Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Sea Fare Winter 2010-2011 — Victoria Allman in the Galley

—Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the ninth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the destinations and context in which her recipes were developed.  Last month, she was in the South Pacific and her friend Nunu supplied her with the freshest possible Mahi-Mahi.  If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.


The Memory of Jerk
by Victoria Allman

I’ve been stuck in port for too long now. The yacht I work on is for sale and we have been in Lauderdale for the annual boat show. It is a time of sitting and staying in one place; a time when my mind wanders back to earlier travels.

Today, I’ve been thinking about Jamaica; a place of carnal color and debaucherous tales. But, my favorite memories are not so much of climbing the waterfalls at Dunn’s River, jumping off the cliff 45-feet above the Caribbean Sea at Rick’s, or reverberating to the sounds of reggae. My favorite memory is of what came after a trail ride through the ganja fields on a horse called Smoke. Now, before you jump to any conclusions about what that memory may entail, or how hazy it might be, let me tell you about the jerk chicken I had.

Hot and sweaty from the ride, I tied Smoke under the shade of a logwood tree. Not twenty-feet away, a caravan had parked on the side of the road. The sharp smell of chilies from a steel barrel barbecue beside the truck had lured me off the trail and set my mouth to watering.

“You ever had jerk?” A scrawny Jamaican man in long jean shorts and a white tank top held steel tongs in his hand. His brown eyes never left the searing meat on the grill in front of him.

“Not here.” I said. My eyes could barely leave the scene either.

“Den you never had jerk.” He drawled. “Dis where it comes from.” His smile revealed two gold front teeth. He lifted a chicken leg from the grill and bent low to inspect the underside. His beehive of dreadlocks grazed low over the flames, threatening to ignite. “Dis one’s for you.” He wrapped the leg in paper and handed me a Red Stripe.

I sat at a worn and splintered wooden picnic table. The hot sun seared my skin as much as the flames had done the chicken. I took a long pull of the beer before picking up the meal. It was a good thing I did. Once I brought the leg to my mouth, I couldn’t put it down. The flavor exploded in my mouth. Sweetness and spice battled for dominance. Steam rose off the flesh as I tore into it. My tongue burned. Neither the heat nor the spice stopped me from devouring the whole thing in minutes.

The man at he grill glanced over and laughed. “Another one?”

I nodded vigorously.

He began wrapping another piece. “Nobody ever has just one.”

It was that taste I thought of today while planning the menu for lunch. I may not be able to travel while the boat is in Lauderdale, but I sure was going to try and replicate that experience again.



Jamaican Jerk Chicken by Victoria Allman - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Jamaican Jerk Chicken by Victoria Allman - Photo Courtesy of Victoria Allman

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bunches green onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • ½ scotch bonnet, minced ***depending on heat tolerance
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 12 chicken thighs
  •  2 limes, juiced
  1. In a food processor, combine the rum, cider vinegar, green onions, garlic, thyme, scotch bonnet, canola oil, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, pepper, brown sugar and ketchup; process to a coarse paste. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding. 
  2. Light a grill. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with lime juice.

Serve with Rice and Peas, Vegetable Salad and Rotis.

Serves 6

Narrative and Recipe Copyright © by Victoria Allman.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations