For Those Jerk Cravings, There's Jerk Machine
Lauderdalians with a hankering for jerk have been fortunate to have Jerk Machine, Catherine and Desmond Malcolm's take out joint that offers up rustic Jamaican fare. What it lacks in pretty it makes up for in flavor.
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.
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.
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
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.