A Caribbean Father’s Day Recipe

By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

Did you know the Fathers’ Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd?

Her idea was to create a similar celebration to complement Mother’s Day, honoring fatherhood and male parenting. Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there, though Dodd was born in Arkansas. She originally posed June 5th (her father’s birthday) to be the official day, but the pastors to whom she recommended it did not have enough time to prepare their sermons and so deferred to the third Sunday in June.

This year, we celebrate Father’s Day on June 15th. Other countries like Taiwan and Brazil celebrate Father’s Day in August, Australia in September, Luxembourg in October, Finland in November and Thailand in December. The way I see it – any given month, it’s Father’s Day or Mother’s Day somewhere and rightly so.

Parents should be honored at all times, for the unrelenting, and sometimes harrowing job of raising their children to be responsible adults – though in my case, as far as becoming a responsible adult, the jury is still out on that!

I truly lift my hat to my parents. They brought seven of us into this world – me being the youngest – and through all the drama of ER visits, childhood diseases, principal visits, sibling fights, lost and found episodes, bloody noses and bruises, we all made it in one piece. Not so sure about the parents though …

Every day it was something else. I remember my brother, after watching an episode of “Batman” decided he was the “Penguin” and jumped off the roof of our house holding only an umbrella. Imagine his surprise when instead of flying through the air (like the “Penguin” did), he flew alright – but to the ER with a broken leg!

Another time, my poor Mother, who has done only good all her life, was confronted at the gate by a police squad car – lights flashing and all, demanding her presence. Heart racing, hands shaking, my mother slowly made her way to the gate to find out what she could ever be found guilty of. Only when she saw our Dad’s car and two little heads inside did she realize the cops were not there for her, but for her two young sons.

After giving Dad’s car a good wash on the sidewalk, we were then supposed to drive the car back inside the driveway, but we decided it would be more fun to go for a little joy ride around the block first. Unfortunately, so did the cops… I guess they were clued in that something wasn’t right when they saw the car drive pass them but didn’t see a driver (my brother’s head was only as high as the dashboard). Man, is betta the cops
did tek us!

What we had in store from Dad was definitely not the kind of fun we had been seeking. Mom still talks about this…and WE STILL remember.

But all in all, we had a great life, even in the face of hard times. Dad did everything he possibly could to see that we were never without, and Mom had the task of keeping us along the straight and narrow – I might have skipped a lesson or two, but no worries.

They both gave us a great sense of independence and confidence to weather any storm. Our sense of adventure came from Dad who on impulse, would take us on an early morning road trips to the country. Those were the best!

I remember stopping by an open field full of mango trees laden with sweet, ripe “Blackie” and No. 11. Mangoes.

We would “stone” the trees and gather up our spoils to eat along the rest of the drive, while listening to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck playing on his 8-track.

Lunch was something I will always remember. On the way to our country destination, Dad would stop to buy some “just baked” hard dough bread and butter and some tins of corned beef.

Later, when we got hungry, he would find a shady spot to park, pull out the bread, butter and corned beef and spread it out on the makeshift table – the trunk of the car.

There we would make ourselves some unfashionable gourmet sandwiches by stuffing corned beef straight from the tin with a little hot pepper sauce and a whallop of butter between the freshly baked bread and “wash” it down with some very cold Kola Champagne sodas. Maybe it was the country air, but those were the sweetest sandwiches I ever tasted.

My siblings, who are now parents themselves, carried the torch with their own children, replicating the fun we had growing up. Only thing, the music that played was more like Buju B, Bob Marley and Soca… and it was on CD.

With these memories in mind, I thought I would pay tribute to all the fathers and mothers out there by creating a dish that combines both strength and flavor. How you wash it down is totally up to you…in my case, a little rum is always my first choice!

Though my mom did most of the cooking in my house, Dad would sometimes decide to experiment and get down and dirty in the kitchen. His techniques would lean toward quick and simple, so this recipe for roasted chicken is similar to something he would probably do when he got inspired.

This recipe is very approachable even for a spur of the moment dinner. The technique is that simple, and the ingredients are just a few familiar items easily found on hand in every Caribbean kitchen, yet the flavors and texture is rich and satisfying.

The reason this recipe works is that you are pre-heating a pan in the oven so that when you add the bird breast side up, you are giving the thighs and legs a jump start on the cooking process by giving it a jolt of heat being in direct contact with the super hot pre-heated pan.

That is why I like to use a cast iron skillet because it holds heat very well. You blast cook the chicken in a high heat oven, then turn the oven off to let the residual heat of the oven gently complete the cooking.

Your results may vary depending on which type of pan you end up using.
3 1/2 pound chicken 
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoon coconut oil or melted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, then place a 12-inch skillet or cast iron pan in the oven and heat to 450°.

2. Combine 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper in a bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub the entire surface of the chicken with the oil, then sprinkle the salt and pepper mixture all over the chicken.

3. Combine the remaining salt and pepper with the garlic, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper. Rub this mixture under the skin of the breast and thighs using your fingers to carefully lift the skin away from the flesh taking care not to tear it.

4. Remove pan from the oven once it has been heated through and place chicken, breast side up, in the pan and immediately return to the oven so the pan doesn’t lose much of the heat.

5. Roast at 450 degrees for 35 minutes

6. Turn the oven off without opening the oven, and continue roasting in the oven for another 25 minutes. The breast meat should be at least 160° or the thigh meat at 175°. If you don’t have a thermometer, lift the chicken up and watch the juices drain. It should be clear and not red or pink. A very very faint pink is ok, but if unsure, leave it in the oven for a few more minutes, BUT DO NOT OVERCOOK!
The whole idea here is a juicy, no fuss bird!

7. Transfer the whole chicken from pan to a carving board and loosely put aluminum foil over the chicken to form a loose tent for 15 minutes, if you can wait that long for the juices to relax and redistribute.

Carve and serve.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for three years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cookoffs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show, Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.

 

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