3 simple ways to spice up your holiday dinner this year
Many dub the holidays the most wonderful time of year, but if that’s true, why aren’t our dinner menus equally enthralling?
There’s nothing wrong with turkey, spuds and veggie sides, but just because something is tradition doesn’t mean you can’t spice things up. Enter one of the most versatile seasonings out there—jerk.
The spicy concoction of onions, thyme, all-spice, pepper and scotch bonnet is a popular Jamaican seasoning for chicken, but it’s so much more than a summer grilling staple.
Thanks to its interchangeable flavours and varying spice levels (available in mild or hot), jerk seasoning is a great way to add spice to your life year-round.
In partnership with Grace Foods, we take a look at how it’s also the perfect way to add some extra flavour to your holiday dinner this year.
Start off with a spicy appetizer
The term “jerk” actually refers to the traditional Jamaican style of cooking, in which food is cooked over a pimento wood fire.
Historically that was the only “heat” required. As jerk sauces and rubs evolved, it became common practice to add scotch bonnet peppers to give the seasoning that renowned spice, but milder versions do exist.
If you want to set a spicy tone to your holiday meal, go beyond your traditional cocktail shrimp and serve up jerk-marinated skewers instead. They’re impressive and thanks to a one-stop jerk marinade they’re also simple to fire up.
“Grace Jerk Marinade is a nice introduction to jerk,” says executive chef/owner of Twist Catering La-toya Fagon, who is also a personal chef to the Toronto Raptors and a hospitality partner to the Toronto International Film Festival.
“It’s not too spicy and no other ingredients are needed so you can use as much as you’d like. It’s foolproof for the novice chef. Simply pour the jerk marinade onto the meat of choice, let it marinate and you’re ready to cook.”
Jerk Shrimp Skewers:
What You’ll Need:
1 pound of fresh shrimp
½ cup Grace Jerk Marinade
2 bell peppers, diced
1) In a bowl, combine shrimp and Grace Jerk Marinade.
2) Let shrimp marinate for at least 30 minutes.
3) While shrimp is marinating, soak wooden skewers in water.
4) Skewer the shrimp and bell peppers onto wooden skewers.
5) Cook on a grill pan on each side for about three to four minutes.
6) Serve and enjoy.
Whip up some jerk-inspired side dishes
If you want to make your taste buds jump with little effort, side dishes made with jerk is the answer.
“Just a tablespoon of jerk seasoning will add a huge amount of flavour to the simplest things,” Fagon says.
“Jerk is packed with a lot of flavour so remember to start small and taste-test before serving guests. You can always add more if desired.”
Try mixing some jerk marinade over cubed sweet potatoes before throwing them in the oven for a little variety. Better yet, give new life to a batch of grilled veggies with a barbecue jerk sauce.
Jerk Roasted Veggies:
What You’ll Need:
1 bunch asparagus
1 bell pepper
1 large zucchini
½ cup Grace Jerk BBQ Sauce
1) Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus then chop the bell pepper and zucchini into similar-sized pieces.
2) In a bowl, combine the vegetables with Grace Jerk BBQ Sauce and mix well, making sure vegetables are evenly coated.
3) Cook veggies on a grilling pan for two to three minutes on each side.
Make it your main event
If you want to go big this holiday season, make a jerk turkey.
The marinade works wonders on other mains as well, from a thick halibut steak to vegetarian proteins like tofu, ground soy or tempeh, says Fagon.
“You can season just about anything with jerk—it brings a great array of spices together that add the right balance of heat with a big punch of flavour,” she says. “Having one or two jerk items in your spread will really elevate your holiday cooking.”
What You’ll Need:
1 whole turkey, defrosted (we used a 10-pound turkey)
1 jar of Grace Mild Jerk Seasoning
½ stick of butter, melted
1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Pat the turkey dry with paper towel.
3) Thoroughly cover the turkey with Grace Mild Jerk Seasoning, rubbing it in as you go.
4) Lower heat to 325F and put the turkey into the oven.
5) In a bowl, combine melted butter and 2 tbsp of Grace Mild Jerk Seasoning.
6) Baste the turkey every 30 to 45 minutes with the butter-jerk mixture.
7) Cook until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180F (between four to six hours).
8) Carve and enjoy.