By Karen Schulz
Whenever I travel, I make a point of trying the native cuisine. The culinary experience has a serious impact on how we remember our adventures and, more importantly, connects us to the roots of what it means to be a part of that corner of the earth.
At the Hyatt Ziva in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Shayon, who makes the most delicious jerk chicken, a cornerstone dish in his country. When I asked if he would share his recipe with me, he flashed the warmest smile and explained that no two jerk recipes are alike — they vary from family to family, a lot like marinara sauce in Italy. But he offered to share a basic jerk marinade that he said would be perfect for us in New York.
While busily serving many guests at the hotel’s poolside Jerk Hut, he found time to give me the recipe. He explained: “It marinates for 24 hours, is cooked slow on the grill, and the whole neighborhood smells it.”
Just back from Jamaica, I can’t wait to try and replicate Shayon’s cooked- with-love jerk chicken, and I look forward to the memories it will trigger of my amazing time in Montego Bay.
<<Jamaica Jerk Chicken>>
8 pieces of your favorite chicken parts
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic
4 scallions, chopped
5 sprigs of thyme (stems removed)
1 T. all spice seeds
1 T white sugar cane vinegar
1 T. brown sugar
1 scotch bonnet pepper or habanero
Pinch of cinnamon
1 T. dark Karo syrup
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. Kosher salt
½-1 cup vegetable oil
Combine all marinade ingredients, except oil, in blender. In phases, add oil until it becomes a thick syrupy consistency.
Put chicken in a gallon-size zip-lock bag and pour in marinade to coat. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
The ingredients are nearly the same as the marinade, except for minor adjustments and additions: omit cinnamon, use water, not oil,
Add ¼ cup orange juice, ¼ cup pineapple juice, and 1 T. tomato paste.
Mix well in blender.
Grill the chicken. When done, chop in big pieces and drizzle with sauce.