One of the things I love about Jamaican food is that it encourages and rewards a slow, patient approach to cooking, and the use of a wide variety of fresh ingredients. Like soul food many dishes are built around the philosophy that applying enough time, effort, and creativity one can produce a mouth-watering dish from the meanest of ingredients. As I am sure is the case with most people I had never fathomed that those bony, slimy, thoroughly unappetizing turkey necks I have seen from time to time at the meat market and grocery store could be transformed into anything worthwhile. I assumed the best one could do was to smoke them and use them to flavor a pot of greens or blackeye peas. Oh how mistaken I was.
I don’t recall exactly where I came across the idea of experimenting with turkey necks, but once the seed was planted in my mind I couldn’t seem to shake it. I am always a sucker for stews and using low, slow cooking to tenderize tough, inhospitable cuts of meat. And lately I have been dying to cook some proper Jamaican food. So naturally I decided to go with a brown stew, oxtail-style dish. Which is apparently something which is becoming a popular thing to do with turkey necks these days. As usual I didn’t bother finding an actual recipe to work off of, I just rounded up what ingredients I had on hand and went for it. The results were sublime.
I had bought a pound of turkey necks so I started by cutting these into one inch chunks. Cutting through those neckbones was no joke. Make sure you have a sharp knife. I rinsed the necks in water and vinegar and dusted them with a couple tablespoons of my house jerk rub. Then I added a couple tablespoons of JCS Boston Jerk Sauce and let everything marinate four a few hours. JCS Boston Jerk Sauce is a thick brown-black sauce which is more savory than your typical jerk rub or marinade. Basically I was using it as a substitute for browning sauce, And it did the job quite well.
After marinating, I added the necks and marinade to a pot and brought it to a simmer. I let the meat simmer covered for about 45 minutes while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.
As I mentioned before I was not working off of a recipe so I just grabbed a bit of what I had on hand. This ended up being: a handful of fresh thyme, five culantro leaves, a bit of celery, half an onion, half each green and orange bell pepper, one scallion, one clove garlic, one scotch bonnet pepper, plus about a teaspoon each salt and ground ginger.
Once everything was chopped/sliced and added to the pot,I added two more tablespoons of the Boston Jerk Seasoning and 8 ounces beer (Yuengling).
Cover the pot an simmer for another hour or so. With about 20-30 minutes remaining, remove the cover and increase the heat to thicken up the sauce.
Meanwhile, make up a batch of rice and peas. You could use plain Jasmine rice in a pinch, or make a roti if that is your thing, but as far as I am concerned this dish goes perfect with traditional Jamaican rice and peas.
Recipe for the rice is below. The rice takes about 45 minutes to cook so you will want to get going on it as soon as you get the stew simmering away.
Recipes: Brown Stew Turkey Necks with Rice and Peas
Brown Stew Turkey Necks
1 lb turkey necks, cut into one inch pieces
4 tablespoons JCS Boston Jerk Sauce or 2 tablespoons Grace Browning Sauce
2 tablespoons dry jerk rub (recipe here)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
4-5 fresh culantro leaves, finely chopped
1 scallion/green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper, whole or punctured but not chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced
8 oz amber beer such as Yuengling Traditional Lager
Wash turkey necks and cover with jerk rub and 2 tablespoons Boston Jerk Sauce (or 1 tablespoon browning and a splash of vinegar). Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or longer.
Add turkey necks and marinade to sauce pan or stock pot and simmer, covered, on low heat for 45 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer covered for an additional 45 minutes.
Remove cover and simmer on medium heat for additional 30 minutes or until stew reaches desired thickness. Remove and discard scotch bonnet pepper and thyme sprigs (if left whole). Remove from heat and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.
Jamaican-style Rice and Peas
16 oz coconut milk
1 can kidney beans or small red beans
2 scallions/green onions, chopped
3 sprigs thyme (whole)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 – 1 tablespoon salt
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper, whole or punctured but not chopped
2 cups white rice
Measure out 4 cups liquid using coconut milk, liquid from beans, and water. Add liquid and all other ingredients except rice to pan and bring to boil. Simmer five minutes.
Add rice and return to boil, stirring well.
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until done (30-45 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to rest 5 minutes. Remove scotch bonnet pepper and thyme sprigs prior to serving.