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Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa and Creamy Coconut Millet

Posted Apr 03 2013 7:13am

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

~~~~~

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 (!)

~~~~~


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.



~~~~~~

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


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