By Chad Sparrow
For many people, the highlight of summer is vacation, the pool, baseball games or sunshine. For me, the best thing about summer is the food – although the beach is a close second.
Each summer, I look forward to fresh produce, farmers’ markets, local seafood and, of course, crab feasts. But one of my favorite summer dishes is jerk chicken.
My go-to recipe for jerk chicken originated in Boston Beach, Jamaica – where “jerk shacks” serve up chicken, pork and seafood along the ocean. While most jerk chicken recipes call for dried jerk seasoning, this one features a fresh marinade.
This jerk rub can be used in many different ways. Put it on any meat or seafood and you can’t go wrong. We use it for jerk fish tacos at Mason Social and a jerk chicken wrap at Catch on the Ave. I have also made it into an aioli with fresh papaya or mango for added sweetness. You can tone down the heat by using fewer Scotch Bonnet peppers than the recipe calls for, or, if you’re obsessed with spice like me, turn it up by adding some more.
The key to amazing jerk chicken is using bone in, skin-on chicken and cooking it low and slow in the jerk rub. After cooking the chicken in the oven, I finish it on the grill with more marinade to achieve a charred flavor.
Boston Beach jerk chicken is amazing served with rice and peas seasoned with thyme, garlic and scallions, plus fried plantains. If you want to add some freshness or cut the spice, you can make a quick mango relish by combining fresh mangos, red onion, parsley, lime juice, honey and salt.
Boston Beach jerk chicken
1 whole chicken, split into quarters
1 ½ cups of Boston Beach jerk rub
Boston Beach jerk rub
½ cup fresh thyme leaves
15 scallions, cut in quarters
¼ cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers, stemmed
¼ cup vegetable oil
8 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
4 whole bay leaves
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lime
1. For the rub, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a thick paste. You can store this for up to a month in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
2. Season the chicken with coarse salt and coat aggressively with rub.
3. Cook, covered, in oven at 275 degrees for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Remove and let cool.
4. Add more jerk marinade and grill on high heat until charred.
Chad Sparrow is managing partner of Common Plate Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns Mason Social, Urbano 116, Catch on the Ave and soon-to-reopen Augie’s Mussel Bar and Beer Garden.