So if you’re keeping track… it’s definitely not Caribbean Food Week anymore. But sometimes memory cards go on different vacations from you, and you only see them again after they’ve done a road trip through Europe. Either way, do you really need an excuse to make some succulent, spiced baked chicken? I’d like to think not.
Jerk chicken is what you make of it, and as long as you’ve got the basics and time to marinade, you can tweak it as you please. Just make sure you have some citrus, some (all)spice, and some saltiness. By the way – allspice goes by a few other names, including pimento. If you have a spice mix that includes pimento, you are in the right place. Don’t worry, it won’t make your chicken taste like pumpkin pie or Christmas pudding.
Technically, to get the closest to real Jamaican jerk chicken, you’d need to slowly smoke it over pimento wood. But if you’re like me and live in an apartment, or don’t have the resource to slow smoke, you can bake it and still have some really good chicken.
So there’s one more thing I need to tell you about. I got the spices I used from Grace Foods, who gave me the chance to play around a bit with some Caribbean flavors. I used their hot curry spice and ginger pimento in this recipe. You can find their products in British supermarkets, particularly in the international food section. (Plus… they’re usually more affordable than even the store brands, with just as much, and often even more quality.)
On the Counter
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
½ tbsp ginger pimento spice
½ tbsp hot curry spice
¼ tbsp ground nutmeg
1 green or spring onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 tsp table salt or 2 tsp kosher salt
2 (or 4 if you like it really spicy) scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped
juice of ½ lime
One 1 kg/2.2 lb free range chicken, cut into eighths, skin-on, OR 4 skin on drumsticks and 4 skin on thighs, OR 12 wings, OR any mix you want!
What to Do
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. If you don’t feel like chopping up the ingredients, you can chop coarsely and put everything into a food processor until it’s combined and as close to a paste as you can get. There might still be some bits, which is ok.
Coat the chicken outside and under the skin. Getting it under the skin is important so that your actual chicken tastes great, and not just the skin. Cut through the skin to make some pockets, if you need to.
Put all the chicken pieces into a big zip-top bag, and let it marinade for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, and ideally for 8 hours if you can. You can make the marinade the night before and get the chicken ready in the morning for night-time cooking.
When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 200C/395F. Rub a little bit of oil on the inside of a roasting tray or baking dish that’s big enough for all the chicken to be in one layer. Get the chicken out of its bag and into the roasting tray.
Bake the chicken, uncovered, for 25-35 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the temperature inside is 74C/165F. The time difference depends on the size of the pieces you use – wings and boneless breast pieces will take less time, while thighs and bone-in breast will take the longest.
Serve it up with some coconut rice and beans and garlicky sautéed spinach for a full on Caribbean-inspired feast.