Adventures in Food: Jerk Chicken

Jerk marinade-- pre-blend. K.Barnes

Jerk marinade– pre-blend. K.Barnes

One of my favourite places in the world is Jamaica. Beautiful landscape, friendly people and tasty, tasty food. Just hours after we landed in Montego Bay, we grabbed some jerk chicken and pork at a local joint The Pork Pit and I loved it. I love spicy food. Some people find adventure and thrills in skydiving; I find it in fiery food. After that, I was trying jerk anywhere we went–roadside stops, local restaurants and bars.

I love jerk– the spiciness, the complexity of the flavors melding together, the slightly charred bits. I love BBQ– I blame it on my Kansas City, Missouri roots (if you don’t know, KC loves it some BBQ). I do typically prefer a classic KC bbq– slow-roasted with a sweet but spicy tomato-based sauce. Jerk is a totally different type of bbq than I’m used to, but it’s still pretty fantastic.

After some recipe trial and error, I’ve come up with the following recipe. Not super authentic, but it works in a pinch.  One of these days, I’ll figure out how to make it with pork. Traditionally, jerk is slow cooked over pimento wood–almost smoked. My apartment balcony barbecue doesn’t have the capacity to smoke, so I use a gas grill. :/

I need a better grill... K.Barnes

I need a better grill… K.Barnes

For jerk marinade:

  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion, loosely chopped
  • 5-6 fresh habanero chile, stemmed and seeded (if you don’t have gloves, put your non-knife hand in a plastic bag to avoid getting the juice on you)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsps soy sauce
  • 3  tbsps olive oil
  • 1.5 oz amber rum
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 lbs of chicken with skin and bone (legs and thighs, about 5 each)

Throw all ingredients except for chicken in a blender. Blend until smooth. Put chicken and marinade in a zipper plastic bag. Leave for at least one day, turning once in while. Grill on a greased grill, medium-low heat. To keep it more moist, I usually start with the chicken in foil to keep it from drying out on the gas grill. If you have a charcoal grill or smoker– even better! Once the chicken is nearly cooked, I move it onto the flames directly and crank the heat up to give it a nice, blackened look. Serve with watermelon, grilled pineapple or any other tropical fruits you like.  Drink a rum and ginger beer.

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple. K.Barnes

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple. K.Barnes

Music while you cook

When we were in Jamaica, whenever someone told us about a famous Jamaican (and quite embarrassingly we often didn’t know them), they’d respond with “But you do know the great Bob Marley, right?”

Yes, we know the great Bob Marley, especially this classic that has been covered by Eric Clapton and N.A.S.A./Karen O.

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