Jerk Chicken Recipe from La Cocina Cookbook
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For nearly 3 decades, La Cocina – a San Francisco-based nonprofit – has helped launch more than 120 food brands, businesses and brick-and-mortar restaurants for talented immigrant chefs and chefs of color.
La Cocina (“the kitchen” in Spanish) did this by providing women of color with physical kitchen space, industrial know-how, and connections to start-up capital. Given that people in this demographic typically face immense social and financial barriers to entering the industry, that’s a pretty daunting mission, if you ask us.
Chef Shani Jones is a product of La Cocina, having joined the program in 2014. Now her popular catering business Peaches Patties feeds Jamaican chicken, plantains and her famous beef patties to hungry Northern Californians.
Below is some of its history, along with a dinner-worthy recipe for authentic jerk chicken from the pages of La Cocina’s cookbook. We are La Cocina.
Reprinted from We are La Cocina by Leticia Landa and Caleb Zigas courtesy of Chronicle Books, 2019
Growing up in San Francisco, Shani Jones’ house was always full. Two parents, grandparents and eight children make a crowd, no matter the size of the house. Both of her parents worked, but Shani’s mother always cooked for everyone around.
Ms Jones was shaking chicken, frying plantains and cooking the peas and rice that are a staple of Jamaican cuisine, but it was the patties that caused people to develop hiding spots.
In a crowded house you had to get what you could when you could, and it wasn’t uncommon to find patties tucked away in the most unlikely places, let alone hear a wail screaming through the house. : ” Who stole ? my cake?!”
In San Francisco, these patties are pretty hard to find anyway; unlike the East Coast, or even Los Angeles, the Bay Area has never seen a wave of Caribbean migration large enough to leave a significant cultural imprint. Thus, the food and music of the islands are largely confined to homes, much like Shani’s.
It was while driving for Lyft and pursuing her doctorate that Shani started selling some of her mom’s recipes on the side. The economy was just coming out of recession, school was rewarding but hardly free, and the sharing economy offered little relief and even less pay.
So, in the same house where she had grown up, she put her hands in the flour next to her mother and rolled out the dough for the pancakes. She marinated chicken in fiery jerk seasoning and she found customers – some of them, like her, who were craving the flavors they knew and missed, and still others who were always on the lookout for something new. .
Jones’ Jerk Chicken is packed with Caribbean-inspired spices – which make for a fiery contrast to serve over fluffy rice, beans or fried plantains. The longer you let the chicken thighs marinate, the deeper the flavor they will impart.
For 8 to 10 people
- 3 Scotch bonnet or habañero peppers, stemmed
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium green onions, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, picked leaves and tender stems
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 whole chicken thighs
- Rice, beans and plantains, for serving
- In a food processor, grind the peppers, onions, scallions, garlic, black pepper, salt, allspice, nutmeg and thyme to a coarse paste.
- Transfer the pepper mixture to a bowl and toss with the lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce and oil. (The mixture will be very spicy. Be careful when handling and work in a well-ventilated area.)
- Place the chicken thighs in a large glass dish and pour the jerk marinade over them, swirling to evenly coat the chicken.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C) and lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet.
- Put the marinated chicken on the pan and pour the rest of the marinade on top.
- Bake until chicken is cooked through (meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh should register at least 160˚F (70˚C)) and lightly charred in spots, 40 to 45 minutes.
- Serve with rice and beans and fried sweet plantains.