When my family and I were back East visiting my mother, we begged Carol, mother’s Jamaican caretaker, to cook her fabulous chicken dinner. Carol cheerfully agreed and sent us off to the grocery where we found an 8-1/2 pound chicken for about $5.50!
Here’s the recipe for Carol Lewis’s Fantastic Jamaican Chicken:
Buy the biggest chicken you can find (I don’t think I’ve ever seen an 8-1/2 pound chicken in Aspen) and wash it thoroughly – thoroughly – with cold water, inside and out. Pat dry.
Take the juice of four or five lemons or limes and wash the chicken even more thoroughly with the juice: inside, outside, wing-pits, thigh creases, everywhere. This is the most important part of the process in Jamaican chicken cooking, eradicating nasty chicken smells and tastes, so do not hold back on this step. Pat dry.
Chop very fine (Cuisinart is OK, Carol used a knife) a large white onion and seven cloves of garlic. Stab the chicken a dozen or more times with a sharp knife, then rub the garlic/onion mixture vigorously over the whole body, inside and out and into the stab holes. Take good time.
Next, you take a handful of Pickapeppa or Jamaican jerk sauce and rub it into the chicken. I don’t know what the jerk sauce is, but they have Pickapeppa sauce (made in Jamaica) at City Market. “Do you use about half a bottle? A third?” I asked Carol, but she said no, just pour it into your cupped hand and then rub it all over into the chicken. Like oiling a baby, leave no crease untended.
Then you liberally sprinkle the chicken with Goya Adobo seasoning with cumin. This is an excellent if somewhat esoteric spice (salt, cumin, garlic, black pepper, oregano and tumeric) which I haven’t found locally but which is available from http://www.cubanfoodguy.com for $3.99, or I’ll give you some of mine for free. Only the Goya Adobo WITH CUMIN comes without MSG. Do not salt the chicken.
Cover the chicken and refrigerate overnight, or you can start early in the morning and refrigerate until cooking time. Then massage the chicken all over with melted butter and bake it – covered tightly and left alone – at 350 degrees for however long it takes (2-3 hours) for the popper to pop. If your chicken doesn’t have a popper, they can be bought separately, though I wouldn’t know where to look for them. Anyway, you know when your chicken’s done: When forked in the thigh, the juices run clear.
Now you spring into action. Uncover the chicken, crank up the heat and baste it with its juices and marinade until it is nice and brown. Put the browned chicken on a platter, add to the gravy a couple of tablespoons of ketchup and some (you be the judge) water and cook it down until it thickens a bit.
You can add cornstarch or flour to make a real gravylike gravy, but we all loved this very tasty thinner version, which we ladled onto the tender chicken and a mixture of white rice and frozen peas (cooked). The sweetness of the peas perfectly complements the tang of the gravy.
Do not bother fixing dessert, as your guests will be pushed back from the table lying back in their chairs looking like beached whales after three helpings of Carol’s chicken.
My mother, trooper that she is, joined us at the table in her wheelchair with her Ensure.
Su Lum is a longtime local who is looking for an 8-pound chicken. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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