Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jerk Chicken with Rice and "Peas"

When I make international dishes, I try to be as authentic and traditional as I can possibly be as I was with the Murgh Makhani, Tamales, and Lasagne al Ragù. However, there are times when I work so hard one part of a recipe, that some component of the side dish fails a bit in authenticity. Such is the case with this Jerk Chicken with Rice and "Peas".

The first time I ever tried Jerk Chicken was in New York City (is that right, mom?) a few years ago when my mom was attending NYU for her grad degree. We went to a small Jamaican restaurant in the outskirts of the major city. I had heard of the dish before but had never tried it before. After my first bite, I fell in love instantly and never forgot about that experience.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to eat the dish again until I made it a few days ago. So, this is my second time tasting this flavorful, spicy chicken dish that originated in Jamaica. Once the marinade is mixed together, everything else is very easy. So, the key to Jerk Chicken is the marinade. It is comprised of many ingredients that vary from recipe to recipe. However, the universal ingredients are Scotch Bonnet or Habañero (don't forget the "ñ"! Without it, the pronunciation changes) peppers and pimiento or allspice berries.

I did research on Youtube and did a regular search as I always do when I look for an authentic recipe, if I don't have a traditional cookbook. I looked for Jamaicans preparing the meal to see how they did it and then compared their methods with others found online and other sources. I finally settled on a recipe from a website called Jamaica Travel and Culture.
Okay, here is how I broke the code of authenticity: First, I grilled the chicken in the oven instead of on the grill. Second, I didn't play reggae as I cooked :). Third, for the rice and "peas" (the recipe calls for "red peas", which are really kidney beans), I used black beans instead of kidney beans because I didn't have the latter. Fourth, I did add in coconut milk. I just couldn't. I already don't like coconut very much, so I just couldn't pour 1/2 cup of the stuff in my rice and beans. I just couldn't....and I didn't. Lastly, I didn't have 1/2 cup worth of soy sauce, so I used what I had.
Nevertheless, everything tasted really good. The chicken was still too spicy even though I used only half of the marinade. I reserved some of the marinade, and used it as a sauce. If you use all of your marinade in with the chicken, be sure to boil the sauce before using it. I just kept some of the marinade separate from the raw chicken. The rice and peas dish was really flavorful and helped cool the tongue down from the spicy chicken. Okay, I'll shut up now and give you all the recipe. Please visit the cook's website to see process photos or watch the video of her in action.
GIVEAWAY REMINDER: If you haven't already, don't forget to enter in my giveaway! The deadline is at midnight! If the number of questions is deterring you from entering, just tell me which cookbook you would like in order to qualify.

Jerk Chicken
halved & adapted from Jamaica Culture and Travel (full version)

One 3 1/2 lb chicken (3lb of chicken breasts may be used if preferred)
6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers (I used 2 habañeros in my halved version, & it was still hot.)
2 Tbsp. thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme, roughly chopped)
2 Tbsp. ground allspice (I crushed allspice berries in a mortar and pestle)
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used 1 Tbsp of leftover ginger/garlic paste)
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tsp ginger (I used 1 Tbsp of leftover ginger/garlic paste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice (I used 2-3 fresh oranges)
1 cup white vinegar

Chop the onions, garlic and peppers. These do not need to be chopped too fine as they will be liquidized by the blender or food processor. Blend all of the ingredients (excluding the chicken) in a blender to make the jerk sauce.
The marinade added to the raw chicken.

Cut the chicken up in to 4 pieces. Rub the sauce in to the meat, saving some for basting and dipping later (I made slits in the chicken like I did with the murgh makhani). Leave the chicken in the fridge to marinade overnight up to 2 days.

OVEN: Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turn the meat then bake for a further 30 minutes. OR Slow cook the meat at 212 degrees (100 degrees C) for 45-60 minutes per side.

GRILL: Grill the meat slowly until cooked, turning regularly. Baste with some of the remaining marinade while cooking. For best results, cook over a charcoal barbecue (ideally over a rack of pimento wood).

Chop each quarter chicken portion in to 5 or 6 smaller pieces using a heavy cleaver. Use a wooden spoon (or something similar) to hold the chicken in place whilst chopping and NOT YOUR HAND (you will be chopping with enough pressure to cut through bone!!!). (This step is not necessary if you're using chicken parts or drumsticks, like I did). While chicken is baking, make the rice and peas.

Rice and Peas
adapted from Jamaica Culture and Travel

3 cups of rice (I used regular, long grain rice; however, I assume you could use brown rice)
1 can of tinned or 1 cup of fresh red peas (use kidney beans or pigeon peas; I used black beans)
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 uncut scotch bonnet pepper (1 habañero or jalapeño pepper. I didn't have any more peppers)
3 Scallion (spring onions may be used as a substitute)
1 tin (or one cup) of coconut milk (if you dare! hahaha)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (2 teaspoons of dried thyme may be used as a substitute)

FRESH PEAS/BEANS: If you are using fresh peas or beans, then wash them. Pour on three cups of water and leave to soak overnight.

CANNED PEAS/BEANS: Skip this step.

Crush the garlic and add to seven cups of boiling water. If you are using FRESH peas add them now and boil for 45 minutes. Test to see if the peas are cooked by crushing a few of them. If they crush easily, you are ready to move on to the next step.

Add your CANNED beans (if using), coconut milk, rice, salt, black pepper and thyme to the mix. Crush the scallion (do not chop), and add to mixture. Also add the UNCUT scotch bonnet pepper, to give it a subtle peppery flavor.

The rice and peas should be ready after about 40 minutes (exact cooking time will depend on the brand of rice used).


  1. Yum! Love the spiciness of Jerk chicken.

  2. I love Jerk Chicken! This looks fabulous! The Caribbean place close to me serves their rice and "peas" with black beans, not red ;)

  3. I've never made jerk chicken, but it's on my to-try list. Yours looks really great!

  4. Six Scotch Bonnets!!! Wow, that would almost kill the average human being. You must be a super hero. Had no idea jerk chicken used Scotch Bonnets. Woooo!

  5. Hey, Memoria girl! I love jerk chicken, don'tcha know? And yes, I do remember that while you were visiting me in NY we took a little jaunt out to a Caribbean restaurant :o)

    As usual, your pictures are enticing, and I am glad you posted this recipe--this one I will definitely try (maybe this weekend since all I will be doing is grading three sets of English-related essays and a set of World Lit I tests over Chaucer and Machiavelli)!

    Oh, joy :o)

    Love you!

  6. Believe it or not - I have no idea how to cook Rice and Peas:)

  7. I love anything using Jerk seasoning, has been awhile since I made my own. Yours look so delicious! Lovely photographs as usual.

  8. I've never had jerk chicken but after looking at the list of ingredients in the marinade, I am certain I would love it. It looks great.

  9. This looks delish! This also happens to be one of my husbands favorite and I've never made it, so I will be using your recipe.

    BTW-You have a kick ass blog! Your recipe are great and the photos are awesome. You are so talented.

  10. I've never seen this, but the marinade fascinates me. You made me LOL with the reggae music comment. ;) What a special meal ... it would surely elicit many oohs and ahhs to anyone who is served this!

  11. I found my way here from Tasty Kitchen, and as I was scrolling through your blog I came across this dish. I've been to Jamaica more times than I can count, and I always buy a little box of jerk chicken with rice and peas on the beach for lunch. I must say that your photo looks like an exact duplicate for the real deal! As for the coconut really can't taste it in the rice and peas...what with all the other spices! To cut the heat on the jerk (when its in your mouth) have some Festival on the side (a sweet-type of bread) and a bottle of Red Stripe or a Ting.

  12. This looks delicious, and I am going to marinate the chicken from now, and get some bean for the rice...
    thanks my friend

  13. I've actually never eaten jerk chicken but I've seen it often pop up places. I'm not a big fan of really spicy food, so I just figured I wouldn't be a fan of it. Yours looks really good though, and makes me think I ought to at least try it, right?

  14. hi there. about "Habañero (don't forget the "ñ"! Without it, the pronunciation changes)" - just like to mention that habañero with the ñ is a hyperforeignism - based on jalapeño - so it is actually habanero (ha-buh-nair-oh) not habañero. Its funny because I often hear jalapeños hypercorrected to jala-pee-nos. Great recipe, will try it tonight!!


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