Last week, my co-workers and I were discussing the perfect thing to grill for Columbus Day. There was no real consensus, with the discussion flowing from all-American to Italian to Spanish, and then someone said, "He didn't even land in America, so you could even go West Indian with this."
That last one got me, and whether or not it represented the holiday, I was fixed on having one thing: Jerk chicken.
There's no better marriage between my love of grilling and my love of spicy foods then Jerk chicken. The recipe starts with 5 habanero chiles, which gives it great kick while still allowing the other prominent flavors (like allspice and thyme) to come through. Since the Jerk marinade will burn over the fire before the chicken finishes cooking, I built a two-zone fire and grilled these directly over the charcoal until browned, then moved them to the cool side and covered until cooked through. The wonderfully spiced and juicy chicken that came off the grill may not arouse any Columbus Day patriotism, but it will provide a nice escape for the three-day weekend.
- For the Marinade
- 4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 scallions, roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 chickens, quartered
Place all the marinade ingredients into the workbowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
Place the chicken quarters into 2 large Ziploc bags and pour 1/2 of the marinade into each bag. Seal bags, pressing out as much air as possible and refrigerate overnight to 24 hours.
Remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while starting the fire. Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. When charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. Scrub and oil the cooking grate.
Place chicken pieces on the hot side of the grill and cook until well browned on all sides, about 3-5 minutes. Move chicken to the cool side of the grill and cover. Continue to cook until chicken is cooked through, another 20-30 minutes. Remove from grill, allow to cool for 5 minutes, and serve.