Friday, August 17, 2012

Grilled Jamaican 'Jump-Up' Jerk Chicken

Guaranteed to get a chuckle around the barbecue, Jerk Chicken is up there with Spotted Dick as a conversation starter. Full of fiery chiles and warm spices, this all-purpose Jamaican seasoning can be used as a rub on pork, goat, fish, and vegetables, as well as chicken — breasts, thighs or drumsticks — even a whole bird butterflied and flattened. Bold and spicy, this Jump-Up Jerk Marinade uses an aromatic blend of garlic, onion, chiles, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon which lend fragrance to the complex paste in which the meat marinates before it's cooked; soy sauce and citrus give it sharpness and tang; and plenty of black pepper and Scotch bonnet chile add heat.

Although recipes vary from island to island, Jerk definitely isn’t jerk unless it’s barbecued, ideally over wood, and in a perfect world over the wood of the allspice tree. In Jamaica, oil drums serve as makeshift barbecues, but any barbecue, makeshift or otherwise, will do just fine. Just keep in mind that jerk marinade can burn easily, so the chicken requires slow cooking on the grill, which also helps keep the meat moist and tender. As Bob Marley said — "I´m doing my thing and I´m doing it slow..."

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Serves 8

4 lb chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, with skin bone-in

Jerk marinade:
3 green onions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded (use gloves!)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped scallions and lime wedges, for garnish

Add all of the marinade ingredients together in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place the chicken and marinade in large resealable bags — dividing into two batches if necessary — squeeze out excess air, and seal.  Refrigerate overnight, or 3 hours minimum, turning several times for even marination. Bring chicken to room temperature for one hour before grilling.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken.

Preheat an outdoor grill on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more. To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter and garnish with chopped scallions and limes. Jerk Chicken is delicious served with grilled Sweet Potato Wedges, and Black Bean & Rice Salad.

Black Bean & Rice Salad
Serves 4

1 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
8 oz Jasmine Rice
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce cans black beans, drained, rinsed
1 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (I use 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Bring chicken broth and water to boil in heavy large saucepan. Add rice and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer rice to large bowl and fluff with fork. Mix in black beans, bell peppers, red onion, chopped cilantro, oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin and chili powder. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve.

Creamy Cucumber Sauce

2-1/4 cups cucumber, finely diced
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic

Peel and seed cucumbers and roughly chop. Place in a medium size bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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