My recent voyage on the Carnival Dream not only gave me the chance to enjoy delicious food, but it was also the scene of two of my life’s greatest triumphs.
Okay, maybe not greatest, but absolutely the most fun!
First, I won the Hole-In-One Challenge at the mini-golf course. I don't golf, and I hadn’t played putt-putt golf for years, so honestly it was pure luck! Still, it got me a Ship-on-a-Stick, otherwise known as a trophy.
Next, I won Game Show Mania 2 in the main showroom, thanks to my two nephews, Anthony and Bradley, insisting I participate because they learned on the trip that I’m pretty good at trivia games. It was a bit nerve-racking being up on the stage, under the lights, with everyone watching. However, after I got past being worried about making a fool of myself, it was fun! My prize was a medal and a bottle of Champagne!
Both of my awards are proudly displayed in my apartment so I can brag about my accomplishments to anyone who will listen.
Even with my personal triumphs, my cruise memories always gravitate back to the food.
This jerk pork dish was one of my dinner favorites. The Dream’s Executive Chef Taunus D’Silva shared the recipe with me, and I tinkered with to make it home-cook and weeknight friendly. The original called for a whole five-pound pork loin. I changed it to boneless pork chops to quicken the cooking time. I also found jerk seasoning in the spice aisle of my local store, but you can mix up your own. (There are a number of recipes on the internet.)
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredients list since most are for the marinade. Also, be sure to schedule your time to allow for the chops to marinated before cooking. It is easy to whiz up the marinade in the morning, pour it into a zipper bag with the chops and pop it in the fridge, head to work, and then cook the chops for dinner that night.
Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops
2 tablespoons jerk spice
1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 bay leaf
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worchester sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
4 boneless pork chops, cut about 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Diced scallions, for garnish
Place the first 12 ingredients into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a zipper bag and add the pork chops. Seal the bag and toss to make sure the pork chops are coated in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days. (The longer you marinate the chops, the stronger the flavor.)
To prepare the chops, place a cast iron grill pan into the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. (You can also prepare the pork chops in a regular oven-safe skillet or on an outdoor grill.) Remove the chops from the marinade and place on a plate to come to room temperature.
Pour the marinade into a saucepan and add the ketchup and chicken broth. Bring the marinade to a boil, and reduce until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes, to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste, after the mixture is reduced. Keep warm.
Remove the grill pan from the oven and place on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops. (Turn on your stove fan since cooking will produce some smoke.) Cook on the first side for about 5 minutes, or until the chops have dark grill marks. Turn the chops over, and then place the pan back into the oven. Allow the pork chops to bake until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and tent the chops with foil. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
To serve, place a chop on each plate and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with a side of rice and beans, as they did on the ship.
Disclaimer: While the crew and employees of Carnival Cruise Lines and the Dream were very hospitable and accommodating during my time on board, I paid for the trip myself. I’m not being paid by Carnival to make this or any upcoming posts with recipes from the cruise. All of the opinions and experiences are my own.