My first introduction to Jamaican food was at the Glebe Street Markets in November. I waited in line to order for over 20 minutes just wanting to try something different. The wait was made a lot easier because the cooks were very handsome and buff. I also noticed that they were practicing safe-hygiene, there was a sink to wash hands, boxes of disposable gloves conveniently attached to the rafters, the gentleman handling the cash was not handling the food.
They ran out of rice, so I asked for an extra salad. I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I knew about jamaican cuisine was from cookbooks. To my elation my meal was delicious. The chicken was mildly spicy and despite is charcoal exterior it was perfectly cooked and smoky.
The mango salsa was fantastic, it was sweet and very soft. The salsa complimented the chicken very well. The coleslaw was average and nothing really excited me about it.
Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meats are dry-rubbed or marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. This usually consists of a combination of spring onions (scallions), onions, thyme, pimento (Jamaican allspice), cinnamon, nutmeg, chilies, garlic and salt. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork, chicken, seafood, beef, fruits and vegetables and is cooked over a fire pit or on a barbecue grill.
Street-side “jerk stands” are frequently found throughout Jamaica. Jerked meat, usually chicken or pork, can be purchased along with hard dough bread, deep fried cassava flatbread “bammy” (usually with fish) or Jamaican fried dumplings, called festival, a variation of sweet flavored fried dumplings made with sugar and served as a side. The starch in the bread balances the heat and the strong spice of the hot pepper in the jerk. Recipes for jerk spices vary, and there is often much debate around which chef’s secret recipe of spices and herbs makes the best jerk seasoning.
True to form, after a beautiful day at the markets, I went home and did some online shopping for a Jamaican cookbook. It seemed that “Jerk from Jamaica” received quite positive reviews, so i bought it sight unseen.
I am so happy with the purchase and when my sister held an impromptu bbq, I declared that I was making Jerk Chicken. Everyone said simultaneously, “Huh?”
Recipe taken from Jerk from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky
1.5kg chicken thigh cutlets
1 yellow onion
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onion (scallions)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground Jamaican allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cidar vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1/ In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients (except for the chicken) and process until smooth. Store leftover marinade in the refrigerator in a tightly closed jar for about one month.
2/ Put the chicken in a large dish and pour over the marinade. Turn the chicken over to coat them completely, cover, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
3/ For an authentic flavour, build a low fire in a charcoal grill with a combination of charcoal and pimento wood. Cook the chicken thighs slowly. Basting with leftover marinade every now and then.
4/ The chicken is done when the flesh feels firm and the juices run clear when pricked with a fork.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 4-6 hours
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Tips from cookbookmaniac.com:
* This is a great cheap eat. I had all the ingredients on hand, except for the fresh thyme leaves (this can be substituted with 1 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves). All I had to buy was the chicken thigh cutlets.
* Barbecue the meat low & slow.
* For extra zing, add some tabasco sauce with the chicken when its being served.
So tell me, dear reader, have you made jerk chicken from this recipe? Let me know what you think?