Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on a quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but normal food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with what is produced from good old terra firma is what makes the world go around.

“Smoking is the process of flavouring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smouldering material, most often wood. Meat, fish, and some vegetable can be smoked.”

Two years down the line after Irma, and I am finally starting to sort out some of the piles of “stuff” that had nowhere to go until things were put back together – like the all-important roof and door to the “she-shed.” Sorting out the shed, I came across a few things that were totally untouched by weather (a really intriguing find, photos that were completely untouched by the weather)!

I also found a few things rusted beyond repair, which is very understandable. One rusty find was the stainless-steel smoker. This stove top smoker box that has been used on many a trip and memories came flooding back. What fun was had with this box!

The earliest memory of using this smoker goes back some 40 or more years. We were staying at our holiday house on the tip of the African continent in a place called Cape Agulhas. Recently acquired, we took the smoker box with us with the idea of smoking some fish we caught. Being addicted fishermen, we used to head out from the little village of Struisbaai on a south south-easterly course to fish on the 9-mile or 18-mile bank.

Most of our fishing was done by hand lines, although we did have a rod or two on board. We would catch Yellow tail and Geelbek in abundance as well as the occasional Steenbras, Kabeljou, Kingklip and Red stumpnose. If the fish were not running, we would head back into the bay and try our luck catching shark. Our idea was to smoke whatever variety and see how it turned out.

The weather on this occasion turned out not to be conducive for the 3:00am fishing trip (we were usually back before noon) and so after a longer lie in, we took the jeep up the coast to the rocks where we could get some oysters and dive for some perlemoen (abalone).

We were in luck and harvested plenty of oysters, which we took back and popped some into our new smoker! I cannot describe how utterly delicious these smoked oysters were. Nothing has ever come close to the euphoria of tasting these morsels – canned smoked oysters are nothing compared to these.

Large, fat and juicy, they needed only a drop of lemon juice and a couple grains of Kosher salt. Unfortunately, this smoked oyster deliciousness only happened on a few occasions before we set off cruising. The smoker box, of course, was stowed on board.

During our cruising, we smoked various fish we had caught or bought, including some salmon, which was very nice; but the next highlight that comes to mind is “Green Key smoked chicken”.

The smoker box is designed to be used on the hob (stove top) and it does give off a wondrous smoky smell which one really does not need in the confines of a yacht, nor in the house for that matter, so we usually would fire up the “braai” (gas BBQ) on the stern rail and do our smoking outside.

Quite often, the ensuing smoky smell was a sign for other cruising folk to gather at our yacht for a share in the spoils. Oh the joys of life on the ocean wave!

Some years into our cruising, we had made our way to St. Martin and found ourselves anchored off Green Key in Orient Bay. The wind was blowing, so we could not get the braai to fire up enough to smoke. The alternative was to picnic on the beach near the low cliff. We dug a hole in the wet sand on the sheltered side of the island, set the camping gas cylinder in the hole and set the smoker over the gas.

An interesting fact: The beach on Green Key changes every so often – from the south point to more on the west facing side under the low cliff.

The hermit crabs were out in abundance and our young six-year-old was busy making “Hermit City”. This meant that huge circles of sand channels were made in the sand and the hermit crabs were put in them, each swirl led to the centre where a large sandcastle was built so the crabs could go “home”.

In the meantime, the chicken was smoking away quite happily. We set up our picnic and played with the crabs. Our young one was intrigued by the different sizes of the shells and how big some were, how large some of the pinchers can grow. Such a wonderful education the young have learning directly about nature!

Suddenly, there was a loud, long yell. A baby’s tiny fingertip was being pinched by a huge crab claw. Our captain tried to remove the crab but was not succeeding, so he carried the young un’ down to the water’s edge and “shokkled” the hand (crab and all) in the water, but if anything, the crab pinched even tighter. There was no way the crab would be dislodged, so what could he do but bite off the claw! No easy feat – what with a screaming little one, a tender little hand and a large shelled crab with who knows how many other claws that could possibly attach to one’s lips!

Suffice to say, when all commotion had finally died down, we thoroughly enjoyed our picnic of smoked chicken, mayonnaise baguette sandwiches and tomato salad. Mmmmmm, there are so many more memories of fun times when using this smoker box; it will have to be replaced! Thankfully, I found one online.

RECIPES

Beer Can Chicken – This recipe is easy to do if you have a high domed charcoal BBQ like a Weber. Use an opened can of beer (not light beer) drink half and insert the open end of the can up the opening of the marinated chicken.

Ingredients

One whole chicken, cleaned and patted dry

Wood chips of your choice (you can get them at Ace)

(For the marinade)

2 TBL oil

¼ cup coarse salt

2 TBL chili powder

¼ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup sweet paprika

2 TBL freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

Marinade the chicken in the above mix and set aside overnight in the fridge.

Soak the wood chips during this time too.

Make a fire of coals and move these aside – indirect heat cooking.

Set your drained wood chips in the special chip box in the centre of the coals.

Place the chicken so it balances well over the can and on the grill set just above the woodchip box.

Close the lid of the BBQ and leave it to smoke away for an hour.

Baste the chicken with beer and making sure there is still heat and smoke, close the lid for another 15-20 mins.

If you use an instant read meat thermometer, set into the deepest part of the chicken breast (your chicken will be done when it reaches 160-165 °F). If you don’t have one, you can make sure that your chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the breast with a skewer – the juices should be clear, not pink.

 

Green Key Chicken – You can use a special smoker or your BBQ. I prefer the smoker for this, as the box can be set over a gas flame outside. You can also adapt this recipe to use with either a coal or a gas BBQ as long as there is a well-fitting lid.

Ingredients

A whole Spatchcocked chicken, or chicken thighs or breasts or whole chicken legs

Water (to cover)

1 cup salt

½ cup sugar

¼ cup olive oil

2 TBL onion powder

2 TBL cayenne pepper (I prefer a good shake of red pepper flakes)

1 tsp paprika (smoked or not)

2 crushed garlic cloves

1tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

Woodchips of your choice soaked for a couple hours

 

Method

Make the brine using warm water to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Make sure the brine is cold when you immerse the chicken in it.

Brine for 6 hours at least.

Mix the rest of the dry-rub ingredients together.

Drain chicken/chicken pieces and pat dry.

Rub the olive oil and dry mix all over the chicken.

Set the chicken pieces in the smoker box that is ready with the wood chips and set the box over a gentle gas flame.

It will take about 2 hours to cook the chicken, but check to see if it is done after an hour to an hour and half.

For sandwiches, debone chicken and mix with mayonnaise; you can also add finely sliced red onion and Madagascar green pepper corns to taste.