With Christmas just a few short weeks away, we check in with one of Jamaica's bright stars in food to find out what inspires him most about the holidays.
Thursday Food (TF): What Christmas tradition is important to you?
Chef Johnoi Reid (JR): It's making others happy. That's very important to me during the season.
TF: What are your favourite memories of Christmas?
JR: I am the eldest of six. So, it is always a pleasure for all of us to get together at Christmas. So, having family will always be my fondest memory of Christmas.
TF: What was Christmas dinner like when you were growing up?
JR: In Jamaica on Christmas Day, you know we have to have The Best Dressed Chicken! We have to have escoveitch fish. The only time we would have oxtail was at Christmas. And for sure, we had the gungo rice and peas, along with sorrel fruit wine.
TF: What role does food play in bringing people together?
JR: When you set the table, everyone comes to share stories, laugh, and just spend quality time; that's what inspires me.
TF: What's your favourite way to cook The Best Dressed Chicken?
JR: Fricassee! We fry it, then cook it down in a delicious tomato sauce with carrots, potatoes, scallion, Scotch bonnet, and thyme, letting it simmer for a while to bring out the flavours.
TF: What brings you joy?
JR: Cooking brings me joy. I love to cook! And it brings me a lot of joy to see smiles on everybody's face once they have enjoyed something I have created. My mom will be visiting this Christmas, so I am excited about that.
TF: What are you grateful for in your life?
JR: I'm grateful for the opportunities that I've gotten in life. A mentor of mine once told me, “Johnoi, I am going to make you famous.” You know that was the great Norma Shirley! She guided me as a young child. And I'm grateful for the opportunities she gave me to express myself within the culinary world.
TF: How do you practise gratitude?
JR: I express gratitude for the opportunities I was given by teaching young aspiring cooks. That's how I practise gratitude. I coach them on how to be better, not just better cooks, but better individuals in their everyday life. I give back the knowledge that Norma Shirley shared with me.
TF: What's the one thing you would like to change in the world?
JR: As we enter the second year of the pandemic, the one thing that can bring back the joy is for all Jamaicans to get vaccinated to get back to the world that we love, so we can go out again, have fun and can socialise.
The Best Dressed Roaster Deep Fried
1 The Best Dressed Roaster
1 lb salt
1 lb brown sugar
6 qt boiling water
3 lb ice
4 qt cold water enough water to cover roaster
4 ½ gal peanut
Oven mitt, or rotisserie grade oven mitts
Propane burner, with a sturdy stand that will hold your large pot
Deep-frying kit: 30 large qt pot (28 l) basket, or hook or stainless-steel kitchen utensil with a wide bottom, long handle and looped top, S-hook with handle
Disclaimer: Deep-frying a whole roaster can be dangerous if not done correctly.
Determine the amount of oil you will need before you start. For example, a 10lb roaster and pot require 4 ½ gallons of peanut oil; you may need more or less.
To determine the correct amount, place the roaster in the pot you will be using to fry. Fill it with water until it has just covered your roaster; that water level should also be at least 5 inches (13 cm) below the rim of your pot. Remove the roaster and see where the water levels off; this is the amount of oil you need for frying. If the oil level is not 5 inches (13 cm) below the rim of your pot, use a taller pot. If too much oil is used, it will spill over when the Roaster is lowered and cause a fire. If you like, as a precaution, turn off the propane burner before you add the roaster to the hot oil.
Brining the roaster
In a large pot, container or cooler with a lid, combine salt, brown sugar and boiling water to make the brine.
Once the salt and brown sugar have dissolved, cool down with ice.
Place your roaster into the brine mixture, add more cold water to cover your roaster entirely. Weigh down the roaster with something heavy and cover.
Place the roaster in a cool place or refrigerator and let it brine for 8-16 hours.
Remove the roaster from the brine; discard the brine. Pat dry the roaster. Make sure it's entirely dry inside and out, bordering on very dry.
Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes before frying.
Frying the roaster
While the roaster is coming to room temp, prepare your deep-frying pot. The pot should be large enough to hold the roaster, oil and have enough room to contain the oil once it starts bubbling (recommend 30 quart/ 28-liter pot).
Note: Make sure the deep-frying pot is clean and dry; any moisture in the pot will make the oil pop when it starts heating up.
Pour the peanut oil into the pot. You should have enough oil to cover the roaster. Set over high heat on an outside propane burner. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350°F (180°C).
While the oil is heating up, prepare your roaster to submerge into the oil.
If you are using a roaster deep-frying kit, use all the equipment provided (ie hook/basket, s-hook, retrieval handle). If not, take a stainless steel kitchen utensil with a wide bottom, long handle and looped top. Take the kitchen utensil and push the handle through the neck of the roaster. You want the wide part of the utensil to rest inside the roaster cavity. Next, take an s-hook with a handle attachment and loop it through the loop part of the kitchen utensil.
Wipe down the roaster again to make sure there is no moisture. Once the oil temperature has reached 350°F (180°C), slowly and gently lower the roaster into the oil. Slowly and gently.
Fry the roaster for 3 minutes per pound (455 grams). For a 12 lb (6.8 kg) Roaster, this will take 45 minutes. Make sure the oil temp is maintained at 350°F (180°C).
After 45 minutes, turn off your propane burner and then gently remove the roaster from the oil.
Place the roaster on a large baking sheet or carving board and check the temperature. Right out of the fryer, the breast meat should be at 150°F (65°C) and will reach 160°F (70°C) due to carrying overcooking. Let the roaster rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Note: Oil will be hot for a few hours after frying. Please do not touch or dispose of it until thoroughly cooled.
The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster With Garlic Butter
When we roast roaster, we do it with big flavour!
1 The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster
2 sticks butter
1 head garlic
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup dry white wine (optional, but adds so much flavour to the meat while keeping it so juicy)
1 handful rosemary
1 bunch thyme
Not only does this recipe give you a roasted roaster with flavour, but it also delivers crispy skin, juicy meat. The following steps make this oven whole roasted bird stand out from the rest!
Preheat the oven 375°F.
Rinse and pat dry roaster with a paper towel.
Combine olive oil, melted butter, wine (if using) and lemon juice, rubbing all over the roaster, under the skin and inside the cavity.
Season roaster outside and inside with salt, pepper and parsley. Don't be afraid to use generous amounts!
Rub the minced garlic over the roaster and under the skin. I do this separately as the last step to maximise the garlic taste.
Stuff the garlic head into the roaster cavity along with the rosemary and thyme. Roast roaster, basting halfway through cooking time until cooked through.
Broil until golden and crispy!
Chef's note: I like to go in the carcass, over the roaster and under the skin with all of my ingredients to ensure maximum taste. You want every inch covered in flavour.
How long to roast? Over one hour, depending on the size of your bird. For example, this 8-pound (4kg) bird took one hour and 20 minutes of cooking time, then a resting time of 10 minutes to keep all of those juices in before slicing.
Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes
4 medium potatoes washed and sliced into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil.
Place sliced potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan. Fill with water and cover. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes; drain.
Place par-boiled potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, garlic, and spices. Spread on the prepared pan.
Bake for 15-30 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. (Baking time will depend on the size and thickness of your potato wedges.)
Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
1 medium head broccoli
1 medium head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic granules: substitute with ½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 424°F/220°C; this step is essential.
Cut with a knife or break with your hands the broccoli and cauliflower into florets. Get them to be equal sizes as much as you can.
Transfer them to a colander and rinse clean. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or leave them to air dry if you are not in a hurry.
Add olive oil, onion powder, garlic granules, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and shake or mix in a small jar or bowl to combine.
Prepare the baking tray: line a baking tray with parchment paper or spray with cooking oil.
Transfer the vegetables to the prepared tray, then pour the marinade over it and toss to combine. Spread the vegetables in a single layer; this allows them to cook evenly.
Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until crisp-tender and brown on the edges.
Take it out of the oven and serve immediately with mains of choice. Squeeze more lemon juice on the vegetable or season with more salt if desired.
A Christmas Hamper courtesy of The Best Dressed Chicken
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