Jerk Chicken

Who knew? Who seriously knew there is more than one definition for jerk? In the United States, I've always considered a jerk to be an inconsiderate person who doesn't treat other people well. The dictionary uses phrases like "contemptibly obnoxious person," "annoyingly foolish,"and "unlikable person". We all know the type. I'm not going to name names, but I can think of a jerk or two to cross my path.

Very fortunately, deliciously, the term "jerk" means something totally different in the Caribbean. It's a kind of spice. In Jamaica, jerk chicken, pork, fish or vegetables are served up hot off the grill and doubly heated up with habenero chili peppers. The name "jerk" may have come from the Spanish word "charqui", dried meat. From there, it's not so much of a stretch to see how the word could be changed to "jerky" and then "jerk". All jerks may be remembered after they've "left the building" but a Jamaican jerk is also savored.

Jerk recipes vary across the Caribbean. In San Pedro, the dish has a Maya influence with the addition of allspice and chili powder, proving once again that not all jerks are unlikable. Yes, it may have a Caribbean, Jamaican, Belize, Maya connection, but my sister introduced me to jerk chicken.


Phyllis' Jerk Chicken
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
xxxx 6 pieces of chicken xxxx 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  dash of paprika   tiny dash of cinnamon
  dash of garlic powder   salt and pepper to taste
  dash of chili powder   dash of cayenne, if you like it hot
  dash of cumin   or jerk seasoning
  dash of allspice   barbecue sauce

If you want a more complex recipe, including rum and a whole lot of time to marinade, there are recipes available online. My sister believes in quick and easy in the kitchen. She also cooks without measurements. Okay, I understand that concept. I can whip up a mural without stress. I know what to do. It's natural. Cooking isn't natural for me. So, my sister sat me down and did her best to give me guidance in what is honestly just second nature for her.

Wrap your baking dish with aluminum foil. It just makes the cleaning process a whole lot easier. Then, splash your soy sauce in the dish. Place your chicken in the middle of all that soy and flip the chicken around in the sauce. You want that juice covering the bird.

Now, the next bit really doesn't have measurements. You want a good amount of spices sprinkled over the chicken so the finished dish has a delicious spicy crust. So, dash on that paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. If you want it hot, and you should, don't forget to add in some cayenne pepper. Of course, if your grocery store is well stocked, and my sister says they are in the States, you can skip a lot of the stress and just sprinkle on jerk seasoning.

Cover the chicken up with foil and bake for an hour at 400 degrees. Phyllis said the meat should be 165 degrees with a meat thermometer when it is ready to serve. That would mean adding a meat thermometer to my recipe list.

Top the chicken with barbecue sauce, of course, and then serve it with rice in beans if you are in Belize. Otherwise, you can serve it up with mashed potatoes. Everything tastes better with mashed potatoes.

Copyright 2017 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.