For Those Jerk Cravings, There's Jerk Machine
I'd become a jerk fan by accident in DC, when a friend had come across a recipe he'd perfected that called for a half cup of all-spice and some
serious scotch bonnet heat. When I moved, I thought it was a craving I'd have to abandon because I wouldn't find it here. I was wrong.
It was hard to tell if Jerk Machine was going to be the real deal when we came upon it this afternoon at lunch. The take out joint near the bus station downtown looks so forlorn I wondered if my co-worker Stefan has steered us wrong. He did not.
Two initial signs it's good: a line for lunch and a giant smoker and grill behind the shop. Another sign it's good: Jerk Machine has been going strong for twenty two years.
Every morning, owners Catherine and Desmond Malcolm marinate chicken and pork in a blend that includes-you guessed it-a ton of all-spice, some cloves, nutmeg, and scotch bonnets. Then marinated meat takes a turn on the blackened drum, where smoke imparts flavor to complement spices. I'm tempted to swing by before work to watch because I love the smell of jerk over fire.
Inside, the air is heavy with all-spice and nutmeg. My colleague says it reminds her of her grandmother, who used to make a jerk blend of her own. "My clothes would smell like it, it was so strong," she remembered.
I order dark meat jerk chicken with beans and rice as well as the curried goat.
"Want gravy with your jerk?" asked the woman behind the line. On the styrofoam plate, she doles out a serving of rice, then ladels it with what I'll call jerk juice, which, oddly enough, looks and smells delicious. Seconds later, I'm delighted to watch her cleave the fuck out of a leg, butchering it in seconds with expertise. Then she dollops a serving of cabbage on the side and picks out a fried dumpling to boot. At $8, the meal's a deal, though I'm not interested in soggy cabbage and the dubious looking fried dumpling.
After sampling a slew of things-goat, brown stewed and jerk chicken-we decide that jerk is delicious and the way to go here, though I'm curious about the pork. Every year on the Fourth of July, my DC friends have a Jerk-Off (the cooking kind). Pork -because pig is delicious- often claims the nomination as the favorite.
I skipped it at Jerk Machine because I was concerned about texture. My concerns are likely right on as I discovered with the curried goat. Though I liked the flavors, it was too gristly and bony for me. "It has that metallic lamby twang," said Stefan. Today, I was too smitten with jerk to bother.
111 NW 2nd Street
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