Jerk is a style of cooking originally from Jamaica, but it is popular all over the Caribbean. Jerk seasoning, or Jamaican jerk season, is a dry or wet seasoning, typically a blend of chile peppers, garlic, onions, spices (allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper) and herbs, like thyme. Traditionally, jerk meat is marinated in spices and slow-cooked on green pimiento wood over hot coals. My version is inspired by a family trip to Grand Cayman Island, where I was able to learn from one of the masters, Chef Luigi Moacsin. It takes inspiration from the original, but can be made on a standard outdoor grill or a grill pan indoors.
In a food processor, place the seasoning and Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic and scallions and process until chunky. Add the ground allspice, brown sugar, thyme, allspice berries, cinnamon and nutmeg, then process. Add the juice, olive oil, soy sauce, black pepper and 1 tablespoon salt and process until a thick paste is formed, clingy enough to stick to the back of a spoon. (If it’s too thick, thin with more soy sauce.)
Scrape half of the paste into a large shallow dish with a lid. Add the chicken and top with the remaining paste. Spread the paste, making sure each piece of chicken gets a little attention. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight, up to 24 hours.
Prepare the grill with one hot and one unheated side. This works best on a charcoal grill or a gas grill with one burner turned off.
Oil the grill grates liberally with the vegetable oil. Place the chicken skin-side up on the cool side of the grill and close the lid.
Grill, rotating the pieces every 10 minutes to ensure even exposure to the hot side of the grill, until the breasts register 165 degrees F and the thighs register 170 degrees F, 40 to 45 minutes for the breasts and 30 to 35 minutes for the thighs. Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill, flip it skin-side down, and grill until the skin is charred and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve immediately with some good ol’ white bread (or classic hard dough bread, if you can find it!) from the bag and ketchup to dunk it.
If cooking indoors, heat a double-burner cast-iron grill pan on low heat. Add the chicken to the grill pan and cover with a large inverted metal bowl. Crank up the grill before flipping to get the skin charred and crispy.
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