Remixed cookie cutters

This past weekend E and I went out to the Berkshires to visit some longtime friends.  Since St. Patrick’s Day fell on Saturday, E suggested that we all make St. Patrick’s Day cookies, and decorate them.

While the dough was being assembled, we started looking through the house cookie cutter collection for  shamrocks or four-leaf clovers, but no luck.  There were all kinds of other shapes, though, and twenty minutes and a pair of needle-nose pliers later, I had remixed one small cookie cutter into a shamrock, and one large cookie cutter into a four-leaf clover.

When the dough was ready, I cut a test cookie

Looking good (enough!), we baked and then decorated the cookies.  The shamrock was a little bit on the small side, but the four-leaf clover came out respectably well!

That totally worked!

So What Did We Learn? We learned that metal cookie cutters can remixed and remade into new shapes.  We learned that the best overall shape for a cookie is “blob”, and that “blob with minor details” is the second best shape.  Fine detail doesn’t work, and remember: you’re not making stamps that will be inked and pressed onto paper: spindly tendrils of design – skinny peninsulas- don’t work.  Filigree is right out.  If you’re going to make a new shape out of an old one, pick an old one with roughly the same length perimeter.  Small old cookie cutters make for (too) small new cookie shapes.  When you start with an old cookie cutter, bend it out into a flat circle first, then work into the desired target shape.  Cookies are dangerously tasty.

-Mark

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Jerk Chicken, Sugar Reef Style++

This extremely tasty jerk chicken recipe comes from the awesome and sadly now-defunct Caribbean restaurant in New York City called Sugar Reef.  It appeared in the sadly now-out-of-print Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook. Despite all the sadness, this recipe still makes people very happy.

The original recipe called for half the quantities of dry spices (except salt) as these, and included the note to double them for a more authentic flavor. These quantities have already been doubled (except the salt), and it’s delicious and spicy.  If you wish, you can cut the dry ingredients (except salt) in half for a more mild flavor, but if you’re looking for a more mild flavor, then what the heck are you doing cooking jerk chicken?

I’d note that the heat of peppers can vary almost as much as peoples heat tolerances; carefully taste-test your peppers and adjust the quantity accordingly.

Dry Ingredients

  • 2T ground allspice
  • 2T ground thyme
  • 3t cayenne pepper
  • 3t ground black pepper
  • 3t ground sage
  • 1.5t ground nutmeg
  • 1.5t ground cinnamon
  • 2T salt
  • 4T garlic powder
  • 2T sugar

Liquid Ingredients

  • 0.25c olive oil
  • 0.25c soy sauce
  • 0.75c white vinegar
  • 0.5c orange juice
  • juice of one lime

Chunky Ingredients

  • 1c chopped white onion
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet, habanero, or other very hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped.  I’ve used more when the peppers have been too tame for my taste, and on at least one occasion, it still wasn’t enough for me.  But maybe that’s my problem.

Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed; 6-to-8oz ea, or at least that’s what the recipe said in the cookbook, and that’s what they served in the restaurant.  I’ve used boneless chicken thighs and been at least as happy, if not happier, with them.

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  • With a wire whisk, add the liquids.
  • Add the chunky ingredients and mix well.
  • Add the chicken breasts, cover, and marinate for at least one hour, longer if possible.
  • Preheat outdoor grill.
  • Grill chicken breasts for 6 minutes each side or until fully cooked. While grilling, baste with marinade.

Alternatively, instead of grilling the breasts (or thighs) whole, you can cut the chicken into large chunks, and grill it on skewers, turning them every couple of minutes.

The original recipe ended with “Heat the leftover marinade and serve on the side for dipping,” and while I’m skeptical about serving goo that’s had raw chicken sitting in it, I think if you “heat” it all the way to a boil first, it’s probably fine.

They also say that this recipe “serves 4”, but I’ve found that if you make up the specified amount of jerk marinade, you can easily marinate twice as much chicken in it.  Put the marinade and the chicken in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag for efficient marinating.

Enjoy!

-Mark