Grilled Stout Jamaican Jerk
There is a magic in an old recipe. In a method of preparing food with an origin that’s hard to trace. Jerk meat has been a staple in Jamaica for centuries, but follow the history through a labyrinth of poorly kept records and unsettling invasions of outsiders, it’s hard to get a clear view of how it all began.
It doesn’t matter, it hasn’t changed much between the generations of hands that have cooked it. Traditional jerk is cooked over direct flames, not just from coals but also fresh, green wood. Fire is an important component in the dish. The heat, the smoke, the crisp blackened skin. The result is an addictive plate of chicken that’s smokey, sweet, spicy, and juicy.
The idea to add beer isn’t mine, as much as I’d like to claim it. Years ago I read the book, Blood, Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton. I’d been to her restaurant in New York, Prune, and became a bit fascinated with her. Just a few lines in one chapter about her favorite jerk recipes, no more explanation than it had 25 ingredients including Scotch bonnet peppers, stout beer, and honey, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I’ve spent years adjusting this recipe trying to get to that perfect balance of flavors. One thing is for sure, the smoke and heat of the grill is a must, it just isn’t the same made in the oven.
- 1/2 cup stout or porter beer (coffee or coconut stouts and porters work well)
- 3 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero Peppers
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon chopped scallions (green and white parts)
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated with a microplane
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice powder
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt
- 3 lbs chicken wings, legs, thighs (bone in, skin on)
- Add all ingredients (except the chicken) to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Add the chicken to a resalable gallon sized plastic bag (use two if necessary), pour the sauce over the chicken. Close the bag, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate over night and up to two days, turning once or twice during marinating.
- Preheat grill to medium high.
- Grill the chicken, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Move to upper rack of the grill to finish cooking once the exterior is as dark as you prefer it.