Jamaica In My Kitchen

 

 

 

I fell in love with the Caribbean long before visiting. In my teens I started dreaming about owning a business in a Caribbean place that was mysterious and unreachable to me. In my 30’s that dream became reality when my husband and I bought a business in Aruba. Aruba didn’t feel like the real Caribbean to me. Since tourism is its main source of income, it caters for tourists and I may as well have been in America.

Then I met the real Caribbean when I set foot on the sleepy island of Antigua. I took a day to sail around it in order to experience its full, unspoiled beauty. Here I was introduced to the ital way of eating. Ital is Caribbean talk for vital and it is indeed a vital part of rastafari cooking. A true rastafarian is pure in his way of life, is vegetarian and implements a peaceful philosophy in every way of life. The first branch was started in Jamaica in 1935 by Leonard P. Howell who preached the divinity of Haile Selassie. He explained that all blacks would eventually gain the superiority over whites that had always been intended for them.

I myself am not a great lover of doctrine, but I certainly love the healthy, pure philosophy behind Jamaican food and last night I decided to bring Jamaica into my Texan kitchen. I did not regret it. We were transported to the island immediately and even though I’ve never been to Jamaica, the wonderful flavors took us there for a few hours and I could have sworn that I heard the ocean and palm trees swaying in the evening breeze.

The dinner was simple. It consisted of rice and peas, ital curry (vegetable only) and jerk chicken. I carefully mixed the spice for the curry myself to ensure that the Caribbean curry taste is authentic. I made the jerk marinade from scratch and marinated the chicken for 24 hours. The recipe that follows calls for the chicken to be cooked on the grill outside, but since it is winter with a rather chilly breeze blowing, I decided to slow roast it in the oven for 3 hours. It was the right decision. I basted it with the left over marinade every 30 minutes and the flavors collided beautifully. The meat was fall of the bone tender and I doubt I will ever cook chicken on the bone any other way. Since I’m slightly wary of the Scotch Bonnet (Habanero) heat, I substituted with jalapeno and the heat level was just perfect.

I hope that you will enjoy the below Jerk Chicken recipe as much as I did.

Jerk Chicken

1 small onion quartered

3 green onions, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves

3 small Scotch bonnet peppers (habaneros) coarsely chopped. (I used 1 1/2 jalapenos)

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp orange juice

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)

2 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

6 chicken drumsticks

Cooking spray

Method

Combine all ingredients except chicken and cooking spray in blender. Process until smooth. Place chicken in a large zip top plastic freezer bag. Pour marinade over chicken and seal bag. Refrigerate for 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Light one side of grill, heating to high heat. Leave other side unlit. Remove chicken from marinade, allowing some of the marinade to remain on the chicken. Discard remaining marinade. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray over unlit side of grill. Grill 45 minutes or until done, turning after 25 minutes. Let chicken rest 5 minutes. Serve with rice and peas and ital veggie curry. Makes 3 servings.

If you’d like to use my cooking method:

Preheat oven to convection roast 250 degrees F. Place drumsticks on parchment paper on roasting pan. Roast for 3 hours or until fully cooked, turning every 30 minutes, basting every time you turn the chicken with the remainder of the marinade. I checked for doneness every 30 minutes as my oven is very powerful. Cooking times may vary with various oven strengths.

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