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~Spice-is-Nice Oven-Roasted Jamaican-Jerk Chicken~

IMG_2058Leave it to the Jamaicans.  I can't think of another exotic-to-me cuisine that does a better job of making my life easier.  I mean, seriously, they've cornered the market on marketing high-quality, bold-flavored dry-spice blends and rubs, wet pastes and marinades, barbecue, steak and hot pepper sauces, etc. -- when it comes to cooking Jamaican fare at home, some of their store-bought time-savers make me ponder why anyone would want to concoct "it" from scratch.

That said, time spent in my kitchen is therapy -- it's my "don't worry, be happy" space.  It's the game-on place where movies and music play, all problems appear smaller and magic happens. Any reason to spend more time in the kitchen is a good reason.  Since cooking-from-scratch extends my stay in my playroom, the mouth-watering end result more than justifies the occasionally difficult means.  Jamaican-style jerk cooking does not fall into the category of difficult.

Charred & crispy skin w/moist, pull-apart pinky meat, jerk is... 

IMG_2218... nicely-spiced w/a warm heat that coats your throat...

IMG_2222... & a succulent sauce that'll make you smack your lips. 

IMG_2226In a (coco)nutshell, jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica.  It was developed by African slaves who escaped into the mountains of Jamaica after the British captured this island paradise from Spain in 1655.  Forced to adapt to their new surroundings, the Maroons (the name given to the escaped slaves) made use of the foods nature provided, by pulverizing the edibles they gathered into a fiery pasty rub.  By adding fruit and/or citrus juice, the fiery pasty rub became a spicy basting and dipping sauce.  When thinned down with a bit of drinking water or the milk from a coconut, the spicy sauce became a highly-flavored wet marinade -- over time, items from trades, like vinegar and/or rum were transitioned into the mixture.  Once rubbed and/or marinated, the meat or game they hunted was then slowly cooked over a smoking pimento-wood fire.

Originally used for pork, it's now common to "jerk" chicken, beef, fish & seafood too.

The "jerk" in jerk comes from the Spanish word via the Peruvian word "charqui", the noun for dried strips of meat now called "jerky".  Jerk seasoning was/is the dry spice blend used to season jerky, and Jamaican jerk seasoning, known for the flavors of allspice, thyme and pepper, is perhaps the most famous.  Throughout the Caribbean, islanders preserved/cured their spice-rubbed meats by drying them in the intense sun or over a slow fire -- this allowed the meat to be taken on long journeys and eaten as is or reconstituted in boiling water.  The word most likely transitioned to the verb, "jerking", in reference to the way the meat gets "jerked" around on the grill as it cooks.

Making my marinade & roasting the chickens:

IMG_2186As mentioned above, the Jamaicans have cornered the market on marketing high-quality, bold-flavored dry spice blends and rubs, wet pastes and marinades, barbecue, steak and hot pepper sauces.  In a pinch there's no shame and little compromise in using them.  When it comes to making my oven-roasted jerk chicken, I like to use a wet marinade (as opposed to a paste), and, when time is short, it's the Walkerswood brand that I reach for.

Note:  My recipe is my copycat of their recipe.  It makes  4 1/4 cups (36 ounces), which is about the equivalent of 2, 17-ounce bottles of their store-bought (34 ounces).  One cup of marinade is enough for 1 whole chicken that has been split in half to form two pieces.  I'm using half today, to marinate and roast 4 half chickens, and, I'm freezing the rest for a round of jerk on another day. 

Making marinade, roasting chickens & simmering sauce:

IMG_2156For the chickens, marinade and dipping/barbecue sauce:

4  4-5 pound frying chickens, as even in size as possible, split in half, backbones removed, to form 8 pieces total (Note:  I ask my local butcher to do this for me.)

8  ounces large-diced red onion (about 2 cups)

4  ounces diced green onion (about 1 cup)

2  ounces large-diced ginger root (about 1/3-1/2 cup)

1  ounce whole garlic cloves (about 6 large cloves)

4  Scotch bonnet peppers, with seeds, stems removed

1  cup lime juice, preferably fresh or high-quality organic, not from concentrate

1  cup malt vinegar

1/4  cup mild-flavored molasses

1/4  cup dark rum

2  tablespoons dried thyme leaves

6  teaspoons ground allspice

6  teaspoons ground cinnamon

2  teaspoons ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon ground cloves

4  teaspoons sea salt

4  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

1/4  cup vegetable oil

IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159~Step 1.  Prep and place red onion, green onion, ginger, garlic and Scotch bonnets in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, very-finely mince the ingredients.  Open the processor lid and use a spatula to scrape down sides of work bowl.  Add the lime juice, vinegar, molasses, rum and all dry spices.  Process again, using a series of 10-20 rapid on-off pulses.  With motor running, through feedtube, drizzle in the oil, then process with motor running 30-45 more seconds.  There will be a generous 4 cups marinade.

IMG_1956 IMG_1956 IMG_1956 IMG_1956~Step 2.  Place each split chicken in a heavy-duty 2-gallon-sized food storage bag, positioning the two halves so the sharp bones face the inside once the bag is sealed.  Pour 1 cup of the marinade into each bag.  Gather the bag tightly up around the chicken and twist or zip closed. Using your hands, massage each bag, until each chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator 6-8 hours (minimum), overnight, or up to 48 hours (maximum) -- remove from refrigerator, to return to room temperature, 1 hour prior to roasting as follows:

IMG_2040 IMG_2040 IMG_2040 IMG_2040~Step 3.  To roast, insert a wire rack in the bottom of a large 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, then place a sheet of parchment paper on the rack.  Open each bag of chicken. One-at-a-time lift each half chicken up and out, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag*, then arrange the halves, side-by-side on the rack in prepared pan.  Roast, uncovered on center rack of 350º oven, 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a tip of a knife.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minute, prior to serving.

*Note:  Do not discard the marinade in bags.  It will be used to make the sauce (recipe below).

IMG_2189 IMG_2189 IMG_2189 IMG_2202~Step 4.  Transfer all of the flavorful pan-drippings from the roasting pan to a fat/lean separator. Pour the lean portion into a small 1-1 1/2-quart saucepan and discard the fat portion.  Add the marinade remaining in the bag(s), about 1/2-3/4 cup per bag.  Place on the stovetop and bring to a simmer over medium- medium-high heat and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes.  After roasting 2 chickens (4 pieces), there will be about 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Eat it w/your fingertips or fancy it up a bit served atop...

IMG_2068 2... my Island-Style Bejeweled Coconut & Black Bean Rice:

IMG_2090 2How about a Jerk-Chicken & Slaw on Coco Bread Sandwich?

IMG_2371Spice-is-Nice Oven-Roasted Jamaican-Jerk Chicken:  Recipe yields a generous 4 cups marinade/4-6 half chickens/4-6 servings/1 1/2-3 cups barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; food processor; large rubber spatula; 1-4 2-gallon food storage bags; 1-2, 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan(s); 1-2 parchment sheets; fat/lean separator; 1-1 1/2-quart saucepan

IMG_1236Cook's Note:  I don't cook Caribbean food often, but when I do, it's island-style good.  Thanks to a couple of chef friends, I know just enough about this cuisine to be dangerous without straying from the core flavors. ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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