Although spring has sprung, it couldn't feel further from the truth in Chicago. It's no wonder I'm dreaming of a beach vacation.
When getting away isn't in the cards, jerk stew transports you to balmy climes. Started on the stove top and finished in the oven, it's a fiery meal best served with rice. Caramelized plantains would be great companions, too.
Take the time to properly brown the meat—it'll build depth as the dish slow-cooks. If you're concerned about the heat level, remove one of the habaneros or replace them with milder peppers, such as jalapenos or serranos. Unfortunately, fruitiness of the habaneros will be lost. A splash of orange juice can help offset this, but the dish won't be the same.
If you want to cut corners, prepared jerk seasoning paste is an acceptable substitute to the spices here. If you use it, omit the allspice, cinnamon, brown sugar, soy sauce, and steak sauce from the recipe. You'll need no more than a tablespoon or so of the paste, so taste as you go.
The flavor of the stew improves the next day. Just cool it down before placing it, covered, in the refrigerator. When you're ready to serve, gently reheat the stew on the stove top, garnish it with green onions and serve it with rice that's made the day-of.