch Bonnett or Habanero, deseeded and finely chopped
Zest of one Lime
50ml Lime Juice
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce – this in combination with the Pimenton creates the smokyness you’re missing due to the lack of coals in this version. I’m going to try this when it’s BBQ season and see how it works out with the handful of mesquite wood chips we usually toss onto the coals.
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Dark Muscovado Sugar
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme Leaves
1-2 Tsp ground Allspice – start with one, add the second after having a taste
2 Tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
2 Tsp Pimenton – a spanish variety of smoked paprika powder, not to be confused with Pimento – Allspice. In general there’s two types, a mild one and the strong type which is usually used to spice Chorizo. I’m not sure if it’s actually true or if my head is just connecting the dots between spice and sausage on its own, but I always feel this particular version of smoked paprika adds some meatyness to whatever I just seasoned with it.
1 Tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Cinnamon
Mild Olive, Peanut or Cashew Oil
Opt: 1 dried and ground Chipotle or a few drops of Chipotle Tabasco. Both hard to come by over here unless you order them online… I usually run out of either as soon as I really need them due to that. Gotta love Murphy’s Law, eh…
1) Warm up a small pan on low-medium heat. Add the allspice, pepper, pimenton, nutmeg, cumin and cinnamon and warm them up a little to release their essential oils.
2) Place the finely chopped spring onions, chillies, lime zest and thyme leaves in a large mixing bowl.
3) Fold in the warmed spices until they’re evenly distributed and set the bowl aside.
4) Add the lime juice to the pan you just used for the spices, lightly warm it and dissolve the sugar in it. Pour this over the spiced onions and chillies, then add the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and the optional ingredients – if you’re using them. Stir the mixture until everything is well combined.
5) Now add the oil. Start with 2-3 tbsp of the oil, stir it into your marinade until it’s completely incorporated. From this point on the amount of oil you’ll be adding – if any – depends on the consistency the base ingredients blended into. Sometimes the spring onions give off a lot of water once they’re hit with the warm spices, sometimes the spices are so dry, they soak up a lot more of the liquids than they normally do. So, after checking the consistency after the initial 2-3 tbsp of oil, decide if the marinade may need more or not. It should be gooey and thick, snugly coating the chicken.
4-6 Drumsticks or 2-3 Whole Chicken Thighs
250ml Chicken Stock (keep a bit more at hand, just in case)
3 Tbsp Peanut or Sunfower Oil
6% Salt Brine, infused with the following
1 Jalapeno, sliced into rings
1 Cinnamon Stick, broken into 3-4 pieces
4 Sprigs of Thyme
4 Cloves of Garlic, roughly chopped
1) Like I said before, the brining bit is something I do with meat that’s prone to turn dry or meat that’s still one its bone whenever I have the time. Apart from just keeping the meat moist, brining meat prior to marinading it enables the spices in the marinade to soak in deeper and turn out more intensely in the end.
2) Pick a container that holds all of the drumsticks comfortably with some room to spare. Place the drums inside and fill it up with enough water to cover them completely. Measure the amount of water you just used and adjust the salt you’ll need for a 6% brine accordingly.
3) Gently warm up the water in a pot over medium heat and dissolve the salt. Add the jalapeno rings, cinnamon pieces, cloves, thyme and the garlic to the brine and let it simmer for a minute.
4) Take it off the heat and let it cool off completely.
5) Pour the brine over the chicken pieces in their container and make sure they’re completely covered by the brine.
6) Keep the chicken in the fridge, brining away, over night or at least for 8 hours.
7) Take the drums out of the brine, pat them dry and place them in another container, preferably an airtight one, or a sealable plastic freezing baggie. Cover them with the jerk marinade, gently massaging it in a little bit. Make sure the pieces are coated in marinade all around before you pour the rest of the marinade on top of them and seal the container for the next round of soaking up flavors.
8) Place the container in the fridge for another 8 hours.
9) Take the marinated chicken out of the fridge about 1 hour before preparing it. Usually meat is best made comfortable in a pan when it’s at room temperature, but with all things chicken, I don’t like that idea very much, so I go by not-fresh-out-of-the-fridge but not at room temperature either.
10) Tap off any of the marinade easily coming off the chicken and catch the drippings in a bowl, you’ll need it soon. The point of this exercise is merely to avoid burning off the marinade while searing the chicken – that’s not a good way to add the smoked/burned flavor we were looking for in the marinade.
11) Set a large, heavy-based pan or griddle on high heat. Make sure all of the pieces fit inside in one layer, otherwise they wouldn’t cook evenly. Add 2 tbsp of oil, let it heat up for 2-3 minutes and sear the drumsticks all around to mark them and crisp up the skin a bit.
12) If you used a griddle to do this, move the marked-up drums into a large pan with a lid afterwards – if you went with the pan right away, take the drums out for a moment and place them on a plate.
13) Turn the heat to medium low and deglaze the pan (or griddle – move the liquids to the pan you’re going to finish the dish in afterwards) with the chicken stock.
14) Stir in the jerk marinade and move the chicken back into the pan. Drizzle the tops peeking out of the liquids with a little bit of oil and close the lid.
15) Leave it to simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Turn the drums at around the halftime mark, so the side previously exposed is submerged in the sauce for the second half. In case the sauce has already reduced down to a thick and creamy consistency, add some more chicken stock at this point.
16) Take the lid off and let it continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes, to reduce the sauce.
17) To check if the chicken is done – in case you don’t know how a piece of meat on the bone feels to a light pressure test – cut into the thickest area of one of the drums, right down to the bone, to check. Keep in mind that the residual heat in the bone will keep the cooking process going for a while longer.
18) Take the drums out of the pan onto a plate and cover the whole lot with aluminum foil. Leave it to rest for about 10 minutes.
19) Turn up the heat to high in order to reduce the sauce if necessary. It should be thick, sticking to the chicken when you dip a piece into it, while not being dry, grainy or well… burned. If it’s already reached this consistency, cover it and keep it warm until you’re ready to serve.
When it’s time to fire the coals in my in-laws’ garden I usually take the oven hostage for a couple of hours and make the breads and buns needed for the BBQ myself. Like a little kid I then share the floor in front of the oven with the family dogs and enjoy watching the oven channel, surrounded by the wonderful smell of baking bread for some time. For quite a while translating some of our favourite breads into a pan-version didn’t even occur to me, not until whipping up a couple of tortillas for a Chilli con Carne made me think about flatbreads. That general idea took shape in the form of a modified version of a well tested Leek Focaccia. Both versions have been a rousing success so far, doing a wonderful job of balancing out some of the more in-your-face spice-heavyweights both on and off the coals.
1 large Leek, cut into thin half-moons
1 Lemon, Zest
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves picked
250g Plain Wheat Flour
Sea Salt, Pepper
1) Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt completely.
2) Add the leek slices and sautée them after adding 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, the thyme leaves, and a pinch each of salt and pepper for 3-4 mins until the leeks are soft. Sprinkle the lot with the lemon zest.
3) Stir the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into 100ml warm water.
4) Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch each of salt and pepper.
5) Add the warm water & oil mix and the contents of the pan. Stir this mixture with a wodden spoon until it’s as well combined as possible. Once the dough starts coming together, loose the spoon and turn it out onto a floured work surface.
6) Flour your hands and knead the dough for about 4 mins until it’s smooth. Add flour or oil to balance out the consistency – oil in case the dough turns out too try, crumbling away while you’re kneading it or flour in case it’s gooey and wet and doesn’t come together.
7) Roll the dough int a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let it rest rest for 20 mins.
8) Divide the dough into 4-6 equally sized smaller balls, lightly flour your rolling pin and roll them out into disks of around 3mm thickness – or roll the dough and get busy with a cookie cutter. If you’re using a cookie cutter make sure you have a sharp knife in reach, the leeks can be a bit stubborn, resisting being cut with a cookie cutter. The thinner you roll them out, the better. In this variety the thickness of the leeks are basically the limit. If you don’t roll them out thinly enough the center might be on the rawer side while the outsides are perfect. If you roll them out too thinly though, the flatbreads might end up as crisps, rather unable to perform as sauce sponges, spoon-type tools and chilli-burn-extinguishers – still tasty but unsuitable for this dish.
9) Fry the flatbreads in a heavy-based pan heated on medium-high heat for 1-2 mins on one side until small blisters appear on the surface. Like with bubbles on a pancake, that’s your cue to flip them. Fry them on the second side for another 1-2 mins. Have a peek – once they’re equally golden on both sides it’s time for them to rest on a warm plate, covered with a paper towel and some alumnum foil. You won’t need to oil the pan, by the way, the oil in the dough and the sautéed leeks should be enough – unless your pan is getting too hot.
10) Keep them warm until it’s time to serve. I’d also advise you to make these just before they’re needed since they really do not store well. For some reason they go stale and chewy after a short time.
As you can see in the pictures, I used papaya instead of pineapples this time in an attempt to recreate the aromas of a fabulous chillied papaya and cucumber relish I had at a BBQ once. For some reason the base ingredients did not work well together in a salad, so I’ll return to my usual fresh and crunchy pineapple salad I occasionally make to lighten up heavily spiced mariandes instead.
2 Heads of Baby Gem Lettuce, thinly sliced
Alt: ½ Head of Iceberg Salad – this one stays crunchy for a longer period of time after being tossed with the dressing, in case you’re preparing it for a BBQ
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, thinly sliced or cut into small cubes
1 small Red Onion, cut into thin stripes
1 large Oxheart or Heirloom Tomato, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 Cucumber, deseeded and thinly sliced
200g Fresh, perfectly ripe Pineapple, cubed – you could also use canned Pineapple if you can’t get a fresh, ripe specimen
½ a Bunch of fresh Mint, leaves picked and finely sliced
Opt: To add a bit of crunch scatter some toasted cashews on top before serving
1) Place all of the above in a large mixing bowl, cover it with clingfilm and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
2) Removing the seeds of the tomato and cucumber isn’t just for cosmetic reasons. The seedy parts contain a lot of water. Once those come into contact with the salt of the dressing, they start giving off that water and water down the dressing – and everything else in the bowl. To avoid having a bowl of lightly seasoned water with a couple of salady bits swimming in it, removing the seeds is the best way to go. Another measure against watery dressings for a salad that has to stand around for a bit on a party or BBQ buffet is to give the dressing a bit more seasoning and less liquids than you normally would. Or simply serve up the two of them seperately, a bowl of the mixed veggies and greens and a seperate bowl with the dressing – mind the dressing-hogs though! There’s at least one in every crowd.
The Pineapple Dressing
50ml Mild Olive Oil or simple Vegetable Oil
35ml White Balsamic Vinegar
100ml Pineapple Juice
1 Lime, Juice and Zest
50g Pimeapple, roughly chopped
1 Clove of Garlic, roughly chopped
1 heaped Tsp of Dijon Mustard
½ Tsp of Salt
¼ Tsp of freshly cracked Pepper
1 Pinch of dried Thyme
1 Pinch of Chilli Flakes
Opt: Honey to take the edge off the vinegar and/or mustard if needed
1) Place all of the ingredients minus the oil in a high rimmed container and use a stick blender to whizz everything into a smooth, creamy dressing.
2) Once serving time approaches, slowly add the oil in a steady stream while working it into the mix with the stick blender.
3) Divide the salad onto the plates and drizzle it with the dressing or gently fold the dressing into the salad in its mixing bowl just before serving.
I know there seems to be a lot going on at the same time, so when I made this I scribbled down the order I was doing things in, first and foremost to make it easier for you guys and secondly to maybe keep myself (yea… next time) from tripping over all of my bowls and pots standing around everywhere and causing general mayhem, scrambling to get everything done at the same time.
1) Prep the ingredients for the salad and store them in an airtight container in the fridge.
2) Prep the dressing up to the part where you’d be adding the oil while searing the chicken. Secure that one out of the way as well. Preferably with some sort of lid on – although the container falling off a cupboard’s edge at this point can cause splatters on a conveniently close wall you might even be able to sell as modern art…
3) Prepare the flatbread dough, and get ready for it to meet the pan while the chicken’s simmering away.
4) Finish the bread and the dressing while the chicken is resting.
5) Plate up, dig in and enjoy!