Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cha Cha Cha Jerk Chicken

The Los Angeles Times' Food Section happens to be one of the better ones in the country. Maybe I should qualify that. It used to be one of the best. So few major newspapers are devoting money and staff to the sections anymore, but you can access the food sections of many newspapers on the net now (click on this link for a list of newspaper food sections available online). But this recipe was in the "good old days," when the food section was quite large. The recipe comes from a restaurant in Los Angeles called Cha Cha Cha and was printed about 7-8 years ago. I've never been to the restaurant, but I guess they do a lot of highly seasoned Caribbean foods, this being one of them. Jerk seasoning was new to U. S. cooking circles back then, and having never had it, I was intrigued to try it. It's been a summertime regular ever since. And I want you to read the nutritional analysis this time (a very good-for-you dish).
You need to have a sizable repertoire of herbs and spices in order to concoct the herb/spice mixture. I make it up in quantity. I think I've read that once you combine herbs or spices their lifetime diminishes considerably. My stash of this mixture is from last summer, so I hope it lasts a few more months.

The chicken breasts are marinated in a combination of the herb/spice mixture, canned pineapple juice, orange juice and Worcestershire sauce. Ideally for 24 hours, but I've done it in far less when I haven't planned ahead to make this. It's very simple once you have the dry mix ready; I always marinate meat/chicken/fish in a plastic bag - one of the freezer types so there's no chance of puncturing it. Or at least very little chance of a chicken bone or something poking a hole in the bag. When I am unsure about how safe the bag is, I'll put it into the bag, then in a large plastic bowl. Just in case.

The only other info about this chicken that is different is how it's cooked. It is done on direct heat, but after grilling for a fairly short time on the grill, you remove the breasts and slice them into strips, dip in the marinade again, then finish cooking. The batch pictured above didn't get that last step because the head griller had already turned the meat over and it was deemed "too late" to do the slice. So we just slathered more of the marinade on it and allowed it to cook that way. It's very moist as long as you don't overcook it. Remove the chicken when it reaches about 150-155 degrees, allow to sit a few minutes then slice and serve. Discard the marinade as it's contaminated. You could boil the marinade down if you wanted to and make it a sauce, but it might take longer than you have to devote to it since the chicken cooks in nothing flat. I'm going to try that sometime. The chicken is extremely low in fat because the marinade has no oil in it at all. None. So it's just the fruit juices that help it retain moisture. Our family from Placerville was here, and they deemed it good. My daughter Dana has made this a few times and recommends buying the pineapple orange combination juice (Dole makes it) instead of using separate canned juices. Makes good sense to me. I may stock up on that, because I never have pineapple juice on hand.

The original recipe called for double the ingredients for the marinade, but I've been perfectly happy with a smaller quantity and if it's marinated in a plastic bag, you can turn it over and back, and all the chicken is in contact with the liquid.

Cha Cha Cha Jerk Chicken
Recipe : From the restaurant by that name in L.A.
Servings : 8

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 cloves garlic -- minced
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice
8 boned and skinned chicken breast halves, tender removed

1. Prepare the dry mixture first.
2. In a large heavy-duty plastic bag, combine the dry mixture, adding the fresh garlic, Worcestershire sauce, orange juice and pineapple juice. Mix it up a bit, then add the chicken breasts. Seal the bag and marinate overnight if time permits, turning the bag a few times in that time.
2. Remove chicken from marinade and drain briefly, then place on grill heated to medium heat, and cook about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat (jerk chicken is always cooked twice). Cut each breast half in half lengthwise and use a brush to apply more marinade to each piece. Return to grill and cook until chicken is cooked through - about 4-5 minutes, brushing frequently with more marinade to keep it moist.
NOTES : Be sure to read this recipe all the way through before you begin. It is best if allowed to marinate for 24 hours, although I've done it in 6 hours (not as good!). When I make up the herb/spice mixture, I prepare a 4x batch, and store in small plastic bags with a label inside. It's a bit of a nuisance to make the mixture as there are so many different ones. But, this is a very tasty dish and worth the effort. If you add more marinade to the chicken during the grilling time, be sure it COOKS, since the raw chicken was marinated in it and it will contain raw-chicken bacteria.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 193 Calories; 2g Fat (9.7% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 772mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on the title at the top.

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