Jamaica and its people have contributed innumerable things to global culture over the centuries. There are the reggae and ska genres, of course, and sugar, rum, and coffee too. Bauxite is one of the country’s biggest exports, and while we don’t know what exactly it’s used for, it sounds pretty important. On the culinary side, Jamaicans have contributed jerk spice and jerk cooking, the spicy, sweet style that we know and love.
Jerk cooking was developed by African slaves that escaped when the British took over Jamaica in the mid-to-late-1600s. They used what was available to them in the deep jungles, cooking meat slowly over a smoking fire.
The word itself (for those who might think that the person who invented the style was just a dick) comes from a Spanish, charqui, which was adopted from the Quechua word for dried meat. The term is also where we get jerky in English. However, others argue that the term comes from the act of poking holes in the meat to let the flavors get deeper into what was being cooked.
Both are great origins, but really, when it comes down to it, we’d be happy calling it anything as long as it’s delicious (and it is). That is why we had to figure out how to make delicious jerk chicken at home. To do that, we went to the source of some of the best — if not the best — jerk chicken in New York City.
The following recipe comes to us from Miss Lily’s, which has two spots in New York as well an outpost in Dubai. In addition to delicious Caribbean fare, Miss Lily’s East Village 7A has a rum collection with over 150 bottles. (Read: Go there the next time you’re in New York.)
If you’re not headed to the Big Apple anytime soon, bide your time by making this amazing jerk chicken. You won’t be disappointed.
Miss Lily’s Jerk Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, split into two halves
- 8 cups chicken brine*
- .5 cup jerk marinade**
- 2 cups jerk barbecue sauce***
- Oil, for oiling grill grates
- Latex or vinyl gloves
- Place the chicken in a large bowl or baking dish and pour the brine over it, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Rinse the chicken well. Wearing latex or vinyl gloves (Scotch bonnet chiles can remain on the skin for 24 hours!), rub the jerk marinade all over the chicken.
- Place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Preheat a grill for cooking over indirect medium heat. Lightly oil the grill grates, then place the chicken skin-side down over indirect heat.
- Grill, uncovered, turning the chicken every 5 to 6 minutes until the juices run clear when the thighs are pricked with a fork, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to distribute equally.
- Cut the chicken into quarters, separating the leg portions from the breast portions, and serve with jerk barbecue sauce.
- .5 cup kosher salt
- .25 cup light brown sugar
- Stir the salt and light brown sugar into 8 cups water in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to ensure that the salt and sugar completely dissolve.
- Let cool to 38 degrees Fahrenheit before using.
- .5 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 20 whole allspice berries
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems and stems discarded
- 2 bunches green onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Scotch bonnet chiles
- 1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- Put the soy sauce, oil, salt, allspice, thyme, green onions, garlic, chiles, ginger, and onion in a food processor and puree until a smooth paste is formed, adding more oil if necessary. Set aside.
Jerk Barbecue Sauce
- .5 cup tomato paste
- .5 cup jerk marinade
- .25 cup molasses
- .25 cup white vinegar
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp dry mustard powder
- 2 tsp tamarind puree
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- .5 tsp ground black pepper
- .5 tsp liquid smoke
- .5 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Juice of 1 lime
- In a nonreactive heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the tomato paste and 2 cups water and heat slowly, stirring, until well incorporated.
- Add in the Jerk Marinade, molasses, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard powder, tamarind, celery salt, cumin, pepper, liquid smoke, thyme, and lime juice.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened and reached the desired consistency.
- Remove from the heat and let cool.
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