Aug. 26, 2001 - Marry the low-fat healthfulness of chicken breast with zesty jerk seasonings, add some fresh greens, and you've got a quick lunch or dinner that is both nutritious and delicious.
The word "jerk" is used to describe a style of open-pit cooking as well as a type of seasoning. Jerk dates back to the indigenous Arawaks and their traditional method of using what today is called Jamaican pimento or allspice to season and smoke meats such as wild pig. This basic recipe and preparation method evolved through the centuries. Hot chilies originating from South America and other Caribbean islands were added, along with a variety of spices brought from both the Old and New Worlds by European explorers. Jamaica's escaped slaves, the Maroons, are thought to have perfected this method of cooking and preserving meat during their years living in that island's Blue Mountains and fighting British troops.
Today, meats often are cooked on a barbecue grill rather than in a pit, and jerk seasonings can take the form of wet pastes, marinades or dry rubs. The seasonings most used in jerk recipes are allspice, hot chilies and salt, but as many as 30 other herbs and spices also are used, including ginger, thyme, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and green onions. The dry seasoning mix can be rubbed into the meat, or the meat can be soaked overnight in a marinade, as is called for in the recipe below. The key to great flavor when making a jerk dish is being sure to baste the meat or poultry -- or fish or even tofu -- while it is slowly grilling.
When it comes to chicken, everybody loves the wings. Lots of fatty skin keeps the tidbits of meat moist, and the bones offer a definite play factor. Skinless chicken breasts, owing to their white meat and lack of fatty skin, are often dubbed "dry and tasteless." Marinating chicken breasts helps to keep moisture in the meat and adds flavor from the marinade's pungent ingredients.
Just try the Jerk Chicken Salad recipe below and discover how wonderful a grilled chicken breast can taste with a jerk-seasoning base that tastes equally good as a dressing for salad greens.
Jerk Chicken Salad
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion3 scallions, chopped
4 chicken breast halves
4 cups mixed fresh greens
12 cherry tomatoes
In a large glass baking dish, combine garlic powder, allspice, thyme, sugar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, sage, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly whisk in soy sauce, vinegar and orange juice. In a slow stream, whisk in olive oil. Add onion and green onion. Combine well. Add chicken breasts and turn from side to side a few times to coat chicken well with marinade. Allow to marinate 8 hours or overnight, covered in the refrigerator.
When ready to cook, grill chicken 6 minutes on each side. Or, for indoor preparation, broil it for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Brush chicken well with marinade while grilling or broiling. Slice cooked chicken into strips and lay over bed of salad greens. Heat remaining marinade to boiling and let boil for 2 minutes (to kill any bacteria that might be present from the raw chicken). Spoon over chicken and greens. Garnish plates with cherry tomatoes.
Serves 4. Per serving: 385 calories, 12 grams fat (31 percent fat calories), 148 mg cholesterol, 356 mg sodium.