I wish the Boston JerkFest was twice a year. The smell of charcoal grills and savory spices filled the air at the now two-day festival. This year’s event included chef demos and jerk cook-off MC’s by City Councilor Tito Jackson.
Chefs are reluctant to share what exactly goes into a perfected jerk spice mix; however, they may agree the base for a good jerk sauce is allspice berries, thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
The chicken from Jamaica Mi Hungry of Somerville was moist, smokey and sweet. The simple, vinegar-based coleslaw added a fresh, light flavor palate to the dish. And of course, the fried dough was delicious and tough to share.
Chutney made a few appearances at the event. I stopped to talk to Celeste, the owner of Lyndigo Spice in Readville. After a career in catering, she launched Lyndigo and a line of chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads and spice blends. The fig and fennel spread is delicious on lamb, chicken and even some goat cheese on crackers. I’m still finding reasons to use it. Other spreads include Smokey Peach & Cherry Chutney, Savory Red Pepper Relish, Pineapple Curry Chutney. Check out Celeste at local farmers markets, Whole Foods and specialty shops.
JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup ground allspice
¾ cup minced scallions
½ cup peanut or canola oil
⅓ cup ground black pepper
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup minced ginger
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed and minced
2 3-4-lb. chickens, each quartered
1. Combine sugar, allspice, scallions, oil, pepper, salt, ginger, juice, soy sauce, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and chiles in a bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat in jerk marinade. Cover with plastic wrap; chill at least 6 hours, or overnight.
2. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.) Add chicken, skin side down; cook, turning once, until marinade forms a crust on the outside, about 8 minutes. Cover grill; continue cooking until cooked through, about 40 minutes. (Alternatively, transfer chicken to a foil-lined baking sheet; bake in a 350° oven until done.)