Jerk Chicken

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jerk chickenIt is said that the Maroons, escaped renegade slaves who lived in the Cockpit country of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, developed this classic dish. (And technically, the classic version calls for pork.) Traditionally, the meat is slow cooked over a fire of green allspice branches, which give the dish its unforgettable flavor.

1 4-pound chicken or 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 cup jerk seasoning

1. If using a whole chicken, remove the back and cut in half along breastbone. Then halve crosswise. Slather the chicken pieces with jerk seasoning, arrange in a glass baking dish, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

2. When ready to cook, clean and oil the grate, then preheat one side of the grill to 400 degrees or the coals until red-hot. Allow the excess marinade to drip off of the chicken pieces, then grill until the skin is crisp and well browned on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Move the charred pieces to the cool side of the grill, and continue to cook covered until the thickest area of the breast registers 150 to 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 minutes more.

Serves 4 to 6

Jerk Seasoning

The flavors in this rub harmonize beautifully, and you can adjust the heat by adding fewer chiles if desired.

1/2 cup allspice berries, lightly toasted
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 scallions, including greens, cut in 1-inch lengths
3 Scotch bonnet, habanero, or aji dulce peppers, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dark rum
2 Tbsp orange juice

1. Grind the allspice berries and cinnamon stick in a mortar and pestle or clean coffee grinder. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and mix to combine.

2. If your mortar and pestle are large enough, add the scallions, peppers, garlic, and thyme, and pound to a paste. Alternately, put the spice mix, scallions, peppers, garlic and thyme in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to break up and combine the larger ingredients. Add the olive oil, rum, and orange juice, and mix to create a wet, thick paste.

Makes 1 cup

Recipes by Ellen Jackson


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