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Jerk Chicken

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Recipe by: Chef John V.
Description:A Jamaican way of cooking chicken marinated in a spicy and fragrant herb and spice mixture that's grilled over a charcoal and wood fire
Serving size: 2-3 thighs per person, this recipe serves about 6-8 hungry people
Preparation time: about 2 days and then the cooking time of about 50 minutes

How to make authentic Jerk Chicken: A story and the recipe---

Jerk Chicken Plated

The skin is nice and crisp, there's barely a burn mark or char and what an aroma of smoke and spice---additional enjoyment can be had by dipping each bite into Pickapeppa Sauce! 'Oh mon, this is like home'!

I assume you have a grill of some sort. An outside charcoal grill would be best, a gas grill isn't bad either and, if you have neither you can do it in your oven with the aid of a broiler. Oh no, you don't have any of these! Well if worse comes to worst you can even fry it like you would with fried chicken following a suggestion I've included.

Let's talk grilling, you'll need a medium-hot fire. I like to start the charcoal, then wait until all the charcoal turns white...a really hot fire, then cover the grill slightly with a lid and wait another 30 minutes for the fire to burn down to a medium-high heat. Now I'm ready to grill, you see we don' t want to over char and burn the skin. Place the chicken , skin side down around the outer part of the grill grates and not directly in the center. Just let it cook about 10 minutes like this then turn it over and grill the other side for 10 minutes. Turn again, this time moving the chicken closer to the center of the grill. Add the wood chips or chunks to the charcoal and cover the grill for 15 minutes...you'll see a lot of smoke coming from the grill's vent...that's good! After the 15 minutes, turn the chicken to cook the other side.

If at any time you feel the meat is getting too dark, then make adjustments to the location of the chicken on the grill. Move it around to cooler and or hotter locations as needed. You may even want to adjust the cooking time and the length of time the cover is on. Remember that every grill is different and we all put different amounts of charcoal on a fire. It's up to you how dark the chicken gets on the grill, but I can tell you right now that burn skin and edges don't taste good and they're not good for you either. I'm very careful when grilling, I want just enough heat to cook the meat and have it come out golden brown! Final internal temperature should be 170' F when done; and when a fork, a skewer or tip of a knife pierces the meat, the juices that come out should be clear and not pink. I assume that most of you have grilled before and know most of the proper techniques that should be used, along with some common sense.

Learning to be a good griller takes time and a lot of practice!

Lester is from Jamaica, a small town 3 miles away from where the famous Pickapeppa Sauce is made. I met him about 18 years ago and we quickly became friends. I only saw him occasionally though, only when I would park at the lot he was tending to. We always talked food and how he missed the cooking of home. Lester's 74, a big guy with one heck of a smile and to me, the quintessential Jamaican accent...Mon!

I told him I knew about Jamaican cooking from another Jamaican acquaintance. Rice, pigeon peas, mountain chicken, paw paw and jerk. He said that if the jerk was good, you'll have a little twitch of your body after every bite! That was it, I had to make him some jerk!

Along with all of the fixings, I brought him two shopping bags full---to his surprise, enough for him and his wife. A few weeks passed before I would see him again, but one day in the mail, I received a card from him and his wife thanking me for the best jerk they've had outside of Jamaica...what a compliment! They also loved the callalou (braised greens, like collards) and the peas and rice. When I finally saw him again, he thanked me over and over, telling me how he lugged the food home on the bus and that many people smelled the food and wanted to know where to buy some. He shrugged and told me that's our secret!

Enjoy this recipe, it's authentic! It's a wet marinade, not a dry rub. You get more flavor penetrating into the meat this way, it's sort of like brining. Follow it as is, do a careful job grilling it and you'll be rewarded with a taste of Jamaica!

Jerk Marinating Paste


1 tbsp. ground Jamaican allspice
2 tbsp. Scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped (very, very hot!)
1 cup onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 lime, quartered and squeezed

12-16 Chicken Thighs, rinsed under cold water and patted dry with paper towels

Combine all seasoning ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken thighs and mix, then marinate for 2 days and two nights, turning everything over once. Be sure to and cover with plastic wrap!

When the marinating process is finished, it's time to grill!

You'll need a BBQ Grill setup with charcoal, if possible real charcoal and not briquettes,
some real hard wood chunks like oat or wood chips for smokiness.

If pan frying like 'fried chicken', dip each piece on both sides in flour, shake off the excess and fry in vegetable oil that's 325'F. and maintain that temperature throughout the entire cooking time. You also want an internal temperature of 170' F, which indicates it's cook properly.

Pickapeppa This this is the sauce you need to make it the real thing!
The Pickapeppa Company Limited, Hooters Hill P.O, Manchester, Jamaica West Indies

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