When you think of Jamaica, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Besides beautiful beaches and vacation spots, Jamaica offers amazing food and culture. One of their most popular imports is the method of jerk, which can be applied to everything from seafood to meat. It produces the most succulent and tender meat, not to mention hot and spicy! You'll find jerk stands throughout the Caribbean—as it's practically their form of fast food. That's the best part about jerk—once you've made the rub and marinated the meat overnight, it's ready for grilling. There couldn't be an easier dish for feeding a ravenous crowd this upcoming Memorial day weekend.
Barbecuing is synonymous with Memorial day as well as jerk. Traditionally it's either smoked in open pits or barbecued in steel drum grills. Here in the States, where jerk has been popular for many years, it's either oven-roasted or grilled over charcoal or gas. What sets jerk apart from any other type of barbecue is its particular blend of spices, including the essential allspice, which is called pimento in Jamaica. There they not only grind the dried berries for the jerk rub, but they also use the pimento wood and leaves for smoking the meat. The next most important ingredient is Scotch bonnet pepper. As you can imagine it provides a lot of heat. Jerk wouldn't be jerk without some form of heat, making you sweat and cool down in a hot Caribbean climate.
Jerk is not limited to just chicken. Any meats can be used, but chicken or pork is traditional. Lately fish and shellfish have become popular. Serve the finished dish with rice, salad, or slaw. But here I pair the jerk with a Southern favorite, mustard greens. Raw, mustard greens taste just like mustard or even horseradish. Cooked, their taste mellows a bit but remains a bit bitter and peppery almost like arugula. The flavors of hot, spicy, and sweet jerk chicken and peppery greens are a perfect combination. Keep your cool this coming weekend and celebrate the start of summer.
Jerk Chicken Breasts
for the jerk marinade:
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (about 1-inch piece)
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup malt vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark rum
for the chicken:
6 to 12 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
For the jerk marinade, combine all ingredeints in a blender and purée until smooth. Yield: 4 cups.
Use 2 cups marinade for 6 breasts or all 4 cups marinade for 12 breasts.
Add marinade and chicken to a large resealable plastic bag. Seal, place on a plate to capture any leaks, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat a grill or grill pan at medium-high to high heat. Once grill is hot, moisten a paper towel with oil and wipe down grates.
Remove chicken breasts from marinade, one at a time, and place on grill. Discard marinade. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Yield 6 to 12 servings.
Sautéed Mustard Greens
2 tablespons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds mustard greens, thoroughly washed, and chopped
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Warm oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mustard greens and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover and allow any residual liquid to evaporate. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.