This week we’re sharing a couple of recipes from the chef in my life, including his amazing Jerk Chicken recipe for a kick of Caribbean spice. I’ve tried to replicate his results many times with little success, so this time I wrote it down as he was cooking. (Ha! Nailed it.) Oh, you’re welcome.
The man in my life, Benoit Gelinotte (Ben) is an amazing chef. Equally talented on both the sweet and savoury side of the kitchen, he’s a force of nature to be reckoned with. After thirty years as an industry professional he has an extraordinary repertoire of flavour to draw on.
The Vocabulary of Taste
Everytime we taste something new we’re building our flavour vocabulary. You know the taste of your mother’s spaghetti sauce, a good chicken soup, a great bread; these things are defined by past experience. Travel and ethnic dining experiences expand your palate, trying on unique, culturally accurate foods sets that taste bud bar even higher.
Over a lifetime that collection of tastes, textures and aromas make up a catalogue of flavour reference points that guide your enjoyment of eating and drinking. Those who cook for a living rely heavily on their personal dictionary of flavour to help them replicate dishes that measure up to the original experience.
The Taste of The Caribbean
A love of spice led Ben to many an authentic Roti house across North America, where he cultivated a well tuned Jamaican flavour inventory under the guidance of real Island cooks. Often sparsely decorated, with Red Stripe beer on the menu, you can tell good roti house by the way it smells; a hint of curry and a whole lot of sweet, heavy spice. Most use a firepit or charcoal cooking on some level and all have their own secret recipes.
In fact, there are many versions of jerk even on the island itself, some are dry rubs, others are wet marinade/brine mixtures like this one. Lacking the allspice wood to fire a real jerk grill, Ben uses a wet marinade accented with allspice and cinnamon, loaded with ginger and heat to define his jerk. He refines it by smell and taste – and the results are nothing short of amazing Jerk Chicken!
In this recipe we’ve used chicken thighs, but you can use dark, or white meat. This recipe makes enough jerk marinade for a whole chicken. For best results cut the back out and lay your chicken flat. This will help the marinade be evenly distributed and ensure moist, perfectly cooked, results.
You’ll find the chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender, richly spiced with a solid kick of heat that doesn’t overwhelm but rather underscores the spice. This a marinade and cook recipe, that requires little active participation in the kitchen, perfect for entertaining. This way you can better enjoy the good company you keep.
Jerk Chicken, richly spiced with a solid kick of heat that doesn’t overwhelm but rather underscores the spice. This a marinade and cook recipe, that requires little active participation in the kitchen, making it perfect for casual entertaining.
2 – 3 pounds chicken pieces, or one whole chicken
8 stems green onion
7 cloves of garlic
2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of fresh thyme (about 2 tablespoons chopped)
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons allspice
1 stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
3 thai chilies, whole (Substitute: one small jalapeno or half a scotch bonnet pepper)
1 tablespoon light cooking oil (anything but olive oil)
Load green onions, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar, allspice, cinnamon stick, chilies and thyme into food processor. Pulse a few times to chop, add oil then run, scraping down the sides as needed, to make a coarse paste.
Add jerk marinade and chicken pieces to a zippered freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag as you zip it closed and massage marinade into chicken pieces through the bag, then roll it up making sure all pieces are coated well and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours. (Maximum marinade time – 2 days. In this case reduce salt by half.)
Pre-heat oven to 400°F (205°C). Create an aluminum foil envelope for your jerk chicken, spraying the inside well with non-stick spray. Toss chicken with marinade in a shallow bowl then add the whole works to the center of the foil and evenly distribute both chicken and jerk paste. Enclose with top piece of aluminum foil, crimping the edges well to contain juices.
Place foil pouch on baking tray and then into the 400°F (205°C) oven for 45 minutes, or more depending on the size of the chicken pieces you’re using. Always play safe and temp your chicken to ensure the internal temperature is 165°F (74°C), or over.
Your food processor will only breakdown a cinnamon stick so far, so keep an eye out for chunks of cinnamon bark as you eat. If you prefer, use 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. We use the cinnamon stick as we find it gives the freshest flavour.
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.