Monday, September 19, 2011

#154 Off to the Islands-Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Mango-Habanero Sauce

Oh  to be on an Island beach lounging on the warm sands with miles and miles of crystal blue sea to gaze at!!  Swimming into the waves with warm water tickling your toes and then drifting off into a nap slathered with sunblock on a beach chair. Waking up to one of those exotic drinks served with a tiny umbrella hanging out of it and washing away the remaining tension in my neck and shoulder with the soothing sun on my back and the sound of the Island rhythms playing in the background. What could be more appetizing than walking over Jamaican sands to a little Shack and biting into a piece of Jerk chicken, rice and plantains and washing it down with a Rum punch??  Jamaican food can be varied and full of flavor and I am a great fan of those flavors!

When we think Jamaican 'jerk' awlays comes to mind at first. However, not all the meats are 'jerked' all the time there may be stews and curries on most menus. The locals love curried goat, seafood, oxtail, tropical fruit, rice, beans and bread. Their ancestors being from Europe, Africa and Asia the diverse food is also reflective of all of those flavors.

There is no way for me to fly to Jamaica right now(just returned from an expensive Hawaiin vacation so I have to stay put for a long time), so what better way to bring home the islands to my kitchen than with a few simple ingredients. 

One of our favorite flavors is Jerk chicken or shrimp. What with the readily available rubs, sauces and marinades found in most stores in the US, I can always pick one with the level of heat suitable to my taste. The varying sauces and rubs that come to mind are all so scrumptious, how can I pick one over the other? It is a daunting task!

Prior to this, I've been using Lawry's Jerk Marinade when I had a taste for Jamaican, but this time I put together a wonderful Jerk Rub with a few twists of my own. It turned out so good that I have made up my mind never to go back to a bottled Marinade again!! This Carribean influenced dinner is kicked up with  Scotch Bonnet Peppers and fresh thyme leaves. The key ingredient is the Jamaican seasoning blend called 'allspice', which is the fruit of the pimiento tree and an important spice in Jerk.

As I built up my Island meal,  a hot and spicy Mango sauce called out to me -one that would go wonderfully with these spices. The seasoning rubbed all over the chicken and slow cooked to perfection the chicken was brightly charred although moist and juicy inside. A salsa made from scotch bonnet chili with any Tropical fruit like mango or pineapple would normally balance out the spiciness of jerk seasoning and blend well with the tender morsels of this beautiful chicken. But, I came across this beautiful sauce in which Bobby Flay uses the scotch bonnet again creating a true 'Bobby Flay' style Mango sauce.  I had to substitute the salsa for this thick and luscious sauce.  I re-created the mango sauce to pair with my Jerk chicken.  A side of roasted ripe plantains and stewed swiss chard made an authentic Jamaican meal right here at home, without having to take a cruise all the way to the tropical Jamaican islands.

4 tbsp ground allspice
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tblspn cinnamon powder
1 tspn ground cloves.
1 tspn nutmeg powder
1/4 cup chile powder
2 tsp salt
1 crushed scotch bonnet pepper(seeds removed)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Apple Cider Vinegar- 1/4 cup
Olive Oil- 3 Tblspns

4 large chicken breasts with bone
Sliced fresh mango
Homemade Mango Habanero Sauce, recipe follows
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Place all the spices in the bowl of a blender or food processor and process until well blended. Remove the skin of the chicken, wash and dry the whole breast. Slash the breast with three gashes crosswise.
Rub the gashes or fill them with the rub and let rest for 30 minutes or even overnight. The amount of rub used and the time for marination will determine the heat and flavor of the chicken.
Heat the grill to medium heat  and grill the thighs, skin side down for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn the chicken, close the cover of the grill and move the chicken to the side (or cooler part) of the grill. Continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes or until completely cooked through.
I used the oven and turned the roast settings and roasted the chicken for about 30 mins and then turned over to Broil it for a few minutes to crisp the top.
Remove to a platter and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve with pan fried ripe plantains and stewed swiss chard accompanied with the Mango-Habanero Hot Sauce. Sprinkle chopped cilantro for color.

Homemade Mango-Habanero Sauce:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 habanero, chopped
1 cup white wine vinegar

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, mangoes, habanero and vinegar and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Place the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a few tablespoons of warm water or vinegar. Season with salt.


  1. for a few moments I actually thought that u r describing ur hols in jamaica- loved the write up gal and it looks like u had a knockout vacation in Hawaii; I really am unable to comment abt this dish though

  2. I love the idea of making my own jerk marinade and sauce. This looks fantastic!

  3. Lovely write up. The Jerk marinade is very interesting and your pics and write up makes me want to try them for sure :)

  4. lovely post and delicious looking chicken. thank you for visiting my blog and your comment.

  5. I love jerk chicken, this is a really nice recipe, love that marinade.
    Thank You.

  6. Jerk chicken is fabulous. It was our first dish when we honeymooned in Jamaica. i love it and make it for every anniversary dinner! Love your recipe, slightly different than mine so may make yours next year!


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