Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a chile-head, and that I love spicy food. I am obsessed with chiles of all kinds. I’ve always known jalapenos, but moving to New York and expanding my palate has opened up my world to an amazing variety of chile peppers. I’ve discovered chipotles, poblanos, anchos, serranos, Thai birds, fresnos, and of course, habaneros. I really and truly love habaneros. I love their fruity, intense heat and their pretty colors. Every year, Matt and some of his coworkers go in together and buy a whole bushel of habaneros from this Amish guy upstate who breeds them himself. They split them, and he brings home an enormous baggie full of the little red chiles. I put on gloves, and proceed to rip out the seeds and membranes, all the while trying not to cough too much. Then I puree them and keep them in a giant container in the refrigerator, and it becomes a habanero mash.
Whenever I need a habanero, I get a teaspoon or so of the puree. As you can see, I’ve got a ways to go before it’s all used up. One of the best uses I’ve found for this overabundance of habaneros is Jamaican jerk dishes.
I know I didn’t taste jerk anything until adulthood, but I immediately fell in love with it and now I cook it often. Jerk is so versatile and can marinate almost any protein. I especially love it on chicken. We grill it, and the smoky charcoal essence combines with the complex jerk flavors… I’m drooling just typing this…
Anyway, this chicken was wonderful. Complex in flavor, very spicy, smoky from the grill, slightly sweet and nicely lacquered. Don’t skimp on the marinade time, or you’ll miss some of the robust flavor.
Source: Emeril at the Grill, by Emeril Lagasse
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
8 habanero chiles, seeded and stemmed
1/3 cup minced garlic
1/3 cup minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbs dark rum
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs light brown sugar
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
2 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 tbs kosher salt
Combine the scallions, habaneros, garlic, ginger, lime juice, rum, soy sauce, brown sugar, thyme, and pumpkin pie spice in a food processor. Process to form a smooth paste.
Place the chicken in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, add the marinade, and seal. Refrigerate, turning the bag occasionally, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Heat a grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grate.
Remove chicken from marinade and discard the marinade. Wipe the chicken with paper towels to remove any excess. As you can see in my picture, I wasn’t too hyper about this step and mine turned out great. Season the chicken on both sides with the salt. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the grill and cook, turning and rotating frequently, until it is lightly charred and cooked through. An instant read thermometer should read 165 F. This will take around half an hour. Remove chicken from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Ginger Barbecue Sauce
6 tbs ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tbs distilled white vinegar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbs minced fresh ginger
1 tbs butter
1 tbs dry mustard
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs tamarind paste
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and minced
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature, drizzled over the chicken.