I used to have an acquaintance in Atlanta who was from Jamaica. Not Queens, but the island. He loved Reggae music and “jerked” foods. His wife “jerked” some chicken for us one time and I really loved it. In the Caribbean, they make curries that differ from Indian curries slightly. They use thyme a lot, and in Jamaica particularly, a lot of allspice.
The word “jerk” is usually used as a noun to describe the spicy seasoning, but can be a verb also, as in “I’m gonna jerk some chicken tonight”. Jerked foods are good groceries. The word jerk grew out of a Spanish word, something like “charque”, used to describe dried meat.
Jerk Chicken is spicy good with a little heat. You can adjust the pepper, but please do not omit them entirely.
JERK CHICKEN serves 8
- 3 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles
- 6 scallions, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 pound shallots (3 medium), quartered (or onions)
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 8 whole chicken legs (4 1/2 pounds, 2 KG), thighs and drumsticks separated
Discard stems, seeds, and ribs from 2 chilies and coarsely chop. Coarsely chop remaining chile including seeds (for a less spicy dish, discard all the seeds before chopping).
Blend chilies with remaining ingredients except chicken in a food processor until a paste forms. Cut several 1-inch-long slits in each piece of chicken, and then rub paste all over chicken, rubbing it into slits. Marinate, covered and chilled, at least 2 hours. Any unused marinade can be used for basting.
Jerk chicken is a popular outdoor grill specialty, but you could do it in your oven. Use two shallow baking pans to put the chicken in. Roast them at 400F (200C) for about 45 minutes. Check them periodically and baste. Switch the position of the pans after 25 minutes for even cooking.
You can make the marinade the day before and refrigerate it.
Jerk chicken could become a favourite for backyard barbecues, and a pleasant diversion from the usual burgers once in awhile.