Grilled Jerk Chicken Kebabs

This is my favorite jerk marinade recipe, hands down.  I’ve been making it for years and I love it!  It has lots of heat and the added complexity of the traditional jerk spices.  It’s always fun to cook food on sticks and you can use your imagination to personalize your dinner.   I used chicken, onions and bell peppers, but you could substitute pork or seafood.  Vary the vegetables by adding summer squash, corn, or sweet potatoes.  For a sweet accent try threading pineapple or mango chunks amongst the meat and vegetables.   I think jerk-marinated shrimp skewered with pineapple would be sublime.  A few tips for successful kebab cookery:  hard vegetables, such as potatoes and corn on the cob, should be partially cooked before threading onto the skewers.  Chicken and pork can be marinated for as long as overnight, but seafood only needs a couple of hours in the spicy bath.  Try to cut all the pieces of food the same size to facilitate even cooking.  Discard the marinade after removing the raw meat, poultry or fish.  If you use wood or bamboo skewers soak them well in plenty of water to avoid burning or catching fire.  Now make up a batch of this spicy marinade, break out the skewers, and get grilling.

Jerk Marinade
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 scallions, coarsely chopped
2 Scotch bonnet chiles, chopped ***
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely ground (you can bash it up in a mortar or use a spice grinder)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Put the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, five spice powder, allspice, black pepper, thyme leaves, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process to a thick, chunky paste.  With the machine running, pour the soy sauce and oil into the feed tube and blend the mixture until well combined.  This makes enough marinade for two 3 1/2 to 4 pound chickens.  If you don’t use the entire amount, the remainder can be frozen for the next time a jerk chicken craving arises.
***Scotch bonnet chile peppers are very hot!  Use caution when handling them, it’s a good idea to wear gloves.  Once you have chopped the peppers, swap out your cutting board for prepping the remainder of your ingredients or everything will pick up the heat of the peppers.  Rinse your knife blade too.  If you can’t find Scotch bonnets, habanero chiles are a good substitute.  And one more thing; be careful when you remove the top of the food processor after mixing the marinade.  The chiles are quite volatile and you will cough if you inhale their aroma.  (Jerk marinade recipe was originally published in 1995 in Food and Wine magazine)

For our chicken kebabs I used a pound of chicken breast, cut into generous 1 inch chunks.  I marinated them overnight in just enough of the jerk marinade to coat them generously.  Then I threaded them onto metal skewers with sweet white onion chunks and sweet orange and yellow bell peppers.  A quick brush of vegetable oil topped them off and onto the grill they went.

Jerk chicken kebabs, ready for the grill.

 We had rice, with some green peas and fresh thyme added, and a cool glass of ginger beer with our chicken kebabs.

A perfect dinner for a warm summer evening.  Enjoy!


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