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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Updated February 23, 2016

I urge you to try this not-too-difficult and incredibly tasty (though potentially quite spicy hot) recipe. Not only will it make your home smell terrific, it has such depth—not unlike a Mexican mole sauce—I’m sure your family and friends will be asking you to make it again and again. Jerk recipes vary, but the three main ingredients are chile pepper, allspice, and thyme. If you you’re a fan of fire, definitely add the habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, but here I’ve made that extra heat optional. You can make these ahead of time, and reheat them, covered in a 400°F oven for about 7 minutes, before your guests arrive. Serve this appetizer with Ginger Lemonade, or ice-cold Red Stripe (Jamaican) beer.

Cooking Methodpan-frying

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Occasiongame day

Recipe Courseappetizer, hors d'oeuvre

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, spiced

Ingredients

  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 6 leaves sage, washed and minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher or sea salt
  • 2 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 2 ounces soy sauce
  • 6 ounces apple cider vinegar
  • 4 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeded and finely diced, or ½ teaspoon Scotch bonnet hot sauce (found in West Indian markets or international sections of large supermarkets), optional
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each), skin removed, cut into uniform ¼ - to ½-inch chunks

Instructions

  1. Make the sauce: In a large bowl, combine the thyme, sage, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, peppers, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice, and lime juice. Add the olive oil. Pour the liquid mixture into the spices, and add the garlic, onions, scallions, and hot pepper if desired. Take out half the sauce, and put it aside to heat later as a dipping sauce.

  2. Prepare the chicken: With a sharp knife, cut each chicken breast into ten pieces, first by cutting it in half horizontally, and then cutting each half into chunks. Place the pieces in a shallow dish, and pour half the jerk sauce over them. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight. (The longer you can marinate the chicken, the more the flavor will penetrate the meat.)

  3. To cook the chicken, in a medium-size sautè pan, sear the chunks for about 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. (You could also place them on an oiled baking sheet and cook in a preheated 400°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.) In the meantime, pour the sauce you set aside into a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. If more liquid is needed (though you don’t want it to be too runny), add some fresh orange juice. Let cool slightly and transfer to dipping bowls.

  4. Serve the chicken immediately or at room temperature, on a platter, with a shot glass of toothpicks for serving and the extra jerk sauce for dipping.

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