For takeout at a roadside jerk stand, servings of this slow-cooked fast food come cleverly wrapped and placed in a white rectangular cardboard cake (charlotte) box. Spoon on some hot sauce, clamp down the lid, grab a napkin and you're ready to roll. Chop the meat before serving, bone and all, since half the fun is picking through the rubble for the prized meat. You can use whole chickens or chicken thighs to prepare this recipe, but the thighs are quicker and easier. Serve this dish with festival, a sweet cornmeal bread from Jamaica. From the book "Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen," by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Wiley).
- 5 bunches whole scallions, finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 Scotch bonnet peppers (any color), seeded and minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
- 1/4 cup ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1 cup water
- 5 pounds chicken thighs or 2 small whole chickens, cut into quarters (see note)
- Combine all of the ingredients except the water and chicken in a large bowl. Mix well and add the water to form a loose paste.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for a later use. Marinate the chicken in the remaining sauce for at least 1 hour or as long as 24 hours (the longer, the better). Turn the meat several times, mixing the sauce.
- Prepare an outdoor barbecue using plenty of coals. Meanwhile, soak small sticks or hardwood chips in water (mesquite conflicts with jerk’s own flavor). When the coals have become gray and well ashed over, add the soaked wood to the fire.
- Place the chicken on the grill and cover, leaving the vent holes open. Barbecue slowly –1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the pieces. Check the fire after 30 minutes, adding coal or wood as needed and being careful not to flame the fire. Baste every 30 minutes with the marinade. Turn the chicken several times as it cooks. The chicken is done when it is firm to the touch and slightly charred.
- Remove the chicken from the fire and let it sit on a cutting board for 15 minutes. If you have a sharp cleaver, chop the meat into small pieces (bone and all); otherwise, leave each piece whole. Serve on a large platter doused with the reserved jerk sauce.
For boneless chicken thighs (breasts tend to dry out), use the same preparation, but change the barbecue time to 30 or 40 minutes. Cut into large bite-size pieces.