I want my food to be made right, out of good stuff, and prepared by someone who cares that I’ll enjoy it. That’s why I cook. Because really, the only way to get something good just about every time you eat is to make it yourself.
I’ve spent decades exploring whole foods cookery, ethnic cuisines, family heirloom recipes, modern innovations and ancient traditions. I love learning about how people have met the challenge of making something good to eat. I think it’s what separates us from the other animals: they feed, we dine.
But if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a secret recipe. Good food belongs to the whole human race. That’s why I love to share whatever I’ve learned.
I’ve worked as a freelance food writer since the 1990s, publishing mostly in regional magazines. My latest project is how-to-cook-with-vesna.com, where I’ll be spreading the word of everything food-related from how to use an iron skillet to baking bread and heirloom holiday cookies to cooking your own Thai and Jamaican and Indian meals and much more. From the exotic to the homespun, you’ll find it at my site, and there will always be an emphasis on how it works and how to do it yourself.
Late in the decade of the aughts, I began learning about the ancient and heterogenous culinary heritage of Jamaica, where waves of immigration (voluntary and otherwise) over the centuries brought together strands of cooking wisdom from Africa, India, China and Europe that have been woven together with the sensibilities of the island’s original inhabitants. The flavors are bright, pungent, complex.
For time out of mind Jamaicans have been jerking meat: seasoning it with hot peppers and the island’s native allspice berries, then slow-cooking it outdoors, sometimes right over the fragrant smoke of allspice branches. (jerky comes from the same indigenous word and culinary tradition.)
You don’t have to travel to the Caribbean to take advantage of the genius of this ancient flavor combination. A quick rub on chicken parts, an outdoor grill and enough time for your chicken to cook properly is all you need. Traditional jerk recipes call for a marinade at least overnight and lots of fresh ingredients, but this quick version is what we go to on those sunny afternoons when we decide to grill out on the spur of the moment. It’s adapted from the recipe for Jerk Pork and Pineapple Skewers you’ll find on how-to-cook-with-vesna.com
Jamaican jerk grilled chicken
Do not serve undercooked chicken; the flesh should be tender and white, and not pink. Juices should run clear.
Jamaican jerk grilled chicken
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or 1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons salt and 4 to 5 pounds chicken: thighs, drumsticks and wings
1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 package chicken leq quarters, thighs and drumsticks cut apart.
Equipment that bears mentioning
In a nutshell
Mix spices. Add chicken. Grill.
In a small bowl, mix together everything except the chicken and the lime. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Pour the seasoning mixture over the chicken. Use your fingers to rub the seasoning all over all the parts.
Meanwhile, prepare a medium-high fire on your grill. Use tongs to place the chicken on the grill. Cook, turning and moving it around every three to five minutes and keeping the grill covered (but vented to keep the coals alive) in between times. The wings will be ready after about 30 to 45 minutes, perfect for nibbling under the sun while waiting for the larger parts. The drumsticks and thighs will take another half hour. Squeeze lime slices over your individual pieces at table.