It’s been a heavy week with all the feedback from the show, so I thought I’d take a little break from Sri Lanka and head down to another one of my favorite Islands–Jamaica–for a little inspiration. I LOVE Jamaican food, too, because Yardies love their spices and they know what to do with them. Anyone whose had “Jerk,” a Jamaican form of barbeque, knows what I’m talking about. Jerk is actually a combination of spices in the form of a dry rub or a paste that you marinate meat in before grilling. Like Sri Lankan curry powder, there are probably as many recipes for Jerk as there are cooks making it. But one jerk mix that I have been loyal to for years is Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning.
I love it because if you re feeling lazy one night and you’re kind of in a hurry to get something hot and spicy in the oven, you can break out a jar of Walkerswood, smother some of its goodness on chicken or pork chops, and in less than an hour, you’re going to be eating well. (And feeling it as it burns your lips!). In fact, I did this just the other night, snickering fiendishly to myself about this fantastic secret I kept just inside my refrigerator door. But why be selfish, I thought. Share the wealth. Maybe Walkerswood will give you an endorsement deal. And I wouldn’t want the money, just a lifetime supply of Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. Made with only natural ingredients–scallions, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, citric acid, sugar, thyme.
Here’s what you do:
1) Get a pack of chicken thighs. Wash and dry thoroughly. Leave the skin on if you like or remove it if you don’t like. If they are big thighs, break out your handy meat cleaver and chop them in half. (In Jamaica, they usually hack up the chicken after its cooked, but there’s no rules to this).
2) Drizzle a little vegetable oil over the chicken parts and work it all in with your hands. Put a couple dollops of jerk seasoning on the chicken and work that in too. This seasoning is spicy, so be careful how much you use. Also, since there are Scotch bonnets or habaneros (a.k.a. the hottest peppers on the planet) involved, please wash your hands well afterwards and avoid any contact with your eyes. Set this aside to marinate for about 30 minutes.
3) Since it’s still not warm enough outside to grill, I used the grill in my oven to cook the chicken. Once the pieces get a nice crispy and browned appearance flip ’em. One time will do. Depending on the size of your chicken pieces, about 15-20 minutes a side should work. They should come out looking something like this.
I usually finish it with a squirt of fresh limejuice and accompany it with a cold beer, preferably a Red Stripe.
You can also jerk pork, fish, burgers and veggies, but chicken is my personal favorite. And if you don’t have a Caribbean grocer near you the bottle lists both a website and an 800 number:
Tell ’em Skiz sent ya! (And maybe I will get that endorsement deal)