Posted 07 April 2003 - 01:25 AM
Posted 07 April 2003 - 06:02 AM
As someone who has travelled to Jamaica many times, eaten jerked meats all over the island, and replicated them with varying degrees of success, I'd like to point out the several pitfalls of attempting to recreate authentic jerk chicken.
Jerk sauce is easy to make. A food processor and, depending on the recipe, varying amounts of thyme, scallion, allspice ("pimento" to Jamaicans), scotch bonnet / habanero pepper, fresh ginger, garlic, vegetable oil, salt & black pepper, etc. But "chicken with jerk sauce," while passed off as "jerk chicken" outside Jamaica, is not really jerk chicken. "Jerk" simultaneously refers to the sauce and a style of cooking; it means barbeque in the strict sense: a long, slow cooking method, over indirect heat. It's no coincidence that the original jerk meat was pork, which is the best meat for such a treatment. Chicken works OK too. The Jamaicans generally jerk halved birds rather than pieces, to lengthen cooking time.
Two other complications. The best jerk chicken is cooked over coals of wood from the allspice tree, which gives a characteristic flavor, as do hickory or mesquite. And Jamaican chickens, no matter how they're prepared, taste better than ones from US supermarkets, presumably because they're not produced on factory farms, Jamaican agriculture being less (ahem) "advanced" than the US. Free-range is the best equivalent.
Don't have my sauce recipes handy, but you can find a jillion of them on google. I'll check this string later, and if someone hasn't posted a suitable sauce recipe, I'll dig mine out. But again, the specifics of the sauce recipe matter less than the cooking method.
Posted 07 April 2003 - 08:28 AM
That said, though , may I say that I also add vinegar (usually cider) and a little brown sugar or molasses to my "jerk sauce." If you're going to cook it properly -- live fire grill or smoker -- don't add the sugar; it will burn. But if, like me, you can only make "chicken in jerk sauce" in the oven, do add a bit. I wish I had a formal recipe to tell, but I just throw stuff in the fp or blender, let 'er rip, taste and adjust. WARNING: always start out with fewer scotch bonnets than you think you'll need!!!
Posted 07 April 2003 - 01:31 PM
First of all, this resembles less a sauce than a curry paste, made with several of the ingredients that characterize Jamaican cuisine: thyme, ginger, scallions (“escallions”), allspice (“pimento”), and scotch bonnet chile (close cousin of the habanero). This recipe should make at least 2 cups. All quantities are approximate and can be varied. Jerk sauce is wonderful, but with Mr. Habanero around, subtle it ain’t. If you do two chickens, just thin the sauce with water and distribute it evenly.
¼ cup whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bunch of scallions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 (for hot jerk sauce), 2 (for really hot), or 3 (extremely hot) Habanero chiles, stemmed and seeded
Leaves and tender stems from a bunch of thyme, about ¼ cup
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup cider vinegar or fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ cup vegetable oil
Water as needed
1 or 2 chickens, backbones removed and split into halves
Ketchup or pickapeppa sauce
Toast the allspice berries and black peppercorns until fragrant. Pulverize the allspice, black pepper, and bay leaves in a spice grinder, then add the powdered spices to the bowl of a food processor, along with the onions, scallions, garlic, chiles, thyme, ginger, salt, and the liquid ingredients. Process to a fairly smoth paste, with some small chunks, adding water and scraping down the food processor as necessary.
Reserve about ½ cup of the jerk paste to make a table sauce. Evenly distribute the remaining paste over the chicken halves, thinning with a little water if necessary, and marinate for at least an hour and up to 24 hrs refrigerated. Meanwhile, make a sauce to accompany the cooked chicken by mixing the reserved paste with 2 or 3 tablespoons of Pickapeppa sauce or ketchup. The sweetness smooths out the taste. as Suzanne F points out in the previous post.
Cook the chicken slowly in a covered charcoal grill over indirect heat, for 1½ to 2 hours, turning and basting about every half hour with leftover marinade (most won't stick to the chicken). Tend the fire carefully; if it’s too hot, the chicken will be badly overdone given such a lengthy cooking time. Too low a fire, obviously, is a problem as well.
Posted 07 April 2003 - 01:50 PM
Don't you think that "real jerk" should be cooked on a grill made out of 55 gallon drum? A West Indian friend of mine here in Chicago cut all his chicken into small pieces before marinating (the breast was cut into three pieces (bone in) the thighs cut in half) before he smoked it.
Posted 07 April 2003 - 02:44 PM
Yes, 55 gallon drums would be the way to go. Someday! Actually tho', a full-sized Weber works OK. The Jamaicans I've talked to use the drums because of price/availability.
As for cutting up the bird before marinating, I'm sure there's as many ways to make jerk chicken as there are cooks. What I've seen most often is halved birds. To serve, the half is placed on a chopping block and cut, right through the bone, into inch or two-wide pieces with a meat cleaver. To eat it, you have to use you hands.
It's finger licking good, fi real.
Posted 07 April 2003 - 04:27 PM
outdoor cooking capabilities are a touch hampered at the moment so we will have to settle for an oven version, but hopefully it will suffice. Thanks for the warning on the heat level Suzanne, I like things spicy but I will always err on the side of caution. Don't want to be adding too much sugar to cut too much heat if I go over. Thanks David and will let you know how things turn out. I will probably do this recipe again once I can get my Weber fired up!