Jerky Chicken with a Kick Butt Salsa!

Jerky Chicken with a Kick Butt Salsa!

It was such a glorious weekend weather wise here in Atlanta! Unfortunately, my hubby has been a bit under the weather since Thursday evening. He had an unfortunate encounter with a bowl of clams and linguine from a dinner out, so we did not get to really enjoy the beautiful days until yesterday. We then went for a lovely walk along the Chattahoochee River and tried to ignore the pollen. It was so nice I really didn’t want to come inside, but I had to get home to whip up some food for dinner and this post!

I hate to say it, but I have been so disappointed in some local restaurants lately. Either the food is just not good or we don’t feel so good after we eat it! Either way, I guess I will be cooking all the time now! It is depressing to spend money eating out and then have a bad meal when you can cook much better food at home. I know my ingredients are fresh and usually healthy. Besides, my dishes taste pretty good and they are not over salted or full of fat (well…most of the time…).

So anyway, by the time my hubby was able to eat any real food (after the clam incident) and I was able to cook something really tasty, I was ready for hot and spicy food! My taste buds cannot be deprived for too long! I really like the spicy hot stuff these days. I do think it has to do with getting older. I find that mild flavors and seasonings do not taste like much of anything to me, so the hotter the better (and don’t take that the wrong way!). I knew that some Jerk Chicken and a Black Bean and Rice Salad would put the kick back in our food since things have been pretty bland around here for the last few days.

I was going to behave and call this chicken by its proper name (Jerk Chicken with a Papaya Salsa), but after dealing with a sick hubby for several days, I was feeling rather temperamental, so instead we have Jerky Chicken with a Kick Butt Salsa!

I love all the fresh, bright flavors and colors in these dishes. They have similar seasonings, but compliment each other really well. I am not a huge fan of cilantro (I have that weird reaction to it that makes it taste like dish detergent – yuck!), but I am beginning to like it better (this is also through the aging process…with me and not the salad). I reduce the amount of cilantro in the rice and bean salad which accompanies the chicken, but if you love it, you can certainly add what the recipe calls for.

I did use all the peppers in the marinade (and we won’t mention why again). I think that is necessary to get a really authentic Jerk Chicken taste. However, if really hot is not your thing, then you can cut back on the Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers. Be sure to marinate the chicken for 24 hours so that the flavors infuse your chicken. It truly makes a difference.

The papaya salsa is awesome with the chicken because of the sweet flavors. I make a double recipe because it is sooo good! The salsa has some kick, so if you want less heat, cut back on the jalapeno pepper in the recipe. The nice thing about any of these dishes is that you can adjust the level of heat and still get some great flavors.

This is a great dinner for the warmer months because you get to grill outdoors and enjoy the gorgeous weather. You can marinade the chicken a day ahead and make the rice and bean salad and the salsa earlier in the day. Then, just sit back on your deck with a glass of wine (or a Jamaican Red Strip beer to get that real Jerk Chicken thing going!) and start cooking the chicken low and slow for some of the best Jerk Chicken you will ever have!

Grilled Jerk Chicken with Papaya and Red Onion Salsa & Black Bean and Rice Salad

Adapted from Gourmet and Bon Appetit
Serves 4


1 chicken (4-5 lb.), cut into 8 pieces

3 scallions, chopped (I used white and light green parts)
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed and seeded (You can adjust the number of peppers depending on how hot you want the marinade)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 firm-ripe papaya
1/4 red onion
1 fresh jalapeño chile
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
8 oz. long-grain rice (I use Jasmine Rice for a bit more flavor)
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce cans black beans, drained, rinsed
1 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (I use 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish


For chicken:
Blend all marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Place chicken pieces in a sealable plastic bag. Seal bag, pressing out excess air, then turn bag over several times to distribute marinade. Put bag of chicken in refrigerator and turn over several times to mix everything together over a 24 hour period.

Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

To cook chicken using a charcoal grill:

Open vents on bottom of grill and on lid. Light a large chimney of charcoal briquettes (about 100) and pour them evenly over 1 side of bottom rack (you will have a double or triple layer of charcoal).

When charcoal turns grayish white and you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds, sear chicken in batches on lightly oiled rack over coals until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Move chicken as seared to side of grill with no coals underneath, then cook, covered with lid, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes more.

To cook chicken using a gas grill:

Preheat burners on high, then adjust heat to moderate. Cook chicken until well browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to low and cook chicken, covered with lid, until cooked through, about 25 minutes more.

Serve chicken with salsa.

For salsa:
Discard papaya seeds. Peel papaya and chop enough to measure 1/2 cup. Mince enough onion to measure 2 tablespoons and, wearing rubber gloves, mince enough jalapeño (with seeds) to measure 1/2 tablespoon. In a bowl stir together papaya, onion, jalapeño, and remaining ingredients and season with salt. Salsa may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

For salad:
Bring chicken broth and water to boil in heavy large saucepan. Add rice and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Transfer rice to large bowl and fluff with fork. Mix in black beans, bell peppers, red onion, chopped cilantro, oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin and chili powder. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve.


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