Jerk dishes take me back, way back. First to my great-aunt, whose cooking connects me to the West Indies every time I get a taste of pork or chicken that's been dry rubbed with that island mix. The irony is that as a kid, growing up in a family that hailed from Barbados and Puerto Rico, I didn't really like island food. I wanted to eat American food like meat loaf and spaghetti.
But once I became a chef, I fell in love with all the flavors I grew up with. This is basically my homage to my aunt's recipe. All I've done here is add citrus to it to brighten up the flavors. —JJ Johnson
Scotch bonnet pepper, chopped with seeds, or more to taste
chopped fresh ginger
whole black peppercorns
fresh lemon juice
finely grated lemon zest
finely grated lime zest
(4-ounce) bass fillets, skin on and descaled
For the Fonio:
torn Thai basil
In This Recipe
For the Citrus Jerk Bass:
Combine all the ingredients except the fish and fonio in a blender and puree until smooth and completely combined.
Take the fish and lightly score the skin diagonally in four places with a sharp knife, making sure not to cut too deeply. Place the fish in a nonreactive container with a lid and cover with the jerk marinade. Cover and refrigerate for no more than 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and put a cast-iron grill pan in the oven to heat until it's very hot (test by sprinkling a drop of water on the pan to see if it sizzles).
Remove the fish from the marinade and pat dry. Place in the hot pan skin side down and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for 5 more minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Remove from the pan and serve over fonio.
For the Fonio:
In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the ginger, garlic, and shallots and cook for 3 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent. Add the okra and tomatoes.
When the tomatoes burst, add the fonio and stir with the vegetables to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a simmer, cover tightly with the lid, and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and let it steam for 5 minutes. Stir in the torn Thai basil.