Jerk Chicken and Plum Sauce
Recipe by DeVonn Francis
Headnotes: Jerk chicken is one of the most widely known Jamaican dishes in the world and I’ve spent a ton of time trying to recreate the flavor because it reminds me of my history and how interconnected Jamaica is to other food cultures. This recipe is great because you don’t need a complicated grill set up to make this rendition work. The paste gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with several staple ingredients to the Caribbean diet and applied to a familiar cut of meat with tons of flavor. If you’re a barbecue lover, this home-cook version of the island classic is perfect for you.
Prep Time: 2 to 24 hours
Cook Time: 32 minutes
- 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
- 2 tablespoon pimento, ground (allspice berries)
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
- 1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stem removed
- 2 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 bunch scallions, trimmed, roughly chopped
- 3” piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- Olive oil
Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and place them onto a sheet tray lined with paper towels to absorb residual moisture. To dry brine chicken, rub the thighs with a mixture of crushed pimento, orange zest, and two generous pinches of kosher salt. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
In a food processor, add scotch bonnet, nutmeg, black peppercorn, thyme, paprika, brown sugar, kosher salt, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Pulse only until it becomes a slightly chunky paste (makes 1-1/2 cups). Keep refrigerated until you're ready to use.
Remove thighs from the refrigerator and let them come to temp before you cook them (nothing too drastic here, you just don’t want them to be frigid to the touch). Using gloved hands, press and massage a thick mass of the jerk sauce on the exterior of the chicken, completely covering the meat with the paste. You can refrigerate any leftover sauce
Place a wire rack set into a sheet tray in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to preheat to 475°. While your oven preheats, coat a grill pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add thighs in and even layer to the grill pan just before oil begins to smoke. Grill on each side for 4-5 minutes or until the skin develops a dark brown color.
Transfer the grill pan from stove top to oven or you can put chicken on a sheet tray that has been lined with a wire rack and roast for 12-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reads at 165° with an instant read thermometer inserted. Remove from the oven and let chicken rest.
To make Plum sauce
- 2 plums, pits removed and cut into half moons lengthwise ¼ inch (or apricots, peaches)
- ¼ cup plum jam or preserves
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 1” piece of ginger, peeled, microplaned
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon agave syrup (nectar) or honey
- 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Grill plums cut side down until deep char marks start to form and then flip them on the other side and repeat (about 2-3 minutes on each side).
Add grilled plums, plum preserves, garlic, rice wine vinegar, agave, brown sugar and chili flakes to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer until ingredients become coated in syrup. Microplane ginger at the end. (12-15 mins).