Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa and Creamy Coconut Millet


Now that winter has officially returned to this fine country (-15 C wind chill the last two mornings), I am more determined than ever to set my mind (and body) back to the beautiful Caribbean.

Anyone else feeling like they could use a little tropical inspiration?

Ya Mon.


This was our family's first trip to the beautiful island of Jamaica but certainly not our last.  

You see, although there were many things we got to - daily tennis, ocean kayaking, skin diving, zip-lining, a haunted house tour and an unforgettable afternoon cruising the hip strip (my boys do not appear to be able to sit for more than 6 minutes at any given time) - there was one special destination that we didn't get to.

We didn't make it to Scotchies. What is Scotchies?  If you ask any the locals where to go to get the best jerk chicken in Jamaica, they will point you without hesitation to this unassuming food stand just outside of Montego Bay that serves up the tastiest and most authentic Jamaican jerk chicken on the island.  Now we probably sampled jerk chicken at least four times during our stay but never at the famed Scotchies.  So, in a sense, by not going to Scotchies, I have essentially guaranteed our family's return trip to Jamaica because although we may be new to the island, we are not new to jerk chicken nor our love for it.  

In my prior life as a lawyer, my husband and I would often abscond to the Real Jerk in Toronto to indulge in our favorite signature Jamaican dish and perhaps a Red Stripe (or two).  Sadly, I am told the Real Jerk is no longer in operation (another reason to head to Scotchies!).

I have been playing with this jerk chicken recipe for the last couple of years and I'm quite certain I will continue perfecting my Scotchies grade dish for quite some time. Having said that, our family loves this recipe and if you're looking for flavour, this one is hard to beat.  With a make-ahead marinade that locks in the delicious aromas of the Carribean, this may well become your spring/summer get-away too!


Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa and Creamy Coconut Millet

For the Jerk Chicken:

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions (scallions), stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 scotch bonnet chili peppers, seeded and stemmed* (substitute habanero or 1/4 tsp cayenne powder)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root, substitute 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom 
  • Dash of sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

For the Mango Salsa:
  • 1 lovely ripe mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lime

For the Creamy Coconut Millet
  • 1 cup hulled millet
  • 1 + 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil 
  • 1/4 cup shaved almonds

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The Blue Mountains Dominate the Eastern Third of Jamaica


Notes: Scotch bonnet chili peppers are said to be the classic inclusion in jerk chicken however if you cannot find them, or prefer not to use them, habanero or cayenne pepper are suitable substitutes. You can also skip the heat if you prefer.

*Scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are very hot and their oil can cause extreme pain if it comes into contact with your eyes.  Wearing protective gloves is a good idea when handling these peppers and making this paste.  (If you wear contact lenses, you will know of what I speak!).

Plan to make the marinade for this jerk chicken a day ahead - you can also make the salsa in advance to simplify.

My preferred method of cooking jerk chicken is on the grill.  However, when it is -15 C and hailing outside, pan seared works just fine (!)

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Our boys were in zip-lining heaven


Directions:

Serves 4

For the jerk chicken, place all ingredients except chicken (first 14 ingredients) in a blender or food processor and process until well integrated into a paste-like mixture.

Transfer jerk mixture into a large plastic bag.  

If you are planning on pan-searing the chicken, I recommend you butterfly the chicken or cut it into slightly thinner pieces. 

If you are grilling the chicken, you can open up the breast but not necessarily cut it.

Place chicken (pieces or whole) in the plastic bag with the jerk mixture and massage the mixture into the chicken before sealing the bag and allowing it to marinade in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. (If you can, take the bag out from time to time to massage the chicken - you can do this by simply handling the bag with your fingers). 


    We bought these fabulous bamboo mugs from Ricardo on the hip strip!


For pan searing, place some coconut oil in a cast iron skillet.  Get the skillet nice and hot (coconut oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil) and pan sear the marinated jerk chicken for about 4 minutes on each side (depending on thickness of breast).

For grilling, heat grill to high temperature and then lower just before placing marinated jerk chicken on the grill.  Grill chicken for approximately 6 minutes on each side (depending on thickness of breast).

While chicken is cooking, prepare the millet according to package directions (generally 1 part millet to 1 + 1/2 parts liquid).  Add coconut oil to boiling water or rice cooker.  Once cooked, season with sea salt and pepper and top millet with a sprinkling of almonds and cilantro.

For the mango salsa, simply assemble the ingredients in a bowl or container and mix to combine.  You can make the salsa ahead - it will store nicely in the fridge for up to 24 hours.



When ready to serve, simply plate the chicken and top with a generous portion of salsa. Accompany with coconut millet.



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Black for the people, green for the land, yellow for the sun 
and red for the blood that unites us all



15 comments:

  1. Gorgeous pics! I'm so jealous of your Jamaican vacation, it looks like a great time.

    I love jerk and mangos so this is right up my alley!

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  2. We know a couple from Oklahoma who goes to Jamaica every single year in a family vacation... they love it! I've never been, and even though the weather is getting better here quite quickly (yeah, baby). I am also craving some tropical aura (nope, going to Brazil did not do it, we did not do absolutely anything remotely linked to a tropical vacation.... :-(

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  3. Kelly! I loooove these pictures from your vacation! It sounds amazing...it makes me want to go to Jamaica right now! This dish is soo colourful and beautiful. I would put that fresh salsa on everything.


    I love how you have guaranteed your trip back there ;-) 'Atta girl!


    I also didn't know that little bit about the black, red, green, yellow. Very interesting and nice little quote!


    Also, um....I need a vacation.

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  4. Beautiful Jamaica! I have had enough of winter and can't wait to the summer arrive. Now we still need to have the heater on...:-(
    The jerk chicken and mango salsa are so nicely done and presented.

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  5. Sonia! The Healthy FoodieApril 3, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Is this chicken ever right up my alley! And how about the gorgeous mango salsa! If I could whip this up tonight, I would. I'm pretty sure it would help me forget about that darn winter which doesn't seem to ever want to end! What a joke! Looking at your beautiful pictures of Jamaica had me dreaming of warmer places. I'm sure that your chicken would straight take me there!


    I am so making this! Grill, or no grill! (the thing usually IS out on the deck at this time of year, you see... but this year, it would have to sit right on top of a mountain of snow if I tried to take it out of the shed. I am NOT a happy camper. Boooo winter.)

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  6. Thanks JJ! Love that we both had jerk on the mind (and that it was the right kind - LOL) - very sweet of you to drop in by email this morning - xo

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  7. Koko - you're so sweet - you always leave the most thoughtful comments.


    Whenever I make this salsa, I wonder, why am I not eating this *every single day* - it's that good! So tasty and all the elements work together - the tartness of the lime offsetting the the sweetness of the mango and the crunch of the cucumber playing out against the softness of the fruit...you're right, you could put it on everything!


    Now off you get for a vacation! ;o)

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  8. I hear you Angie - I've had enough of winter too!

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  9. Haha, I know, we keeping getting teased with lovely sunny days - and even occasional mild temps - but old man winter hasn't fully moved on. I hear you about the snow on the deck! Funny though, I love pan searing in coconut oil - the results are still pretty darn good! You will *love* the mango salsa if you give it a try - you may start making it daily!


    Thank you so much for stopping by and bringing a smile - always nice to see you here Sonia!

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  10. Wow, so so jealous of that vacation!! Looks like you and your fam had an amazing time :)

    I love jerk chicken. When i was in college, my school held this huge track and field meet called the Penn Relays. It regularly attracts more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs throughout North America and abroad, notably Jamaica, competing in more than 300 events over five days. I guess for that reason, there were always Jamaican food trucks lined up on the street outside my dorm for the whole week, and I always got their awesome jerk chicken. This post has made me totally crave that and I will totally be making it soon!!

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  11. Oh, that's so cool Amy! Thank you for sharing your story - I can't wait to show my eldest who not only loves sports but has quiet dreams of attending an 'American college' one day. The grass is always greener, right? xo

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  12. What better reason to head back to Jamaica than food? Well, maybe the weather too. I am so sorry you are still experiencing winter temperatures; we have finally warming up today to +10°C but until the trees are green with leaves, I'm not putting away my winter wear (no matter how tired I get of the chill!)

    This recipe sounds incredibly tasty Kelly. I love heat with a little sweet, it's such a nice combo; and the fresh fruit salsa is perfect for texture and flavour. The chicken looks fantastic, loving the charred bits, even the photo is exuding pure delicious flavour!

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos, it looks like you had a magical time (loving the symbolism of that necklace too).

    We bought a few things when we visited about 20 years ago, but I have to say we did not have a great retail experience finding the merchants extremely pushy and aggressive, particularly in the markets — one merchant actually grabbed my arm to pull me back into their open stall, it was worrisome. It turned us off enough not to want to go back — I'm hoping things have calmed down a bit since then.
    http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

    http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

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  13. Oh how I do love a good jerk sauce! I've never made it myself. I usually buy Walkerwood jerk sauce because it's so good and it's already made. :) However, as we both know - there is nothing better than homemade. I love all of the ingredients in your jerk - something that I can smell by just looking at the list. A fabulous meal here with the jerk and that delicious mango sauce! Thanks for sharing pictures of your trip! Looks like fun.

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  14. Your photos are fabulous Kelly! It's making me carve the beach. We actually talked about going to Jamaica later this year. I know we'll for sure be doing an island thing...just not sure which one yet. :) This chicken looks outstanding. The color on that is incredibly appetizing. My sister gave me a packet of jerk mix that I have yet to use. I need to get on that now for sure. :)

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  15. What a great trip. Too bad you didn't get to try the authentic Scotchies but I love this recipe. It looks pretty darn authentic to me.

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