By Chris De La Rosa
My mom would make a very similar dish for when my dad would have his friends over to play cards, and she called her’s, steamed breadfruit. Basically stewed pork, topped with breadfruit and simmered in freshly made coconut milk.
That was, and still is, a hit with anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of having a plate. Just writing about this and my mouth is overcome with liquid craving! Without much doubt her way of ‘steaming’ the breadfruit is one of my favorite meals.
This Grenadian “oil down” recipe I’m about to share was passed on to me, about 20 years ago, by a good friend from Grenada and though it did not replace my mom’s recipe for cooking breadfruit, it’s absolutely outstanding.
One plate and you’ll know why Grenadians are so passionate about their oil down and why they refer to it as their national dish. You will notice that there will be some minor differences in the traditional way it would be cooked in Grenada, but I like bringing out as much flavor from ingredients I use, and when you’re not based in the Caribbean, there are times when traditional ingredients are difficult to source.
2 lbs salted pig tail
3 lbs chicken (I used breast)
1 teaspoon Caribbean green seasoning
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
4 sprigs thyme
1 medium breadfruit
1 large carrot
2 cups chopped Jamaican Callaloo *
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon Saffron (turmeric)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 pimento peppers (seasoning peppers)
2 cups pumpkin
4 green cooking bananas
3 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon chopped shado beni
Notes: I used Jamaican callaloo leaves (chorai bhaji), but traditionally dasheen leaves are used and if you don’t have access to either, you can use spinach or your favorite greens. You can personalize this dish by adding your favorite ground provision like yams, dasheen, cassava etc. Typically a large breadfruit would be used as it’s usually the star of this dish, but sourcing (and affording) a large breadfruit in North America is not as easy as if you’re on the islands.
*You can also add smoked herrings, salted fish etc. Flour dumplings are also added the last 15 minutes of cooking for that unique Grenadian way.
First up we’ve got to prep the salted pigtails. Hopefully you can get your butcher to cut the tails into 1.5 inch pieces or make sure you have a clever to cut through the bone. Place in a deep pot covered with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a rolling boil for about 40 minutes. This will not only help tenderize the salted pig tails, but it will help remove most of that harsh salt it was cured in. Drain, rinse and set aside.
Cut the chicken into serving size pieces, wash and drain. Then season with the Caribbean green seasoning and black pepper. Allow to marinate for the length of time the pig tails pre-cook. You can also peel, wash and cube (large pieces) the eddoes, cooking banana, carrot, breadfruit, Jamaican callaloo and pumpkin. Make sure to keep the vegetables/provisions in a bowl covered with water so they don’t discolor.
In a deep pot, heat the veg oil on a medium flame and add the onion, garlic, scallion and pimento peppers and cook for about 2-3 minutes. You’ll start with a wonderful flavor base.
Turn the heat down to low as we stack everything in the pot. Layer in the now pre-cooked salted pig tails, the seasoned chicken and everythign else. Top with the chopped callaloo and finally.. mix in the curry powder and turmeric together with the coconut milk and pour into the pot. Traditionally the last thing to go on top the pot would be the dasheen bush leaves to form a sort of seal for everything to cook under.
Turn the heat up to bring the pot to a boil (lid on).
After it comes up to a boil reduce to a simmer, have the lid slightly ajar and cook for about 35-40 minutes. Try not to stir as we really don’t want things to fall apart and become mush.
The scent coming out of the pot will be intoxicating and your family will pester you… is it done yet? — patience young ones! The “oil-down” comes from the fact that the oils from the pig tail and coconut milk will coat and flavor this dish like no other. You’ll notice that I didn’t add any salt, so you’ll have to add accordingly. The remaining salt from the pig tails will be enough to properly season the dish, but your tolerance will be different than mine.
I remember making this dish for some friends when were in St. Vincent a few years back, old school — 3 stones, fire wood and the outdoors — good times! But the washing of that pot after was not fun.
This will be a huge pot of food (about 6-8 people) and it’s always good to make this when you have family and friends coming over.
This recipe is courtesy of Gourmand Award winning cookbook author and founder of CaribbeanPot.com, Chris De La Rosa. With over 450 printable recipes with step by step cooking instructions and demo videos, PLUS over 1 million social/fan connections globally every month, CaribbeanPot.com is the world’s #1 resource of Caribbean Culinary Culture. Connect with Chis on Instagram: www.instagram.com/caribbeanpot/.