Coffee & Jerk Marinated Chicken SkewersMonday, December 12, 2016
I've reached a point in winter that I don't usually feel until well after the holidays - a touch of the seasonal blues. I blame a bad cold that lasted a week too long and these consistently gloomy skies. Today called for a pick-me-up in the form of "fake it til' you can make it authentically" jerk chicken skewers with a touch of coffee added to the sauce. It's a flavor profile I've been cooking with all year long, mostly for braised beef short ribs and oxtail, but it also takes well to the grill. Cooking food from warmer places in the world always brightens my mood a little bit, so these spicy nuggets of tender marinated chicken thighs were no exception.
I've had the real deal jerk chicken before from the Jamaican spots in South Florida but most memorably on the beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It is the messy, smoky, lip numbingly spicy chicken from the jerk hut at our resort that I often yearn for, and one day I will definitely tackle that project. (Traditionally, jerk chicken is smoked over pimento wood and leaves for a layer of flavor that's pretty hard to replicate using other setups on the grill.) This is not that recipe, but it satisfied a winter itch that needed to be scratched. The good news? My homemade sauce is good no matter how you cook the chicken. My secret is a little coffee added to the blend for color and richness, plus an umami boost from a bit of tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. (Note: I no longer keep soy sauce on hand due to Whole30, so I use liquid coconut aminos instead.) The method in this recipe works indoors, provided you have a decent grill pan, preferably cast iron. Of course you could most certainly adapt the process if you do have the access and energy to fire up your grill!
I served the jerk chicken skewers with coconut braised collard greens; a recipe very similar to my oven-roasted greens. For the sake of not waiting on me to get up another blog post, you can follow that post and simply add some fresh ginger along with the garlic and onions, then stir in a tablespoon of curry powder instead of paprika. Pour in a can of coconut milk before adding the greens and cook as directed. It's really simple and I love the creamy texture of the greens after they roast for an hour. Along with the greens, I fried a batch of plantains and cooked some basmati rice, replacing half of the water with coconut milk.
1 bunch fresh scallions
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2" knob fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 to 4 scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and seeded (or scotch bonnet pepper sauce, to taste)
2 tbsp fresh thyme, woody stems discarded
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup Coffee Jerk Marinade, recipe above
Neutral cooking oil, as needed
Juice of 1 lime
Total Time: 3 hours or up to 24 hours if marinating overnight
Yield: Serves 4
Special Equipment: cast iron grill pan, wooden skewers, blender or food processor, zester, spice grinder (optional), instant read thermometer, silicone basting brush