There’s a corner of my mind that is always thinking about eating jerk chicken. Hot from the jerk pan; smokey, spicy, sweet, juicy, crispy, nice and nice. It’s next to the corner of my mind that houses sub-bass soundsystems and good time vibes.
Grilled chicken is the universal language of good food. If you can grill chicken then you’ve got good eats. Yakitori, tandoori, poulet roti, schwarma, gai yang, it’s the original streetfood. Jerk is the Caribbean way of doing it, heavy with the spices and flavours of those Islands. Smoked grilled in converted oil drums called jerk pans over pimento branches to give it a heady aroma. The perfect jerk chicken maybe the global king of all grilled chicken streetfood dishes.
So here’s my recipe. You don’t need a jerk pan, any covered BBQ will do. At a push just roast it in an oven and finish it over hot coals. But you know it won’t be the same. And yes Malibu! Once you’ve had it you won’t go back to ordinary jerk!
Coconut Rum Jerk
Enough for 2-4 chicken legs, depends how big really
50g spring onion mostly whites
15g scotch bonnet chili, deseeded (about one chilli, leave the seeds in if you want hot hot)
35g dark brown sugar
1 lime (1g zest, 25g juice)
20g coconut rum (malibu)
10g soy sauce
- Blend all this together.
- Marinate the chicken overnight. Slash the legs down to the bone to help them cook faster and for flavour penetration.
- Light a jerk pan or BBQ and rake the coals. Plonk a chunk of your favourite smoking wood at the side of the coals or even some coconut husks and place the grill rack so that it’s about 8-10 inches away from the coals, not too close.
- Place the chicken skin side up first and cook directly over the coals. Close the jerk pan but maintain good airflow for about 40mins turning occasionally. It’s not low and slow nor hot and fast. It’s somewhere nicely in the middle.
- It’s done when it’s done, don’t rush it. Make sure the skin is nicely cooked.
- As an optional extra you can replicate the aroma of pimento branches by laying down a bed of dried bay leaves that have been soaking in water. Put them on the grill rack before putting the chicken directly on them. They smoulder and smoke giving out an aroma that might make your neighbours think about calling the police but will trigger that good time corner of your noggin.
Serve with jerk sauce, hot sauce, whatever sauce you like. If it’s good and fresh you don’t really need any sauce on your jerk chicken.