Jamaican Jerk Pork, Island Paella With Pickled Fruit & Aqua Fresca

Jamaican Jerk Pork, Island Paella & Agua Fresca

Makes 40 to 50 appetizer servings or 16-20 entrée servings. Recipe is by Executive Chef Tory McPhail, of Commander’s Palace, New Orleans. The dish was named Best of Show Savory at the 2013 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience.

For the Jerk Pork:

Dried bay leaves

1 (8-lb.) boneless pork shoulder

1 cup ground garlic

1 cup ground ginger

2 cups Jerk seasoning

1 cup lime juice

For the Island Paella:

16 cups cooked yellow rice

8 cups cooked black beans

1 cup chopped cilantro

For the Agua Fresca:

1 gallon cool water

2 cups sugar

10 lemons, sliced

10 limes, sliced

5 oranges, sliced

Skin and core of 1 pineapple

Skin and core of 1 mango

1/4 lb. mint

1 lb. ginger, chopped

1. Method for the Jerk Pork: Preheat a smoker with smoldering hard wood and dried bay leaves to 220 degrees.

2. Cut the boneless pork butt horizontally with the fat cap up to remove the bone. Once the bone is removed, you will have two square-shaped pieces of meat of similar size and weight. Season the meat on all sides with the ground garlic, ginger and 11/2 cups of the jerk seasoning. Reserve the last half cup for seasoning after cooking. Place the two pieces of meat back together to resemble the original shape with the fat cap up to retain moisture.

3. Place the seasoned pork in a roasting pan and place in the smoker for 12 hours. Check the pork every two hours; baste the meat so it doesn’t become dry and restock the smoking wood. If the pork looks too dark yet is tough, cover it with aluminum foil to seal in the moisture and continue to cook until tender. After 12 hours, the pork should be extremely tender and should be falling apart.

4. Remove the pork from the smoker and start shredding into large pieces and season with remaining jerk spice, lime juice and lastly pour the rendered jerk pork fat and broth back over the meat to make what appears to taste like a well-seasoned pork vinaigrette. Note that different brands of seasonings have different amounts of spice and salt so adjust this recipe based on what works best for you.

5. Method for Agua Fresca: Agua fresca is a flavored water that can be steeping in your refrigerator for several days ahead like a flavored tea. While pork is smoking, make the agua fresca by first adding all the fruit pieces and mint into a 3-gallon pitcher, then add the sugar. Using clean hands, mash all of the sugar into the fruit to release as much juice and pulverize the fruits for at least 3 minutes. Pour in the water and stir for 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved, and a clear but cloudy concoction has been brewed. Chill while the pork is cooking, then strain through a fine sieve before use and adjust the sweetness.

6. To finish the dish: Heat the rice and beans together and spoon into the middle of your serving dishes, place jerked pork on the top and spoon on some of the pork vinaigrette over the pork. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and pour off the agua fresca into attractive serving glasses and serve alongside your finished dish.