"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Grilled Jerk Chicken with Papaya Pineapple Salsa

Friends, I have to tell you that secretly, two things intimidate me.

1. Grilling. We only got our grill two years ago and I was so bad at it that I ran out and bought a gigantic Weber cookbook to see what I was doing wrong. Grilling open-air in a restaurant kitchen is totally different from having a grill with a lid. The potential for disaster is magnified exponentially (believe me).

2. Hot peppers. Both my son and husband will gobble pickled jalapeno peppers out of the jar. Not this bunny. And the more rarefied peppers, the scotch bonnets and bird's eye's? Woo boy. Forget it.

But here I was, looking at the chicken recipes, and believe it or not I've cooked almost all of them. The only ones left were Grilled Jerk Chicken, Persian-Style Chicken with Walnut, Onion and Pomegranate Sauce; Chicken with Cornmeal Dumplings, Individual B'stillas (you're just gonna hafta wait) and Asian Chicken and Water Chestnut Patties. Oops, I lie. One more: Cold Poached Chicken in Ginger Scallion Oil.

For some reason, looking at this bunch, Grilled Jerk Chicken seemed like the best idea. Maybe because the ingredients are this: Chicken, Jerk Marinade (p. 998), Papaya Pineapple Salsa (p. 964). It looked so easy!! Ha.

OK, enough disclaimer. I marinated the chicken for 24 hours. And did I use 4 bone-in breasts and 2-3 lbs thighs and drumsticks? No, I just bought a darn chicken and cut it up.

The jerk marinade took awhile--you have to dump all kinds of chopped things in a blender like onions and garlic and habanero peppers (be brave, Melissa!) and, well, chopping things can take awhile. I've never had jerk anything so was encouraged by some of the other ingredients going in, like brown sugar and lime juice.

The next day I made the Papaya Pineapple Salsa. I would like you to admire my perfect 1/4 inch cubes.

You have to be in a Zen frame of mind to do that, by the way. I was listening to old Beatles tunes while I diced, singing along with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". That helps.

Then...the grilling.

The instructions for gas grill were to sear the pieces with the lid open over moderate heat for 15-20 minutes. So far so good. Then close the lid and cook on low for another 20-25 minutes. This was where I started to worry, because when I checked at 12 minutes, some of the chicken had that distinct "burnt offering" look. Here's the plate once 24 minutes were up:

I was still apprehensive, thinking to myself, why didn't I skin that damn chicken? But the good thing is that you can take the burnt skin OFF easily. Ha ha. Also, you'll notice (if you peer closely enough) that the pieces burnt beyond eating are the wings, which just might be why they're not on the list of ingredients.

The final test--dinner.

I could eat it!! The heat was not overwhelming--it was perfect, in fact. The breast meat was too done for me (but not my husband), and the thigh I had was juicy, succulent, in fact just typing this is making my stomach growl and it's only 7:42 in the morning. Grilled jerk chicken for breakfast, anyone?


Anonymous said...

Jerk chicken - any meat really - is so popular in Jamaica. The burned skin is par for the course. R would eat the chicken and I'd eat the papaya pineapple salad. Speaking of papaya, today I sliced up a most deliciously ripe Mexican papaya - yummy.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Oh, that makes me feel so much better! I was sure I was doing it wrong. :-) And you wouldn't believe the trouble I had finding a ripe papaya--this one was from Market Basket (where they have an enthusiastic audience) but even there it could have been riper...