I’ve never been to Jamaica. I had planned to go there two years ago, but I scrapped those plans because of work. It really sucked and I still seethe about it. My holidays were ruined and I was deprived of the opportunity to visit a place I’ve always been interested in. Argh...
To fill the void, I started hanging out - quite a lot - at Miss Lily’s; a Jamaican joint on West Houston. A great little luncheonette, where you can enjoy a taste of Caribbean cuisine.
I can confess without shame that I have tried almost every single item on the menu, and they all tastes great.
I have favorites, but the jerk chicken stands alone at the top of my list. It’s a great dish, full of depth and character.
A great combination of flavors that sends your taste buds into a spin of fireworks.
The allspice - or pimento as it’s called in Jamaica - is the secret to jerk chicken. It adds about five flavors in one, it’s a powerful little thing.
Then there’s the scotch bonnet pepper, it will set your mouth on fire, but in a nice way (if there’s a “nice” way to set one’s mouth on fire).
In other words, a jerk chicken is anything but blunt, boring or tasteless. There’s so much to it, no room for disappointment. Fact.
Now let’s talk about this recipe. I did my own fair share of research. That included interviewing an endless number of Jamaican cab drivers on the streets of NYC. They were all very eager and enthusiastic to talk about the cuisine of their beloved country. On two points they all seemed to agree: (1) that jerk chicken is Jamaica's signature dish and (2) that their own mum's recipe is the one and only true recipe for jerk chicken the rest is "Fake man, just fake!"
I took a lot of notes and learned.
So I tried a number of recipes: some were YUCK, some were OK, some were very good.
I’ve tweaked and tweaked and tweaked and I believe this one to be the best one. Or better yet, the closest to the jerk chicken you can order at Miss Lily’s. Good enough for me.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa Print this recipe!
Adapted from Jamie’s Big Feastivals and an endless number of other recipes
There’s one thing you need to be careful with and that is handling the scotch bonnet peppers. I’m not joking. You must wear gloves and makes sure not to rub your eyes or touch your lips. It’s not going to be funny, I learned the hard way. Also, I’ve found out that removing the seeds and most of the ribs from the peppers reduces dramatically the heat, which is my personal preference. But if you enjoy a firestorm, go with the whole thing, stay with it, it’s your pain after all.
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons raw organic honey
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
1 (or 2) scotch bonnet peppers, deseeded and de-ribbed
1 clove of garlic
1-inch / 3 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 scallions, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 free-range organic chicken thighs, skin on
4 free-range organic chicken drumsticks, skin on
1 pair of rubber gloves
juice of two limes
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
½ cucumber, seeded and diced
1 scallion, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
juice of one lime
In a blender combine allspice, black pepper, honey, parsley, cilantro, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, ginger, scallions and olive oil. Blend until pureed and smooth.
In a shallow sealable container (or in a large Ziplock bag), pour the marinade over the chicken and massage it in (wear the rubber gloves!).
Marinate in the fridge at least 1 to 2 hours (overnight for fullest flavor).
Heat a grill (or a grill pan) over medium heat; place the chicken, skin-side down and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, turning often, or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.
You can also cook the chicken in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for 25 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn on the broiler for the last 5 minutes to get all lovely and charred.
In the meantime make the mango salsa by combining all ingredients in a medium bowl and mixing well.
When the chicken is cooked drizzle with fresh lime juice and serve with mango salsa.
One serving of this Jamaican jerk chicken dressed with mango salsa yields 481 calories, 27 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs and 39 grams of protein.