Or as I like to call it, The Shoulder Season Black Hole of Despair. November is awful. Unless it’s the month you move to your beach house in Costa Rica for seven months (in which case, do you need a personal chef and also I do windows), it’s generally like some terrible punishment from the gods for too many summer cocktails or frolicking in too many piles of golden leaves in October. Frolicking is hard in November. Or I should say outdoor frolicking is hard. November has always been my month for indoor frolicking. Last year, I unapologetically hibernated the entire month and it was glorious. See, you can do that when you’re an actor who’s between contracts (that’s code for “unemployed sixty-five percent of the year”). At one point I didn’t leave the house for five days, and when I did it was to walk down the hill to meet some friends for lunch. An hour and a half later I was back home and back in my softpants, licking Nutella lollipops from tablespoons. It was the best week of my life.
Anyways, hi there, I wrote a blog after seven months. And so far this November is turning out a little differently. I’m totally knocked up and word on the street is you’re supposed to get out and exercise and not stay in the house drinking wine and eating steak tartare all day. So there’s my usual fall routine out the goddamn window. I kid, I kid, I’m happy to do all of the above (uh, not do, I mean) as long as the baby grows into a dentist who will look after me in my pensionless old age (oh god what have I done). So this fall is all about not drinking, but it is about eating and enjoying the food I’m actually “allowed” to have. That means braising and cooking the shit out of everything, which kinda comes with fall anyway. I admit to questioning the wisdom of not eating raw cookie dough (I also freely admit to breaking that pregnancy rule numerous times), but let me tell you something, maternity pants ARE FUCKING AMAZING.
Jerk chicken! I love it, I make a lot of it. I’m pretty sure my recipe would be considered mediocre in any part of the Caribbean, but it got me through the coldest July on record in St. John’s. Even on those days it was almost too cold to barbecue. It’s so weird even to write that…a day too cold to barbecue in July. On my birthday this year I had to wear slippers and turn the space heater on in the kitchen while I was baking my birthday cake (What? Like I would trust anyone else to do it). This was after my morning run, when I passed kids in the Bannerman Park outdoor pool, swimming in six degree weather while the poor lifeguard was on deck wrapped up in a blanket and wearing a toque. Why do we live here.
This recipe for jerk chicken stuffed flatbread is a mishmash of a bunch of my favourites. It’s inspired by a Jamie Oliver stuffed Egyptian flatbread using leftover chicken or lamb with spices like za’atar, sumac, cumin and paprika. I’ve been making it obsessively since I discovered it in my copy of Jamie’s America, using homemade flatbread instead of the authentic Egyptian store-bought stuff (not to be found here as far as I know). No rules with this one, really. I usually have a stash of flatbread dough in the freezer that comes in handy when there’s meat in the fridge that needs to be used. On this particular five-degree summer day there was leftover jerk chicken, so things got a little bit Caribbean-Middle Eastern-fusiony. With a glass of French rosé to drink on the side to completely mess with my head. I was cold and slippered in my kitchen, space heaters on bust, obviously thinking of warm sandy places and picnics in parks, blissfully unaware that soon I wouldn’t even be able to drink to keep warm.
If you have enough leftover jerk chicken to fill a cereal bowl, you’ll have enough to make one giant flatbread. Shred the chicken, add one egg, and some extra fresh thyme and chillies if you like. Season with salt and pepper (because the edge will be taken off the already-seasoned meat when you add the egg) and combine. If you’re using this flatbread recipe (always my go-to, dead easy), break the dough into four portions and set aside two, putting the other two dough balls in the fridge or freezer for later. Flour and roll the two pieces out into a circle that’s not quite as big around as the frying pan you’ll be using to cook them. Place the filling on one, carefully spreading it out with an inch or more to spare. Don’t overstuff, or bring filling too close to the edge or your flatbreads will leak when you roll them together, or come apart when you flip them in the pan.
Place the other rolled-out flatbread on top and seal around the edges. Gently, very gently, roll the two together. Your goal isn’t to flatten everything, just to get it all to stick together a little for easier flippage. Heat some butter in a frying pan and cook the flatbread slowly over a medium heat until golden brown on each side and when you’re pretty sure the egg mixture in the middle is cooked through.
These are good on their own, with a salad, with rice, and whatever dipping sauce turns your crank. I’m a big fan of a green harissa on the side, or just plain yogurt will do. Yogurt is good mixed with harissa as a dip, the homemade or the store-bought stuff. Try the flatbread on the barbecue sometime too, just make sure you brush both sides well with olive oil so it doesn’t stick to the grill. We had leftover leg of lamb in the fridge one random week in June, which will tell you the state of affairs in town this past summer. It was so cold I braised a goddamn leg of lamb in the oven for four hours and still had to turn the heat on in the kitchen.
I mixed the stuffing with an egg and the Jamie Oliver za’atar-sumac-cumin-paprika mix. One teaspoon of each or so, with some salt and pepper (mind your salt of you’re using store-bought za’atar, sometimes it’s already seasoned). It all depends on how much meat you have, and play around with any spice mix you like. Middle Eastern, Jamaican, Mexican, whatever mood you’re in. Unless you’re feeding vegetarians or gluten-frees, you can’t go wrong with spicy meat stuffed in dough and cooked in butter or on the barbecue. You definitely won’t go wrong on a cold day in November, or if you’re feeding a pregnant lady.
Unless you only make one, that is.