Jerk Chicken Burger – of course!
I trust you all had a lovely summer and enjoyed your holiday. In honor of holiday/vacation/time off, we are off to Jamaica today. I don’t know about you, but some time in the islands sounds like just the thing. Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494 then later settled by the Spanish. This was unfortunate for the native Taino people who were gradually killed off (a combination of violence and disease).
Today there are almost 3 million people living in Jamaica. Over 90% of the population is of African descent (the Spanish and later the English brought Africans over as slaves starting in the 16th century. Slavery was abolished in 1834 and full independence was achieved in 1962. Over time, the economy of Jamaica had become highly dependent on services, many of which are fed by the tourism industry (no wonder given the natural beauty of the island). Unfortunately the global economic downturn hits countries like this particularly hard, and Jamaica is no exception. In an attempt to bail out ailing sectors of the economy, the government has gone deeply into debt (debt to GDP ratio of 130%). Combine that with high crime rates and unemployment running around 14% and things are not so sunny in Jamaica these days.
Before we jump in to the food, I wanted to talk a little about the Rastafari religion in Jamaica, mainly because I found it really interesting and hope you will too. Rastafari developed in Jamaica in the 1930s after Haile Selassie I was crowned King of Ethiopia. Its followers believe that Haile Selassie is God.
God will, according the Rastafari theology return to Africa those blacks who are living in exile due to colonization and slave trade. There are about 1 million followers of the Rastafari religion worldwide. Rastafarians follow many of the teachings of the Old Testament; it is a Christian based religion. There are many dietary restrictions that are followed to varying degrees. Most Rastafarians don’t drink alcohol and many don’t eat meat. There is an emphasis on clean and natural foods and some followers even avoid using cooking implements made out of metal and any canned or preserved foods. The whole dreadlock thing is because the religion forbids cutting your hair. Overall Rastafari is an interesting religion with a strong belief in black empowerment and in living in harmony with the natural world. So don’t stop at Bob Marley, read up on the movement, it is pretty cool and very interesting.
Enough of this, let’s move on to the food, there is much to celebrate in the food culture of Jamaica. While it has been influenced by the many people who have lived on the islands, today it is one of the most influential and exported cuisines in the Caribbean. The original native Taino cooked on a wooden grate over a slow flame, the wood that they used was wood from the allspice tree. Jamaicans now call this cooking method “jerk”. The word “jerk” also refers to a spice blend that varies from one Jamaican to the next, but always includes allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Although Jamaican cuisine has many rich traditions, jerk is, by far, the most iconic flavor from Jamaica and I couldn’t resist making it the basis for my burger recipe. So yes, I made a jerk chicken burger, and it is spicy and packed with the flavor of the islands.
I also tried making bammy, “tried” being the operative word. Bammy is a traditional Jamaican dish that involves straining grated yucca then grilling it in a patty form. The recipes that I found were pretty basic, so that’s what I tried to emulate. And, it tasted like cardboard and had the texture of glue. So I abandoned that Idea and went with a basic beans and rice for the starchy base. Then, because we’re in the islands, I had to add some fresh tropical fruits and veggies to lighten things up.
The final result is classic spice flavor complimented by heat that ties it all together and stays with you. You get the tangy, piney flavor of allspice loud and clear and the salsa balances with a sweet and zesty tropical top-note. The rice and beans tame the whole dish a bit and keep the spice and heat from overpowering the palate.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy this and be transported to the islands. If you like this, I have lots of other Caribbean burgers you’ll probably enjoy too – check out the ………
1¼ pound boneless skinless chicken breast
2 Tablespoons ground allspice
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 habenero or Scotch bonnet pepper sliced
2 scallions chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Juice of 1 lime
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 cups beans and rice (recipe below)
2 cups papaya salsa (recipe below)
Cut the chicken into chunks (about 1 inch cube) and place in a glass bowl. Put all of the spices and herbs along with the lime juice and salt into a spice grinder and grind into a paste. Add the paste to the chicken and coat the chicken with the paste. Let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. Using the fine setting on a meat grinder, grind the chicken along with the spice paste. Form four patties from the mixture.
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet. Grill the patties until the chicken is cooked through. To serve, place about half a cup of the rice and beans mixture on each plate, add the cooked patties then top with the papaya salsa.
Beans and rice
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
1 can small red beans
Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
1 chayote sliced thin
½ papaya sliced
1 jalapeno seeded and diced
1 Vidalia onion sliced
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
Juice of 1 lime
Heat the oil in a medium skillet and grill the vegetables, fruit and peppers until just soft. Remove the fruit and vegetables from the heat and chop. Add lime juice to taste. Use the salsa at room temperature or cold on the burgers.
©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach