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A healthy way with fiery chicken and cooling salsa

  • Associated Press
  • Published Monday, May 12, 2014, at 12:43 p.m.

Photos

GRILLED JERK CHICKEN BREASTS WITH WATERMELON SALSA

Servings: 8

For the marinade:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

8 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped

1 to 2 (to taste) Scotch bonnet chiles, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons ground allspice

1 1/2 tablespoons English-style mustard

2 bay leaves

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 chicken breast halves (4 pounds total) on the bone with the skin, each chicken breast half cut in half

For the salsa:

2 cups diced seedless watermelon

1 cup diced seedless cucumber

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

1/4 cup finely shredded fresh mint

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar

Salt

In a blender, combine 4 tablespoons of the oil, the scallions, chiles, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar and thyme. Blend until the mixture forms a fine paste. Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn it to coat well on all sides. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.

When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium.

To make the salsa, in a medium bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumber, shallot, mint, lime juice and sugar. Season with salt, then set aside.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Using an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs, oil the grill grates. Add the chicken, skin side down, and grill for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the pieces of chicken, then grill for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve each portion topped with some of the salsa.

Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 180 calories from fat (47 percent total calories); 20 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 115 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 39 g protein; 650 mg sodium.

It’s barbecue season, and chicken is the ideal candidate to get you grilling.

Why? Chicken is light, it easily picks up the marinade of your choice and it cooks quickly. But this recipe is not for your everyday grilled chicken. This is spicy Jamaican-style jerk chicken.

“Jerk” refers both to a unique blend of seasonings and to a method of slow cooking. It is said to have been invented by Jamaica’s Maroons, slaves who escaped from Spanish-owned plantations when the British took over and established free communities in Jamaica’s mountainous interior. The Maroons hunted wild boars, then preserved the meat with a spice mix that contained a hefty amount of salt. When it was time to eat, the meat was cooked in a pit or grilled very slowly over a fire. Eventually, Jamaicans began to cook all kinds of meats jerk-style.

Jerk seasoning consists of a base blend of scallions, thyme, allspice (known as pimento in Jamaica), Scotch bonnet chiles, salt and, not infrequently, cinnamon or nutmeg. This may look like an awful lot of ingredients to slice and dice, but that’s not the case. Toss them all into a blender, pulverize everything to a paste, then you’re good to go.

But you do need to be careful when you’re messing with those Scotch bonnets. I advise wearing gloves. Seriously. A cousin of the habanero, Scotch bonnets are serious chiles. I call for a whole chile here, but you can use less if you want to tamp down the heat. Happily, Scotch bonnets aren’t solely about heat; they also are uniquely flavorful – like a cross between a mango and chili – with a wonderfully fruity scent. If you can’t find Scotch bonnets, use a habanero. If you can’t find either, reach for a jalapeno or serrano.

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