Jamaican food is one of my favorites, with simple ingredients and a lot of flavor using spices and hot peppers. A friend of mine is from Jamaica and she was the one that introduced me to jerk seasoning which now I prepare at home using fresh ingredients. In the market you can find dried jerk rub, but the one I’m sharing with you is a paste that you can prepare at home.
You might be wondering from where Jamaican Jerk comes from. The Jamaican Maroon ancestors adopted the jerk method to help preserve pork and wild hog’s meat; nowadays this method is used widely in the island for grilling goat, pork, chicken, sausage and lobster and it is a favorite of locals and visitors.
Jerk seasoning sauce can be done hot and medium. Everyone has their own secret ingredients but to call it “jerk,” you cannot miss having Scotch Bonnet pepper, fresh thyme, onions, pimentos and scallions. So let’s grill, ya mon!
Grilled Jerk Chicken
- 4 fresh chicken breasts (preferably farm raised) marinated in jerk sauce
- 2 lemons cut in halves
To prepare the Jerk Sauce Paste:
- 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (roasted and seeded)
- 1 Habanero pepper (roasted and seeded)
- 1 Pimento (seeded)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger paste
- 5 scallions (white and green stems)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
- 1 small white onion
- 1/3 cup of white vinegar
- 1/3 of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of allspice (ground)
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (ground)
- ½ teaspoon of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
- Water and coarse sea salt as needed
Place all ingredients except the salt and the water in the food processor until it becomes a paste, add water as needed and season with salt. Use a glass container with a sealing lid and place in the fridge; this sauce could last for several weeks if stored correctly and kept refrigerated.
For the kale side dish:
- 1 bag of fresh kale
- 2 cup of cooked black beans
- 2 cups of cannellini white beans
- ½ cup white onions chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Sautee onions and kale in olive oil, then add the beans and season with salt and pepper; cover until kale cooks and gets tender.
For the white rice side dish:
- 1 cup of long grain white rice
- 2 garlic cloves cut in halves
- 2 cups of boiling water
- Salt and olive oil
Sautee the garlic in the olive oil, add the rice, salt and the boiling water. Cover until rice is fluffy and tender.
Marinate the chicken for at least one hour in the jerk sauce, covered and refrigerated. This works best on a gas grill with a lot of heat and control. You could also use direct and indirect zones on a charcoal grill. The grill needs to be hot so let it reach 300 degrees F. Place the chicken on the grill and cook it over a high flame to sear and get charbroiled marks.
Turn once, close the lid, and lower the temperature to 200 degrees F. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Chicken will be done when it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. Take the chicken out of the grill and let it rest before slicing. Then grill your lemons: rub some olive oil on the cut side and let them sit upside down on the flame until getting char marks.
Serve the chicken on a plate and accompany with white rice, kale and beans. To finish the dish, squeeze the grilled lemon on top of the meat and enjoy with some chilled Red Stripe Jamaican beer.
Adriana Martin is a Grilling is Happiness sponsored writer.