Pulled Jerk Chicken

I cook often, but my actual taste preferences are limited. I like what I like and because of that, I don’t tend to try a lot of new things. There are few things that can kill my mood than a meal that I didn’t like. So I don’t take the risk. However, if someone I trust recommends something new to me, I’ll give it a shot, which is what happened for my birthday back in 2016. My sister took me to a Caribbean spot downtown and I had jerk chicken for the first time. There were greens and plantains on the side. It was delicious.

We try not to eat out too often to save money, but recently I found myself still really wanting some jerk chicken. I did a quick internet search to see what goes into making it and found out it’s really not that complicated. And as chicken itself is one of the cheaper proteins, I decided to give it my best shot. This is what ended up happening and I thought it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I really believe in letting my meats sit in marinades overnight, even if it’s mainly just a spice rub. It gives the spices plenty of time to permeate the meat and maximizes the amount of flavor you’ll get the next day–and also minimizes the amount of extra seasoning you’ll have to add the next day of cooking. For this spice rub, I used a combination of cinnamon, cumin and allspice, along with soy sauce that I rubbed into the meat to help it stick (it also gives a great ‘rich’ salty flavor).

After the chicken gets seared, you’re gonna put together the sauce–and I really do love this sauce. I did some tweaking from other jerk recipes I’ve seen, swapping out lemon juice for lime, cutting out the vinegar (as I think the lime juice makes it plenty acidic enough) and adding some brown sugar and chicken broth just to round things out. Altogether, along with those Scotch bonnets, it makes a sweet and spicy sauce for the seared chicken to braise in the oven with until it’s fork tender and falling off the bone. This is also another one of those braises that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have even more time to develop and deepen. For a perfect Caribbean meal, make it with these Maple Curry Plantains alongside rice and crusty bread.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Pulled Jerk Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 4 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, plus more for spice rub, divided
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into wedges
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Combine the cinnamon, cumin and allspice together in a bowl with a fork. Massage a few dashes of soy sauce into the surface of the chicken (not the 1/3 cup, that’s for later), then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the meat into sealable gallon size bag, seal it, then toss the meat around in the bag to make sure the seasoning is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of  Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the chicken on both sides about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove from pot once browned and keep covered with foil. Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits. Allow to simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off, then place the onions in the pot. Allow to cook until they’re translucent and softened, 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add the lime juice, molasses, orange juice, the 1/3 cup of soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar, scallions, cilantro, thyme, ginger, remaining 1 cup of broth and peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven, bake until meat is fork tender and pulling off the bone, about 1 1/2-2 hours. When the chicken is ready, remove it to a cutting board.  Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour it back into the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and discard them along with the fatty parts and skin. Place the meat back into the pot and toss in the sauce.

Serve with rice or on crusty sandwich bread.

Maple Curry Plantains

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‘Sup guys. If you celebrated any kind of festivities yesterday, then I hope that it was filled with good food and good times with your family and loved ones. It’s a little weird to still have it be relatively warm and snow-less here on the west side for this time of year, but it was still a pretty good day. I’m in a pretty decent mood from the stuff that came out of my own kitchen. I’m in an even better one when I think of all the leftovers that we’re gonna have for the next few days from it.

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So, moving on to the item of the day: plantains.

I’ve known what they were for a good long while, but back in the Mitten, we didn’t have very many of them in our grocery stores. Even when we did, it was only at certain times of year and they didn’t come very inexpensive by the pound.

On this side of the tracks, not only have I yet to go to a grocery store and NOT seen plantains, they’re generally pretty inexpensive here. I think it’s probably because I live in an area with a very high Latino/Hispanic population and plantains are pretty common in Latin cuisine.

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Like Latin, Caribbean cuisine (and Latin Caribbean as well when I think about it) is one that I don’t have nearly enough experience cooking, or eating for that matter. I do know that plantains are used a lot in them all. Plantains are similar to bananas, they’re just slightly larger, less sweet and more firm/starchy. Up until now, they kinda baffled me. I wasn’t sure of how they were supposed to be cooked or taste: were they supposed to be cooked to be sweet like bananas, or in a more savory application like squash?

Since I  wasn’t sure, I just decided to leave them alone for a while. But as it tends to happen with ingredients/recipes I avoid out of intimidation, it popped back up on my radar.
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Before I even came out, my sister told me about a Caribbean restaurant in the area that when I got here I just HAD to try. She raved about their jerk chicken, greens and in particular, their preparation of plantains. When my birthday came around in September, she bought me dinner at the joint and I finally got to see what all the fuss was about with plantains.

Yeah, I get it now. They’re delicious.

You are reminded of bananas when you eat them, just a much more starchy and less mushy/sweet one. I could tell that the plantains at the restaurant she took me too were probably fried in butter, but not seasoned with any particular spices so as to let their own flavor stand out. They were also tender on the inside and browned on the outside. After that dinner I was set upon figuring out how to make them myself.

Didn’t take me too long.

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Because I was going in knowing nothing about cooking plantains, I decided to gather inspiration from far greater minds than mine who I knew would know what was what when handling them. One of my Marcus Samelsson cookbooks featured a recipe with plantains where they are actually fried twice in oil. After the first fry, they get pressed down flat with a wooden spoon then dunked into a garlic water bath; this, I assume is to draw out excess starch that would prevent them from getting a good crust in the second fry.

And it IS in that second fry where the real magic happens. Here’s the best part you guys: I actually had two ripe plantains and one plantain that even after sitting on the counter in a paper bag for 2 days with the other ones, was still green on the outside and not-too-ripe. They ALL came out fantastic. Granted, the ripe plantains had more ‘meat’ to their insides, but the green plantain actually developed a golden brown crusty layer on the outside that contrasted with the starchy inside perfectly.

The plantains could stand on their own just like that, but when you add the quick maple syrup-curry powder glaze to them…OMGAWD. We agreed immediately that these would be going into the rotation, stat. I think you and yours will agree if you try this recipe, which I’ll be linking up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #147, co-hosted this week by  Julianna @ Foodie On Board and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine.

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Maple Curry Plantains

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport, Recipe Technique Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Peanut oil for frying

Directions

Heat about 1 inch of the peanut oil in a skillet to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the water, garlic cloves and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl mix together the curry powder and maple syrup and set aside.

Take the plantains and fry them in batches in the peanut oil until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using a spider or a metal spatula transfer the plantains to the baking sheet. Wait 1 to 2 minutes for them to cool, then stand the plantains up on edge; using the flat end of the spatula or a wooden spoon, smash the plantains to half their diameter.

Place the smashed plantains into the garlic water and let them soak for 1 minute.  Remove and gently blot dry with paper towels.

Make sure the oil has returned to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the plantains again until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes per side depending on how crisp you prefer them to be. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Take the maple syrup-curry mixture and either drizzle or dab it onto the plantains with a pastry brush. Serve immediately.