Jerk Chicken

laminated dough day!! (Me and the Galley Crew at GITMO.  I miss these guys!)

This weekend I attended the 2nd Annual Hot Sauce Festival in Long Beach, CA.  My mouth is still tingling.  I wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be way more fun than I thought it would be.  There is something about talking to artists (culinary or otherwise) who really care about their work.  So much hot sauce passion!  And, I am embarrassed to say that, until this festival, I never really thought of sauce makers as chefs.  That was wrong, and I apologize.  These people know their culinary shit.

I have chile experience, but it has always been hard sell in the general dining scene.  You can’t force people to be hotsy-totsy.  But if they know to expect it, a couple of spiced up recipes on a menu can be fun.  The most recognizable of the super-hot dishes is Jerk.

Jerk is a seasoning blend that originated in Jamaica. Recipes vary, but they always contain chiles, thyme, and allspice. This recipe is baked, but it can easily be grilled. Heat the grill on high, then reduce it to low when the chicken goes on. Cook the chicken slowly, with the lid down if possible, to be sure it’s cooked through, but doesn’t burn.

This recipe calls for the traditional scotch bonnet chile, which is one of the hottest there is. At the Hot Sauce Festival this weekend I learned that the trending hot chile these days is the Carolina Reaper.  I am not about heat index, preferring to actually taste food, as apposed to just feeling it.  But I know there are those of you that enjoy the pain.  (Don’t get me wrong…I am NOT a chile wuss.  I simply do not feel the need to search out the highest Scoville pepper there is.)  Use  the Reaper if you want,  or any other chile you have on hand.  These hot chiles are, of course, optional. You can leave it out entirely, or reduce the heat index by substituting a humble jalapeño.  It is still a great recipe, even if you just use a bell pepper.

I got this recipe from a Jamaican friend I met a few years ago when I was training Navy cooks at US Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. One might expect I was inundated with Cuban food, but alas, there was none to be found. There was, however, plenty of Jamaican food. (Most of the foreign national non-military workers I met during that trip came from Jamaica.) I had my fair share of Jerk, and so I thought I would share the joy.

jerk chi


1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TB. honey
1 TB. ground allspice
1 TB. dried thyme
1 TB. cayenne pepper
1 TB. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 scotch bonnet chile, minced
1 (3-4 lb.) chicken, cut into serving pieces (or goat…if you can get it)


  1. In a large bowl combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, scallions, and garlic, sugar, allspice, thyme, cayenne and black pepper, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, and chile. Mix well. Add the chicken, and coat well. Be sure chicken is submerged in marinade. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray. Drain chicken from marinade, spread out onto a baking sheet, and roast 30-45 minutes, until skin is crispy and meat is cooked through. Serve with steamed rice and stir fried vegetables.


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