Boozy Recipe: The Southern-Style Jerk / Bourbon-Citrus Collard Green Sandwich


This has been a particularly bitter winter in New York City, and I've found myself fending off the cold by latching onto things that make me feel warm: the sounds and tastes that spark feelings of balmy summer weather. I've been reading up on baseball, going out for Margaritas, and listening to all manner of tropical tunes – Caribbean steel drum funk bands, Hawaiian exotica, Tijuana-style 60s pop, and a lot of old Reggae, Rocksteady, and Bluebeat.

So it was probably inevitable that I'd spend some time in the kitchen, tinkering with the flavors of the South Seas, concocting some menus that would pair well with my musical playlists.

One of the things I've always found compelling about classic Jamaican music is its culture-clash origin.  Distant radio signals traveled across the water from the American South, visiting sailors brought the latest R&B singles, and island musicians adapted those sounds and rhythms when recording their own songs.  Then, when the Jamaican records were exported back to America, their shuffling beat and bass/brass structure struck a chord with Southern audiences, and became a great influence on the developing soul music scene.

So, with that in mind, I decided to attempt a similar fusion in the kitchen, and see what happened when I gave a slight Southern twist to traditional Jamaican flavors.  Like the music that I took as my inspiration, I wasn't aiming for any form of "authenticity" – my goal was simply to take the elements I enjoyed, figure out where and how they could intersect, and make something that was hot, sweet, and funky.

So I started cooking, with a couple hours to kill, a good tune on the stereo, and a bottle of Bourbon by my side.  And much as the swagger of Memphis and the "second line" beat of New Orleans mixed with Caribbean rhythms, these Jamaican tastes of allspice, pepper and molasses blend with the Southern spice of green onions, collards, and celery seed to create a unique, yet comfortingly familiar flavor.

(It's also easily adaptable for vegetarians/vegans – I actually tried it with tofu instead of chicken, and was thoroughly satisfied with the result.)

The Sauce!

  • 3" piece Fresh ginger
  • 6-8 cloves Garlic
  • 5 tbsp ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • 2/3 tsp Celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thyme (the leaves of 10-12 sprigs)
  • 1 large bunch Scallions
  • 1/2 medium Yellow Onion
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Molasses
  • 1/2 cup Bourbon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2-4 Hot Peppers (Scotch Bonnet are traditional if you want super-firey Jerk – Serrano can be substituted if you like a milder, mellower flavor)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend well, then pour/spoon the result into a saucepan and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

The Meat Of The Matter!

Slice chicken (or drained and pressed tofu) into long 1" thick strips.  Place in glass baking dish, cover surface of meat with a layer of jerk sauce, then place in a preheated oven at low heat (250-300º) for 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and begins to crust over.  Remove dish from oven, use spatula to flip the meat, apply another thin layer of jerk sauce to the top, and place back in oven for another 30 minutes (or again, until sauce thickens/crusts).

The Greens!

  • 1 bunch Collard Greens, chopped or torn
  • 1/3 cup Bourbon
  • Juice of 1/2 Orange
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt

In a cast iron pan, combine olive oil, water, bourbon, and most of the orange juice.  Add collard greens, cover, and begin cooking on medium heat.  After five minutes, remove covering, pour the remainder of the orange over the greens, and sprinkle on the sea salt.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the collards reach a brilliant green hue and most of the liquid has evaporated.

The Sandwich!

Slice a french roll in half, lightly toast both sides, then place meat and collards inside. (Note: the results will be messy, but they'll also be delicious.)  Serve garnished with orange slices, crack open an appropriate beer (such as Abita Restoration Pale Ale, Red Stripe, or Blue Point RastafaRye, which was a silver medalist in the 2013 NY International Beer Competition) and enjoy!

NOTE: for an added tropical kick, I suggest adding a squeeze of lime and/or a layer of thin-sliced coconut meat between the meat and greens.