I’m dreaming of jerk chicken right now. After spending 5 great days on the island of Jamaica on a press trip learning about the sites and sounds of Jamaica, I learned a thing or two about their food. It’s spicy, soulful and delicious.
Having the chance to ‘eat where the locals eat’ was one of the best parts of the trip with the Jamaican Tourist Board. Our first restaurant stop was at a local joint called Scotchies. Home of both locals and in-the-know tourists, it was an experience. When we walked in it smelled delicious. The jerk pit was smoking and full of chicken and pork laid out cooking under the sheets of metal.
The Scotch Bonnet featured on the logo is the first sign – this is a place that specialises in Jerk. Jerk = spicy. My previous experiences with ‘jerk’ has been limited so I loved being able to try jerk chicken, jerk pork and steamed fish all in an authentic locale.
With basic signage chalked at the take-out sign, you know this is a busy place. And a busy place generally means a delicious place. Scotchies is an open air restaurant with a great bar set-up (perfect for Red Stripe thirst quenching) and the tables had the best leather topped stools made out of beer kegs.
It’s a very relaxed place. Plastic cutlery and plastic plates, even for the diners who stay. Food comes wrapped in foil so each package is like an unknown gift – is it chicken or fish? Sweet potato or bammy? Every foil packet boasted an awesome aroma of homecooked Jamaican Jerk. We ordered a bunch of everything and then dug in with our hands to try a bit of everything.
Jerk is a style of cooking (usually slow cooking) where meat is dryrubbed or marinated in a selection of spices. The main spices in Jamaican Jerk seasoning is all-spice (pimento to Jamaicans) and Scotch Bonnet Peppers (ohh! Spicy peppers!).
In Canada we “spicy”. In Jamaica they say “flavour”. The more flavour the better. As I chowed down with the ‘seasoning’ mantra in my mind I realised, that’s exactly what it is – seasoned. My mouth was not burning like I thought it might. Instead I tasted moist chicken with its distinctive jerk flavour. Now back home, I’m carving for a visit to Scotchies.
At Scotchies the BBQ pit was out in the open and amazing to watch. Meat is cooked over open flame, on top of a row of wood posts (which are changed for every BBQ session). In order to keep it moist, the meat is covered by huge planks of metal to help steam and smoke the meat.
If the chilly fall weather has gotten to you and you’re already dreaming of summer, try serving Jerk Chicken for dinner. You don’t need a Jerk pit but just an oven to roast this chicken. Turn on some reggae music and bring on the island feelings!
Thanks to the Tourism Board of Jamaica for the authentic recipe below.
Drunken Jerk Chicken
1 Whole Chicken cleaned
1 medium size Onion
3 stalks Scallions
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper
1 Sprig Fresh Ginger
12 Pimento Seeds
3 cloves garlic or 3 oz Garlic Powder
(The above seasoning can be substituted by using 4 tbsp of a store-bought jerk sauce, like Walkerwsood, Grace Foods)
2 tbs Salt
1 can of your favorite Beer
4 Tbsp Butter
Clean chicken thoroughly (Do not cut)
Season chicken with salt and garlic powder to your taste
Rub jerk seasoning on chicken inside and out or blend Onion, Escallion, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Ginger and Pimento in a food processor, then pour mixture evenly over chicken
Cut up small onion and stuff in middle of chicken
Let chicken sit in refrigerator overnight
Preheat oven to 375 degrees when ready to bake
Open a can of beer and place in the middle of a roasting pan
Set chicken on top of open beer can and bake in oven for 1 hour or until done.
Baste chicken with butter throughout cooking
Chicken is ready tender, juicy, and ready to eat!