Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who you calling a jerk?!

Oh, my chicken?  Okay, that's fair.

Two successful attempts at Chicken in a row!  I better be careful not to start getting cocky, as we all know what that leads to...

Anyway, this is also another example of things that I learned by going to the Milwaukee Public Market cooking classes.  Which reminds me, I need to check out the September schedule and find out what to register for!

I've actually found the cooking classes to be a great date for my husband and me.  I recommend this for anyone who is mildly interested in cooking.  Don't take them at the Milwaukee Public Market, though, because that's my secret and I don't want to have to start signing up for them way in advance :)

Anyway, I'm sure you can find some local cooking classes somewhere near you.  For about $25, they give a demo, and then you get to eat the food.  The public market allows you to purchase wine or beer (or a margarita!) from any of the local vendors, and then bring it up with you - in theory to drink with your food but, if you are anything like me, more likely to drink while you are watching the demo!  It's a good date, you get fed, you feel like you learned something, and you don't spend that much money.  It's a nice change from dinner and a movie.
I look so fancy and I am so easy!
(That's what she said...)

Anyway, about a month ago, we attended the Jamaican cooking class, so I decided to make jerked chicken. Also, it's another excuse to butterfly a chicken, which is my new skill that I am very proud of even though it is not hard at all.  I feel like I've talked about butterflying a chicken before, but I can't find it in any of my previous posts, so maybe I didn't. Butterflying a chicken is impressive.  It makes people think you are fancy.  And it is really, really, REALLY easy.  You can find a great tutorial at this website.

What I learned at my Jamaican cooking class is that jerked whatever is really easy.  And because of that, it combines four of my favorite food related things:

1. Chicken
2. Things that are really easy
3. Things that most people can't make (or more specifically don't know that they can make) and are therefore impressive
4. Spicy things

The thing that I liked best about the jerk sauce was that it required almost no work: Take ingredients, place in food processor or blender, blend to liquid, pour over chicken.  Excellent.

Jerk Sauce
*a note on habanero chilis.  These mothers are hot.  Seriously.  If you are going to cut them up, wear a glove.  Put them on a piece of wax paper before you cut them or the hotness will juice onto your cutting board and soak in.  The next time you cut bread, the bread will be crazy spicy.  Seriously.  Maybe not if you have a plastic cutting board, but all of mine are wood and once I had to throw one out because it was just infused with spiciness.  Even though you are wearing a glove, still wash your hands after cutting the habaneros.  Don't touch your eyes.  DON'T try to put in contacts.  You will go blind (I did this once.  It was bad.)  My preferred method for handing habaneros is to freeze them, and then to cut them up as quickly as possible, whilst touching them as little as possible.  The fact that they are frozen helps the hot parts not to get all over everything.  Oh, and if you want to make them less hot, knock out the seeds.  But don't scoop the seeds out with your finger because you don't want to touch all the seeds!

I am always pro fresh spices, but I did learn at this event that there is a time and place for dried spices too.  Specifically if you want them to soak into the meat.  That is why they are featured prominently here.

All my spices, as always, are from our local spice house, "The Spice House." 

Jerk ingredients in food processor
  • 1 large red onion, roughly chopped (L)
  • 5 large heads garlic, peeled (L)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp Jamaican allspice
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 habanaro chile (L*)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (L) (Really.  Kikkoman Soy Sauce is made in Lake Geneva, WI.)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 whole chicken, butterflied (L)

Chicken in pan
Add ingredients to a food processor and blend.  Place chicken in a glass baking dish, just big enough to fit it, skin side up.  Pour sauce over chicken.  Allow to sit for at least 1 hour, refrigerated, then for 30 minutes more at room temperature.

Actually, this recipe made about twice as much jerk marinade as I needed for one full chicken.  Which brings us to the other awesome thing I learned at this class.  Jerk marinade can be frozen. So my recipe for my husband making this would be:

Remove jerk marinade from freezer.  Allow to thaw.  Pour over meat.  Apply heat.  Feed me.
Chicken in pan with jerk marinade

This marinade can certainly be used on meat other than chicken.  According to Wikipedia, Jerk spice mixes can be applied to pork, chicken, fish, shrimp, shellfish, beef, sausage, and tofu.  Mmmm.  That's what I want for dinner.  Some jerked tofu.  No.

Once you are ready to eat, grill the chicken just as you would normally grill chicken - about 30 to 35 minutes, over a medium grill.  I like to start with a higher heat on the skin side to get it extra crispy, and then turn the heat down a little when I flip the chicken over to allow it extra time to cook through without getting burnt.

Chicken on the Grill
I learned (don't ask me where, I don't know.  Perhaps I made it up...) that you are supposed to avoid flipping meat as much as possible.  Give it as few flips as you can.  However, in doing my research for this blog (extensive research is put into all of my blogs, I promise), I learned that there are several possible reasons for the name "Jerked."  The first explanation I found is that it refers to the process of cooking: during the cooking, the meat is turned over again and again (jerked over) until it is fully cooked.  Hmmm...  Other suggestions: the term "jerk" comes from the Spanish "Charqui" (yes, those words clearly look and sound the same... No).  which means dried meat.  It has the same root as the word "jerky" as in beef jerky (because Jerked Chicken and Beef Jerky have so very much in common.  I don't buy that one much at all).  OR... the word "jerk" applies to the reaction your mouth has to the spices.  OR... the word jerk applies to the the fact that you are supposed to jerk and poke the meat with sharp objects to produce holes which are filled with the spices (I didn't do this, so I hope that's not the reason).  OR... (according to Ask.com, and by far my favorite answer) "Because your mama is a jerk and she smells like chicken."  Done and done.

This is not terribly spicy.  In fact, I might add more spice when making it in the future. But I really like spice, so you might want to try it this way first!

One Jerked Chicken.  
A lovely dinner.  For information on the pretty bowl to the right of the shot, tune in tomorrow!

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