MOST OF THE JAMAICANstreet food vendors I have encountered here in the United States serve prefab meat patties. Some, like O’Neill Reid of the Jamaican Dutchy cart on 51st Street in New York City—the one with the flat screen TV plastered across the bow—own up to the freezer box origins of their pale-yellow pastry pouches of curry-scented beef. Most don’t. The following recipe is an homage to the flaky made-from-scratch renditions sold by Jamerica Restaurant.
MAKES ABOUT 12 PATTIES
FOR THE PASTRY
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for rolling out the pastry 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ¾ cup lard or vegetable shortening ¾ cup milk
FOR THE FILLING
1 pound ground beef 1 onion, diced ¼ cup diced red bell pepper 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon dried thyme 2 teaspoons curry powder 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ¼ cup beef broth 3 or 4 dashes of hot pepper sauce, preferably Pickapeppa, or more to taste
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying the patties
Make the pastry: Combine the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the lard or shortening, cutting the fat in with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the milk over the flour mixture, gently incorporating it with your hands until the dough comes together to form a ball. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for about 1 hour.
Make the filling: Place the beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and cook until the bell pepper begins to soften, about 5 minutes, then add the beef broth and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let the filling simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll out one of the halves of dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Using a small plate about 6 inches in diameter, trace circles on the dough with a knife and cut out 6 circles. Place about ¼ cup of the filling in the center of one half of a circle of dough, wet the inside edge of the dough with a little water, and fold the other half of the dough over the filling to make a half-moon shape. Crimp the edge of the dough with a fork to seal the patty well. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling and then with the second dough half.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven over high heat until a deep fry thermometer attached to the side of the pot registers 375°F. Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the pot, carefully add the patties to the hot oil and cook them until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked patties to paper towels to drain.
Library Mall, Madison, Wisconsin
ON THE DAY I VISITED Jamerica Restaurant, bottles of hot sauce lined the counter of this bright yellow hut. And rap, not reggae, blasted from the stereo. In other words, although proprietor Martin Deacon was raised in Port Antonio, Jamaica, he has now been flying the Jamaican flag in Madison for more than forty years.
First came a grocery, which evolved into a restaurant, which birthed a weekday lunch cart. Assimilation led to the inclusion of jambalaya on Deacon’s cart menu. Then came jerk tofu, which, as you might imagine, pales in comparison to the curried goat.