Cooking with Chef Sian: Chef Noel’s Smoky Jamaican Jerk
January 4, 2017
When a Jamaican Chef decides to distribute his own jerk marinade, there is bound to be a little pressure. When he is one of Jamaica’s most popular chefs you know ‘the jerk’ better be good.
From the first moment I read the name of Chef Cunny’s Smoky Jamaican Jerk marinade I was intrigued. According to the good chef I had a sample of his own “special blend smoky jerk marinade” awaiting me so you can understand my excitement. Being a Chef who specializes in cooking and writing about Caribbean cuisine I have seen and tried a whole lotta jerk seasonings in my time. And let me tell you, some of them miss the mark by many miles. I have also made no secret of the fact that I think (and much of the jerk chicken eating world agrees that) a certain other Jamaican brand is #1.
There’s always room for #2 or 3 right?
who you calling a Jerk?
Before we get too deep allow me to explain: Jerk describes the Jamaican process of spicing and grilling meat. Jerk seasoning/ marinade is a blend of scallions, thyme,allspice, peppers and other herbs and spices.
The first time I tried the marinade; someone else seasoned and cooked the chicken for me. I wanted to taste it from someone else’s perspective. I needed to experience this as a diner not as a chef. The result was a batch of well seasoned, flavor filled batch of jerk chicken. There was a nice hint of a smoky flavor. The flavors of thyme, scallion and allspice was apparent. All the things you’d expect to taste in good authentic Jamaican Jerk. Still there was something missing. I figured I didn’t season it so I gave the marinade an “good try” and moved on. The 2nd time around I was more concerned with filling my belly so taking pictures or writing a post took a backseat. By the time I remembered about writing anything I was doing the dishes.
if at first you don’t succeed
The saying goes 3rd time’s a charm, or a strike out. Well since this would be the last of Chef Cunny’s special blend I it was make or break time. I really wanted to give the jerk my full attention so I made sure to clear my schedule and line up my camera.
Chicken leg quarters were a must. Because quarters and halves are how chicken is traditionally cooked and sold by streetside vendors in Jamaica and I wanted to maintain the artistic integrity. After letting the meat marinade for a few hours I popped it into the oven. It was winter and I’m in the northeastern US (no perpetual summers here) For the last 10 minutes of cooking, I moved the meat closer to the broiler and changed to oven setting to get a nice just grilled finish you’d expect from an authentic streetside Jamaican jerk.
and the verdict is…
You’ve probably figured out by now that I really like this jerk. I don’t know what I was looking for besides smoke but I did find most of the things I expect from a good Jamaican jerk. Finally as I sat writing this article it came to me. The marinade was weak on spice. The allspice was present but it was weak and the scotch bonnet pepper lacked presence. Being that Scotch bonnet pepper is one of the signature ingredients in authentic Jamaican Jerk, I expected even a little tingle. All things considered this was a darn good jerk that has the potential to be great. Hopefully this is just the beginning of great things from Chef Noel’s kitchen…
the jerk, round 2
Maybe he read my original critique. Maybe the jerk Gods appealed to him. Whatever the reason Chef Noel made me wait a couple months before allowing me to get my hands on a second bottle of his sauce. Then, in late June of this year we teamed up for an event at which time the good chef presented me with a newly designed bottle of his special sauce… I debated about deleting my original feedback. Instead I settled for a revised review… Spicy, smoky and slightly sweet with strong hints of pimento. This jerk marinade is as authentic as they come.
Chef Noel’s Smoky Jamaican Jerk is the real deal.
Jerk Chicken Recipe
Authentic Jamaican jerk is so much more than a seasoning made with hot pepper blended with herbs and spices. Derived from the Spanish word charqui; Jamaicans use the word jerk to describe the process of spicing, smoking and grilling meats over a pimento wood or coal fire.
3 lb chicken
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 TB jerk seasoning
½ sm. onion (chopped)
Scotch Bonnet pepper (optional)
Wash the chicken in vinegar cold water. Drain the waterfrom the chicken. Combine all ingredients in a deep bowl. Mix well to coat the chicken. Marinade chicken for 4 to 12 hours before cooking.
On the Grill
Grill as you normally would and enjoy! To make sauce for basting and serving; cook remaining seasoning with 1 C. water in a small saucepan, over medium heat for 10 minutes. Use sauce to baste the chicken
In the oven
Arrange chicken in single layer in an oven safe container. Bake covered, in a 350° oven for 1 hour. Remove cover, baste chicken and place on top rack of oven for 15 minutes until chicken browns and begins to crisp.