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Jerk Chicken

For simplicity and authenticity, chicken marinated in jerk spices and cooked slow over a charcoal and wood fire can’t be beat—though if you have a gas grill, never fear, it’ll still be amazingly good. Some people find marinades more convenient to use than spice pastes. This marinade is thicker than most. The flavor may strike you as a bit harsh when you first make it, but I assure you, the flavors will mellow as the meat cooks. To increase the heat of this rather mild marinade, add a splash of hot pepper sauce or more hot peppers. If you want less heat, remove the seeds and ribs of the chiles before grinding them. This is an excellent marinade for chicken, beef, or pork.–Helen Willinsky

LC Chicken & Dumplings Revisited Note

We’re quite, quite content with a plate of jerk chicken and nothing else. Well, but napkins. And okay, maybe some Red Stripe. While we’re at it, white rice laced with lime and cilantro, if you please. But in Jamaica, folks are accustomed to teaming smoke-infused, falling-apart-tender jerk chicken with festival. Not festival, though of course an authentic jerk chicken is always worth celebrating, but festival—the Jamaican bread dumpling with the party-in-a-recipe name that’s dense and deep-fried and robust enough to sop up any jerk paste that remains on the plate. We gotta say, we vastly prefer the Jamaican duo of chicken and dumplings to the more staid and soggy American version. No contest. Now, about that Red Stripe….

Jerk Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

  • For the jerk marinade
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped 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 habañero, serrano, or jalapeño chile, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or substitute tamari, which is gluten-free)
  • 1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • For the jerk chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups jerk marinade
  • One 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces

Directions

  • Make the jerk marinade
  • 1. In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. The marinade will be quite thick. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. (You can store the marinade in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)
  • Make the jerk chicken
  • 2. Place the chicken in a large glass bowl or baking dish and dump 1 cup jerk marinade over the chicken. Turn the pieces to coat them completely. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
  • 3. Build a low fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to 225°F (107°C). [Editor's Note: For authentic flavor, build a low fire in a charcoal grill with a combination of charcoal and pimento wood and hold the temperature around 225°F (107°C). If you don’t have pimento wood, substitute hickory or apple wood, or use all charcoal.]
  • 4. Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down. The marinade will cling to the chicken; that’s okay. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, basting frequently with the remaining 1/2 cup jerk marinade and turning every 10 minutes or so, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The chicken is done when the flesh feels firm and the juices run clear when the meat is pricked with a fork. Pile it onto a platter.
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