Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jerk Chicken Knock-off

(Check out the very poor quality photo.  Shouldn't have used a flash.  Poor rice pile looks ghostly! And the black beans?  What's up with them.  But if you could only SMELL it all!!!)
A couple of weeks (or so) ago I needed to fix supper and had no clue what I wanted to fix.  I picked up a couple of recipe books/magazines from the plethora of cookbooks, etc. we have around here searching for some kind of inspiration.  I found one.  It was a Jerk Chicken Casserole.  I thought it sounded kinda weird--as a casserole--but the ingredients seemed interesting so I tried it.  Well, I kind of blew it because I transpose numbers and I don't remember things I've read six seconds after reading them . . . sometimes.  So I tripled the amount of cornstarch and had to do some fast foot work to compensate for that near fiasco.

My family seemed to like the meal.  I did like the chicken part and the sweet potato part and I love black beans, but I didn't exactly LOVE it all as a casserole.  So today, I got creative.  Oh, I didn't have the spice named "Allspice" for the first go round.  And, forgetting being what I do so well, I didn't have any today either, but I bunted.

[I'd like to try some REAL Jerk Chicken one day--the very spicy, hot kind, but in the mean time, I'll share my knock-off version, of a knock-off version.]

I began by thawing four large chicken breasts.  Next I made up a "rub" using ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, salt (Kosher, of course), brown sugar, thyme, red and black ground pepper and brown sugar.  I coated each thawed piece of chicken with the rub and covered it to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.  If you want a more original version, you'll have to add some hot peppers.  We have a little person who does NOT like spicy foods like the rest of us do. So this worked for everyone.

In the mean time (between trips to move the garden hose from shrub and tree to the next shrub and tree, and keeping an eye on the grandsons) I finely chopped some onion and sauteed it in a small amount of olive oil then added a can of black beans, cumin and chili powder and let that mixture simmer.  (This is NOT part of the recipe.  I just put this in to let you know how/what I fixed as a side dish.  (*Sphew*  I almost had you wondering, didn't I?)

When it was time, I sauteed more chopped onion in a frying pan coated with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil  then removed the onion when done to a casserole dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  Next, I browned the chicken on each side .  The chicken went on top of the onions in the casserole dish where I added some peeled carrots (cut in chunks) around the chicken pieces (because someone else had used the sweet potatoes earlier).  If you try this recipe (or another knock-off of your own design, please DO NOT use baby carrots.  Use the biggest, fattest, deepest orange carrots you can find instead.  The flavor is SO much better!  Unless of course you actually use the sweet potatoes suggested by the original (knock-off) recipe.

To the drippings left in the pan after browning the chicken, I added the left-over rub + juices, as well as a mixture of freshly squeezed lime juice, equal amount of honey, a little water, a little less soy sauce, and not quite enough cornstarch.  I ran out.  I thought.  I stirred all of that over medium heat constantly until it thickened--which, due to the lack of enough cornstarch it didn't quite thicken enough!  That mixture was poured unceremoniously over the chicken and carrot chunks and popped into the 375 degree oven to simmer and get yummy for the next hour.  I did baste it from time to time, as well.

In the mean time (again) I did proceed to move the garden hose another time or two and work on fixing some frozen corn and heating up left-over rice.

I was in a time crunch since choir practice was getting closer and closer and I had to finish my preparations, feed the little childrens and get myself ready to go!  I then rinsed a handful of cilantro and pulled off the leaves to add to the finished meal for each person to add or not, and also sliced green onions for the same purpose.

After loading up the kids' plates with food, I thought:  "I ought to get a picture of this and post it on my blog."  I really like the way it turned out, and so did my family.  I think.  Well, they did eat it and said it smelled really good.

Since I had about 20 minutes to load my plate, take a couple of quick shots, gobble what I could before running off to Choir Practice (and because I'm anything but a professional, or regular kind of photographer) the picture I'm hoping to add to this blog post looks as amateurish as I figured it would.  Too bad you can smell/taste it from here.

If I haven't scared you off by now, I'll add the recipe just in case you're really brave and want to give it a try.

(It is NOT the spicy version.)
4 to 6 chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless--you can use what you like)

 2 tsp salt
2  tsp cinnamon                                                           
½ tsp nutmeg
½  tsp cloves                                                            
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp thyme leaves                                                     
1 tsp ground red & black pepper  mix
½ tsp ground ginger                                                      
½ tsp garlic powder

1 Tbls vegetable oil  
1 small onion, chopped 
 3 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato (or carrots) 

THE SAUCE:                    
3/4  cup+ lime juice                           
3/4  cup honey
1 - 2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls cornstarch
¼ cup water                                                                                

3 or 4 sliced green onions 
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1.   Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 2 quart, flat baking dish with oil.  In a small bowl, mix salt, brown sugar and spices.  Rub mixture on all sides of chicken and marinate an hour or two .  In a 12 inch  skillet, heat oil over medium-hi heat and saute chopped onion; remove to the baking dish.  In same skillet, cook chicken 2 – 3 minutes per side, until brown.
2.   Top onions with browned chicken pieces and sweet potato or carrot chucks.  In small bowl, mix honey, lime juice, water, soy sauce and cornstarch.  To the drippings in the skillet add what's left of the rub and the lime juice mixture.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Pour over chicken.
3.   Bake 45 min. to 1 hour or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut and sweet potatoes (or carrots) are fork tender.  Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro, if desired.
4.   Serve with rice, black beans and corn--only if you want to.  Because I did!

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