Good news: you don't have to be a jerk to love this Jamaican jerk chicken. In fact, the name jerk doesn't have anything to do with obnoxiousness, or that Steve Martin character. The term might have originated with the Spanish word charqui, used to describe dried meat, that later evolved to jerky and then jerk. Or, it might have come from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking. The hallmark of jerk chicken, most popular in Jamaica but also found in other parts of the Caribbean, is a spicy dry rub that includes fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers and aromatic allspice. From there, the recipe varies, but always includes other spices, such as thyme or nutmeg. Scotch Bonnets lend authenticity, but the jalapeños in this recipe tone down the fire a bit while still evoking the heat of the islands. The chicken tastes best when marinated overnight, so plan ahead when you can. Store cooked jerk chicken in the refrigerator for several days, or make ahead and freeze. Serve hot, over rice, or cold, sliced and stuffed into pita sandwiches.
Grilled not-too-spicy jerk chicken
Jerk marinade adapted from this recipe for jerk seasoning on Food Network. Serves 4; can be multiplied.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 small jalapeño pepper, stem removed, cut in large chunks (keep most of the seeds and ribs in)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp mild red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
Place the trimmed chicken breasts in a large mixing bowl.
Combine remaining ingredients in a mini food processor or blender, and pulse until the ingredients turn into a uniform paste. Pour this marinade over the chicken breasts, and turn the chicken over and over to make sure each piece is coated with marinade.
Transfer chicken and all of the marinade to a zip lock bag, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When you're ready to cook, preheat a grill or a panini press.
Remove the chicken from the bag, and shake off excess marinade. Grill for 5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Pink slaw, from Sass & Veracity
Gluten-free maple meatloaf, from Gluten-free Goddess
Basil chicken in coconut curry sauce, from Simply Recipes
Cochinita pibil tortas, from Healthy. Delicious.
Sopa de lima (Mexican lime soup), from Homesick Texan
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