Every time I have made Jamaican Jerk Chicken in the past, I have cheated. Its always been a bottle of jerk marinade from the Farmer’s Market at North York, that I have opened with ease and slobbered all over my chicken.
But not this time.
I have my father-in-law visiting us who is giving me stiff competition in the kitchen with his chicken and mutton Biryanis and his signature ghee bhaat with mangsho. Hence, I need to demonstrate to him convincingly why I spend all my time typing furiously on the computer the times I am not precariously poised over the kitchen counter taking food photos!
So, heavily influenced by my own culinary capabilities, I set out to get the best spices for my Jamaican Jerk Chicken from Kensington Market with Dad-in-law in tow!
Ingredients for Jamaican Jerk Chicken are:
4-5 chicken leg and thigh (skin on)
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark rum is suggested but today I used white
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
Juice of one lime
2-3 Scotch bonnet peppers
3 green onions, diced
One medium size red onion, diced
7-8 fat cloves of garlic
3/4 teaspoon minced ginger
Canola oil for basting
Wash and clean the chicken and pat dry. In a liquidizer, add all the wet ingredients except oil and blend well.
Marinade the chicken in this wet marinade and add all the dry spices too.
Let the chicken sit in the spice base for about four to five hours, refrigerate if marinating overnight. A day of marinating for chicken is fine, else the seasonings will start to cure the meat and change the texture.
A lot of Jerk recipes call for Jalapeño peppers, but I feel the extra heat of the Scotch Bonnet just cranks up the carnival of flavor in the Jerk. But its not all about “heat”, the molasses or brown sugar balances the spiciness well, leaving you to enjoy a good recipe.
Oh and while we are talking about Scotch Bonnets, which are considered the hottest chilies in the world, make sure you handle them carefully and wash your hands well! Your eyes may not like the feeling later if rubbed accidentally.
There are many theories on where and how the name “Jerk” came from. The closest answer is the term “charqui”, which is Spanish for jerked or dried meat.
Traditionally, jerk is barbequed / grilled in a pit. Since its a challenge to dig a pit in modern-day apartment kitchens, I made my Jerk Chicken in my ever reliable oven.
350 the oven, brush some oil on the marinated chicken pieces and roast for about 45-50 minutes.
Flip it midway to cook evenly on both sides and crisp the skin. Jerk Chicken should get a little char and its okay to darken it a bit.
Daddy-in-law was happy and so was his son. And I am back to typing my heart away, experiencing “jerks” of satisfaction looking at the two Basu men.