David experiments with new formulations while working as a chemist, and he experiments with new recipes while at home in his kitchen.
The Perfect Jamaican Meal
When you think of Jamaican food, one of the first dishes that comes to mind is Jamaican jerk chicken. This Jamaican dish has been enjoyed for centuries, originally by the native Taino people who used to cook their meat over the aromatic wood of the allspice tree. However, jerk chicken has certainly evolved over time. With the arrival of enslaved Africans (brought by Spanish and British colonisers), jerk chicken acquired the distinctive flavour of hot green chilis, ginger, thyme, sugar and lime. More recently, soy sauce was incorporated into the dish, which was brought to Jamaica by Chinese workers.
Jerk chicken has a very distinctive flavour, and many recipes use a variety of spices, including allspice, thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon. Brown sugar, treacle or honey is often added to provide sweetness, and ginger and vinegar or lime juice provide some tanginess and acidity. Green chilies are included too to provide a spiciness, and the searing of the meat, either during or after cooking, provides a smokiness and texture.
There are various ways to cook jerk chicken, one way is to cook over wood from the allspice tree, but I guess that’s easier said than done. Another way is cooking in the ground inside a pit, but again this may not be so doable. Cooking on the BBQ is ideal for getting that smoky flavour and crispy skin and you may also cook in the oven. Another method of cooking uses the slow cooker. This way of cooking, which takes place over a few hours, allows all of the spices and flavours to really penetrate the chicken and create a really flavoursome meal. This lengthy cooking process also tenderises the chicken, to a point that it can just fall off the bone.
One downside with slow-cooking chicken is that you can’t achieve crispy skin. To resolve this, you can simply place the slow-cooked jerk chicken under the grill on high heat to brown the skin. The recipe outlined below uses this method to produce a browned and smokey skin typical of authentic Jamaican jerk chicken.
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|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
8 hours 15 min
4 to 6 servings
- Approximately 20 (4.4 lbs, 2 kg) chicken drumsticks, or chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 large green chili peppers, or more
- 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika powder
- 1/2 tbsp allspice powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- Bunch spring onions
- Extra cayenne / chili powder, to taste (optional)
Preparing the Jerk Sauce
1. Pour all liquids; water, apple cider vinegar, and light soy sauce into a food processor. If you have a NutriBullet or Magic Bullet then happy days!
2. Chop white onion, green chilis, garlic cloves, and ginger and place into the food processor.
3. Add brown sugar to the processor along with all of the spices, except the sprigs of fresh thyme.
4. Blend the mixture on high for approximately 15 seconds, or until you achieve a smooth paste.
Cooking the Chicken
5. Place the chicken drumsticks into the slow cooker and completely cover them with the jerk sauce.
6. Cover with lid and cook for 8 hours on low heat (or 4 hours on high heat). If possible, turn the chicken off after 4 hours.
7. After cooking, some oil may be present on top of the sauce. If so, remove most of this oil using a large spoon.
8. Decant all of the sauce into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and start reducing in volume by half. Note: when reduced, you may add any extra seasoning as you wish or even add some chili pepper powder if it is not spicy enough.
9. In the meantime, carefully place the chicken drumsticks onto a baking tray or oven dish and place them under the grill on high heat until crispy and darkened in colour. Turn the chicken around to brown the other side. Be careful when handling the chicken as it will be quite delicate after the slow cooking.
10. Place the browned jerk chicken drumsticks onto a serving tray and cover with some of the reduced sauce.
11. Chop plenty of the spring onions and generously sprinkle them over the chicken. If you kept any of the green chilis, then sprinkle these on top also.
12. The jerk chicken is best served with Jamaican rice and peas.
13. Finally, enjoy!
© 2018 David Branagan