Combine incendiary spices and the backyard grill, and you have the fixings for jerk. Jerk is more than a single recipe, though. It’s a way of cooking borrowed from Jamaica that enhances simple cuts of pork, beef or chicken.
To make a dish jerk-style, prepare a paste of spices, slather it over the food you’re cooking, let it marinate and then grill.
Jerk dishes, often using habanero or scotch bonnet chilies, are notorious for their heat. But mixing these fiery chilies with aromatic spices such as allspice, cloves or cinnamon tames a bit of the bite.
If you’re brave, serve jerk chicken or jerk pork chops straight. If you prefer to preserve your taste buds, mix jerk foods with milder ingredients. For example, serve jerk chicken in a sandwich with sliced tomatoes and lettuce, or mix jerk chicken with spinach and bell peppers in an entree salad.
The following chicken recipe, which has been adapted to readily available seasonings, will work for either a salad or a sandwich. If you’re heating the grill, you may want to double the recipe so there are leftovers for both options.
Jerk chicken salad
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Jerk seasoning (recipe follows)
Oil for greasing grill
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper
Dressing (recipe follows)
Place chicken breast between two sheets of waxed paper; pound it to ½-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with lemon juice. Spread jerk seasoning on a dinner plate, and press chicken into seasoning to coat both sides. Set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours for flavors to penetrate.
Place chicken on greased grid of preheated grill. Grill 6 to 10 minutes on first side; turn over and grill 4 minutes on second side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from grill. Cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside until warm, not piping hot.
Combine chicken, spinach, scallion and bell pepper in a salad bowl. Add dressing just before serving. Toss and serve. Makes 2 servings.
Note: To prepare chicken indoors, place on greased grill pan with ridges. Cook over medium-high heat for 6 to 10 minutes on first side and 4 to 6 minutes on second side.
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 or 3 dashes of cayenne pepper or to taste
Combine allspice, cinnamon, garlic salt, salt, pepper and cayenne in a cup, and mix well.
4 teaspoons canola oil
5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (see note)
Salt and pepper
Combine oil, vinegar, honey and chili powder in a cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: If chipotle chili powder isn’t available, substitute a dash of cayenne pepper.
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