Jamaican Jerk Chicken is a wonderful thing, a beautiful thing, and an absolutely delicious thing. The recipe originated in Jamaica (duh) during the time of colonial rule when slavery was a part of the islands history.
The method of cooking is said to have originated under the colonial rule, first of the Spanish and then of the British, in the 1600s. Groups of African slaves that had been brought to Jamaica to work its sugar plantations escaped to the mountainous interior of the island, where the native Indian population also sought refuge from the colonizers. These escaped slaves, today referred to as Maroons, are said to have hunted the wild boar common to the region, then preserved it for days in a spice-heavy marinade. When it came time to cook the meat, the Maroons dug holes in the ground, filled them with charcoal, and buried the meat in the holes, which they then covered so as not to produce smoke and attract the attention of those that would bring them back into slavery. – Lauren Rothman (seriouseats.com)
From this past comes the Jerk Chicken you can find on the island today! To be fair, the stuff you get on the island is nothing like the stuff you’ll get here in the states. In Jamaica they’re going to cook that bird on green wood from the pimento tree, literally on the wood, with roaring hot coals underneath. This is where the smokey goodness comes from. I suppose you could find some pimento wood somewhere in the states and recreate the method, but let’s be real, who really wants to go to all that trouble? I just want to eat that delicious chicken without having to source special wood to cook it on. Jerk Chicken can be made in the oven, on the stove top, on the grill, wherever you see fit to get your spicy chicken on. I prefer a cast-iron skillet in the winter and a grill in the summer but to each their own. At the fitness retreat, Chef Alex prepares it on the grill.
The base spices for Jerk Chicken are Allspice Berries, Thyme, Scallions or Green Onions, and Ginger, what you do with it from there is up to you. That is the best part about Jerk Chicken you can leave out the sugar, skip the soy sauce and add some cinnamon or nutmeg and still pack in a ton of flavor without ruining your meal with a ton of extra fat, sugar, and salt. Some folks like to marinate their chicken for 12-24 hours but it is perfectly fine to marinate it for just a couple of hours if you’re wanting to eat tonight not tomorrow.
Not every one has the time to source pimento wood, source spices, and then marinate their dinner for half a day or more. Totally understand if you want a recipe that you can cook at home, in the kitchen without having to find Scotch Bonnets, Allspice Berries, and other ingredients native to Jamaica!
So, here is a recipe straight from our fitness camp that you can do from home with little time or effort and still get that delicious spicy flavor of Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Maybe next summer, if you come across some pimento wood, you can try it outside on the grill!
Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
-from our own Chef Alex at Unite Fitness Retreat
2 Chicken Thighs<—Save yourself some time and buy them boneless and skinless
1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk Seasonings<—-You can get this almost anywhere, find a blend you really like! Just watch out for how much sugar or salt they’re throwing in.
2 Navel Oranges
1/2 cup white wine <—-ALWAYS cook with wine you would be willing to drink, bad wine does not get better as you cook it.
1 Yellow Squash
6 Asparagus Spears
10 Baby Carrots
- First start with the two oranges, get all the juice out of them. You can nuke them for a few seconds to release the juices, then roll them under your palm for a bit, after that cut them in half and squeeze the heck out of them!
- Grab the chicken thighs and get the skin and all the extra fat off (This is where prepackaged boneless skinless thighs come in!)
- In a bowl, mix half of the seasoning and half of the orange juice and mix well, add the chicken thighs and let marinate in the fridge for 2 – 4 hours
- Cook the carrots in water until almost done, not too tender we want them to be just al dente and not mush, cool and set aside in the fridge
- Cut the squash in 3/4 inch pieces and break the asparagus with your hand by bending, asparagus should break naturally at the tender lower portion
- Mix the remainder of the seasoning, the wine, and the orange juice together and set aside
- Once the chicken is done marinating, drain the marinade (Don’t save this, it has had raw chicken in it!) and put in an oven safe pan and pour the seasoning/wine/OJ mixture over the top then throw that pan in the oven uncovered at 350 F for 20 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and meat thermometer reads 165 F. Take the chicken out of the oven, put in another dish to the side and cover. Leave that oven on and keep that pan ready for the next step though!
- Add the vegetables to the pan the chicken WAS in and cook for 10 – 15 minutes at 350 F
- during the last minutes add the chicken back to the pan with the vegetables to bring it back up to temperature.
- Once ready, pull out of the oven, let sit for 5 minutes and serve
- The dish can be served with a side of wild black rice or quinoa
- The pan juice can be reserved for the next day to cook quinoa with the infused flavors. Never keep your marinade and always find a way to use the deliciousness of pan juice. Just be sure and skim off some of that extra fat from the top! The flavors will stick around even without the fat.