Grilled Jerk Chicken

By Jennifer Segal

metrocurean contributor,

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. Some people believe the term comes from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English. Others claim it’s related to the constant turning or jerking of the meat to load it with the spice blend and cook it thoroughly. While jerk can be spicy, this version is relatively mild. Add more hot peppers if you like.

Grilled Jerk Chicken
Inspired by Food & Wine

serves 4

1 small onion, cut into large chunks
2 scallions, quartered
1 Scotch bonnet or Habanero chili pepper, seeded and roughly chopped*
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon Asian five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin on chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks and breasts)

Make the marinade: In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except chicken. Process until vegetables are finely pureed and mixture is relatively smooth (texture will be slightly gritty). Place chicken pieces and marinade in a large Ziploc bag; squeeze air out and seal tightly. Mash the chicken around to coat evenly with marinade. Place bag in a bowl (in case of leakage) and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Allow chicken to come to room temperature before grilling.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over grates several times until glossy and coated. Place chicken on grill skin side down, making sure it is well coated with marinade for maximum flavor (discard any leftover marinade). Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until skin is browned and crisp but not charred, about 10 minutes. Turn chicken pieces skin side up and either turn heat down to medium-low or move chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Continue cooking, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve immediately.

* Be extremely careful when working with Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers. They are extremely hot and if you touch your eyes, it will be very painful. Wear disposable gloves or be sure to wash your hands well when you’re done. You can use more or less peppers depending on how fiery you like your chicken.

Jennifer Segal is the founder and publisher of Once Upon a Chef, a cooking blog featuring easy and elegant recipes. Before launching her blog, Jennifer earned her culinary stripes working front and back of the house at some of DC's top fine dining restaurants, including L'Auberg e Chez Francois, Sam & Harry's and The Caucus Room.

She has also done private catering and restaurant public relations. Jennifer is a graduate of the professional Culinary Arts Program at L'Academie de Cuisine.