Wednesday, September 21, 2011
What a jerk! Chicken, that is
The word "jerk" comes from the Peruvian term for dried strips of meat charqui. Jerk in Jamaica refers to the seasoning (which varies, but always includes allspice, lime, sugar and habanero peppers), the method of preparing the meat (a daylong marinating, in which the meat is poked all over to let the marinade permeate it), and the cooking over fire (unfortunately, I don't have access to pimento wood, which adds extra flavor the Jamaican dishes).
Given that it was a church dinner in Virginia, I felt that the spice may be too intense for the crowd. So I increased the amount of chicken, scallions, garlic, onion, lime, soy sauce and olive oil by 5, but kept the spices to the amounts shown below. The marinade tasted very hot, and I wondered if just 4 habaneros for 40 people still were too many. But the chicken cooked up to be very juicy and spicy, but not mouth-searing in the slightest, and the students seemed to enjoy it immensely.
Another note: I used our usual barbecued chicken technique to insure that the meat cooked through: I used only boneless, skinless thighs, and cooked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes before throwing them on the grill.
Jerk Chicken a la Gourmet
Makes 8 servings
For jerk marinade:
3 scallions, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons salt (I omitted this; soy sauce is quite salty)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (3 pounds), halved crosswise
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
Accompaniment: papaya salsa (the papayas looked horrible and I couldn't locate canned, so I went without this)
Blend all marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Marinate and grill chicken:
Poke chicken with a two-tined fork all over. Divide chicken pieces and marinade between 2 sealable plastic bags. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, then turn bags over several times to distribute marinade. Put bags of chicken in a shallow pan and marinate, chilled, turning once or twice, 1 day.
Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.
To cook chicken using a gas grill:
Preheat burners on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more.
To cook chicken over charcoal:
Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a large chimney of charcoal briquettes (about 100) and pour them evenly over 1 side of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of charcoal). When charcoal turns grayish white and you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds, sear chicken in batches on lightly oiled rack over coals until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Move chicken as seared to side of grill with no coals underneath, then cook, covered with lid, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes more.