Jerk Chicken & Jamaican Rice and Peas

One of the last produce items we bought from our local farmer was a pair of habeneros. These little lantern-shaped peppers are some of the hottest in the world, rated between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville units! Now, compare that to a jalapeno which weighs in between 6,000 and 8,500 Scoville units! Wow, that’s hot, isn’t it? Still, for all their bite, they’re also floral and add a definite flavor that’s hard to duplicate without their help.

A side note on super-hot chiles… I’ve had the pleasure of having ghost chile verde made by a chef friend of mine in Stockton. Amazingly potent yet incredibly delicious stuff! Miner’s Cafe in Stockton, Utah, is one of the very few places in Utah where you can get a dish made from ghost chiles – currently the hottest pepper around at 900,000+ SHU. If you can take the heat, go for it!

When I saw them, I couldn’t resist – I’ve wanted to make jerk chicken from scratch for some time now. Of course, what Jamaican main would be complete without one of Jamaica’s most famous rice dishes, rice and peas, alongside? Luckily, I found a recipe that would use the rest of the habenero and incorporate coconut milk for cooling off that hot pepper.

I’m so so pleased with this one. My husband raved about the combination! The two recipes get along beautifully and a bit of fresh pineapple ties it all together. It’s not too spicy either – my Spicy Stirfry was actually hotter. Maybe the habenero I used wasn’t that hot? Or maybe, this meal is just too good. Next time, I plan to use a bit more to bring the heat up a bit.

Though habeneros are a bit scary to handle (see my warning below) and the list of spices is extremely lengthy, don’t let that stop you from trying this. I absolutely loved this dinner and am looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch after this post is up. This is definitely going into our rotation!

Be careful when handling habeneros! They are some of the hottest chiles on the planet and if you get pepper juice in your eyes, you WILL regret it, trust me. Wear gloves and use caution.

Jerk Chicken [printable recipe]

Adapted from Kitchen Sense
Serves 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped1
  • olive oil
  • fresh or canned pineapple

Marinade:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 habenero pepper2, stemmed, seeded (aka Scotch bonnet)
  • 2 – 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried mustard
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) lime juice
  • 2 tbsp (1 oz) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp (1 oz) olive oil
  • 2 tbsp ketchup

Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor3. Pulse until you get a smooth puree. Place all of the chicken into a ziptop bag or a non-reactive container, then pour the marinade over. Stir it gently to coat all of the pieces and let it marinate for between 1 and 24 hours. (Overnight is ideal.)

Dump the chicken and its marinade into a strainer or colander set in the sink and let stand for 10 minutes so the excess marinade can drip off.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces. Cook until done. Serve over Jamaican Rice & Peas with a side of fresh pineapple.

According to the original, the chicken keeps well for up to a week in the fridge and is excellent cold. I liked this too much to let it sit around!

Notes:

  1. Or, use some combination of chicken parts to your taste. If using bone-in, I strongly recommend grilling them instead and using the excess marinade to baste the chicken as it cooks.
  2. If you’re sensitive to heat, try using a jalapeno or a serrano instead. Or, if you like it spicy, add more! I thought this could have used a bit more heat myself.
  3. I use the Ninja MasterPrep which has a 2-cup workbowl. I love it to death. If your mini-prep can’t do 2 cups of liquid, you’ll need to use a full-size processor.

. . . . .

The “peas” in Jamaican Rice and Peas refers to any type of legume, usually kidney beans or cowpeas. I used black beans in mine because that’s what I had in the freezer.

Can you really freeze beans? Absolutely! We cook our beans from scratch either on the stove or in a slow cooker. When they’re done and cool, we spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them. Then they can go into a big ziptop freezer bag for later use.

A can of beans is equal to about 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans. Incredibly handy, delicious and cheaper too!

Jamaican Rice & Peas [printable recipe]

Food & Wine 2009 Annual Cookbook
Serves 4

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine or long-grain rice (2 “rice” cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups (OR 1 14 oz can drained and rinsed) black-eyed peas, kidney beans or black beans
  • 1/4 habenero pepper, stemmed, seeded (aka Scotch bonnet)
  • 1 13.5-14 oz can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a rice cooker, stirring well to combine. Cook on regular white rice cycle until done. Remove the habenero and fluff rice. Serve.

No Rice Cooker?

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan. Cook the onion, ginger and garlic until softened, then add the rice, stirring to coat well. Add the beans, habenero, coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until all of the liquid has been absorbed – about 18 – 20 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the habenero and fluff. Serve.

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