When I make international dishes, I try to be as authentic and traditional as I can possibly be as I was with the Murgh Makhani, Tamales, and Lasagne al Ragù. However, there are times when I work so hard one part of a recipe, that some component of the side dish fails a bit in authenticity. Such is the case with this Jerk Chicken with Rice and “Peas”.
The first time I ever tried Jerk Chicken was in New York City (is that right, mom?) a few years ago when my mom was attending NYU for her grad degree. We went to a small Jamaican restaurant in the outskirts of the major city. I had heard of the dish before but had never tried it before. After my first bite, I fell in love instantly and never forgot about that experience.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to eat the dish again until I made it a few days ago. So, this is my second time tasting this flavorful, spicy chicken dish that originated in Jamaica. Once the marinade is mixed together, everything else is very easy. So, the key to Jerk Chicken is the marinade. It is comprised of many ingredients that vary from recipe to recipe. However, the universal ingredients are Scotch Bonnet or Habañero (don’t forget the “ñ”! Without it, the pronunciation changes) peppers and pimiento or allspice berries.
I did research on Youtube and did a regular search as I always do when I look for an authentic recipe, if I don’t have a traditional cookbook. I looked for Jamaicans preparing the meal to see how they did it and then compared their methods with others found online and other sources. I finally settled on a recipe from a website called Jamaica Travel and Culture.
Okay, here is how I broke the code of authenticity: First, I grilled the chicken in the oven instead of on the grill. Second, I didn’t play reggae as I cooked :). Third, for the rice and “peas” (the recipe calls for “red peas”, which are really kidney beans), I used black beans instead of kidney beans because I didn’t have the latter. Fourth, I did add in coconut milk. I just couldn’t. I already don’t like coconut very much, so I just couldn’t pour 1/2 cup of the stuff in my rice and beans. I just couldn’t….and I didn’t. Lastly, I didn’t have 1/2 cup worth of soy sauce, so I used what I had.
Nevertheless, everything tasted really good. The chicken was still too spicy even though I used only half of the marinade. I reserved some of the marinade, and used it as a sauce. If you use all of your marinade in with the chicken, be sure to boil the sauce before using it. I just kept some of the marinade separate from the raw chicken. The rice and peas dish was really flavorful and helped cool the tongue down from the spicy chicken. Okay, I’ll shut up now and give you all the recipe. Please visit the cook’s website to see process photos or watch the video of her in action.
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halved & adapted from Jamaica Culture and Travel (full version)
One 3 1/2 lb chicken (3lb of chicken breasts may be used if preferred)
6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers (I used 2 habañeros in my halved version, & it was still hot.)
2 Tbsp. thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme, roughly chopped)
2 Tbsp. ground allspice (I crushed allspice berries in a mortar and pestle)
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used 1 Tbsp of leftover ginger/garlic paste)
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp ginger (I used 1 Tbsp of leftover ginger/garlic paste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice (I used 2-3 fresh oranges)
1 cup white vinegar
Chop the onions, garlic and peppers. These do not need to be chopped too fine as they will be liquidized by the blender or food processor. Blend all of the ingredients (excluding the chicken) in a blender to make the jerk sauce.
Cut the chicken up in to 4 pieces. Rub the sauce in to the meat, saving some for basting and dipping later (I made slits in the chicken like I did with the murgh makhani). Leave the chicken in the fridge to marinade overnight up to 2 days.
OVEN: Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turn the meat then bake for a further 30 minutes. OR Slow cook the meat at 212 degrees (100 degrees C) for 45-60 minutes per side.
GRILL: Grill the meat slowly until cooked, turning regularly. Baste with some of the remaining marinade while cooking. For best results, cook over a charcoal barbecue (ideally over a rack of pimento wood).
Chop each quarter chicken portion in to 5 or 6 smaller pieces using a heavy cleaver. Use a wooden spoon (or something similar) to hold the chicken in place whilst chopping and NOT YOUR HAND (you will be chopping with enough pressure to cut through bone!!!). (This step is not necessary if you’re using chicken parts or drumsticks, like I did). While chicken is baking, make the rice and peas.
adapted from Jamaica Culture and Travel
1 can of tinned or 1 cup of fresh red peas (use kidney beans or pigeon peas; I used black beans)
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 uncut scotch bonnet pepper (1 habañero or jalapeño pepper. I didn’t have any more peppers)
3 Scallion (spring onions may be used as a substitute)
1 tin (or one cup) of coconut milk (if you dare! hahaha)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (2 teaspoons of dried thyme may be used as a substitute)
FRESH PEAS/BEANS: If you are using fresh peas or beans, then wash them. Pour on three cups of water and leave to soak overnight.
CANNED PEAS/BEANS: Skip this step.
Crush the garlic and add to seven cups of boiling water. If you are using FRESH peas add them now and boil for 45 minutes. Test to see if the peas are cooked by crushing a few of them. If they crush easily, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Add your CANNED beans (if using), coconut milk, rice, salt, black pepper and thyme to the mix. Crush the scallion (do not chop), and add to mixture. Also add the UNCUT scotch bonnet pepper, to give it a subtle peppery flavor.
The rice and peas should be ready after about 40 minutes (exact cooking time will depend on the brand of rice used).