In the spring of 2012, when Dave and I were first dating, I would cook for him whenever we had nights off together. One day I was craving the spiciness and boldness I associated with jerk chicken. He countered by suggesting orange chicken. I compromised and made an orangey, jerk-inspired chicken.
The truth is I knew very little about jerk at the time. The two big flavors that came to mind were habanero and allspice. I did a quick search to come up with enough inspiration, and then threw in the orange to give Dave the flavor he was craving. For some reason I decided to turn the marinade into a glaze when I cooked it, and this sweet and spicy chicken was a hit with both of us.
You are probably aware that jerk chicken comes from Jamaica. The native Taíno people of Jamaica taught the Maroons, the Africans who escaped enslavement by hiding in the Jamaican mountains, how to make jerk. They grilled their meat over pimento wood coals in covered pits so the smoke would not be visible, and they could stay hidden from the colonists. Authentic jerk should be cooked over pimento wood. This article from Smithsonian goes further into the history.
This preparation is far from authentic jerk preparation, but the ingredients are inspired by jerk. I go pretty heavy on the allspice because I love that big, bold, warm flavor the spice offers. I use habañero peppers which are similar to scotch bonnets but easier to track down in the PNW. I keep my marinade pretty mild for my daughter, but I do add extra chili flakes to mine to make it spicier for myself. If everybody you’re cooking for likes a hot spice level, use all three habañeros.
Glazed Orange and Allspice Chicken
- 2 T Allspice, ground
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1-3 habañeros, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 2 oranges
- 6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup honey
- chili flake, optional (I use scotch bonnet flakes.)
- 1/2 bunch of scallions, finely sliced
- 12-24 hours ahead of time, make the marinade. Combine allspice, black pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, diced habañeros, minced garlic cloves, thyme, grated ginger, and zest of the oranges. Then add the strained juice of the two oranges. Whisk to combine. Pour over the chicken, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Toss occasionally so the flavors are evenly distributed.
- Remove chicken from the fridge about an hour before you are ready to cook the chicken. Pull the chicken out of the marinade, but do not discard it. Strain the marinade through a sieve (This if preferable, but if you do not have one, you’ll be fine!) into a medium sized sauce pan.
- Preheat your grill. I use a charcoal grill and like to start mine about a half hour before I begin cooking, but it will be faster if you are using a gas grill. Cook chicken over direct high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t get too charred. You will have time to crisp it up more at the end. Then move to indirect (charcoal) or low heat (gas) for about 30 minutes or until chicken temps at about 155F.
- While the chicken is cooking add 1/2 cup of honey to strained marinade. Bring to a boil, but keep an eye on it as it may boil over. When it starts to boil turn down to medium and simmer until it is viscous enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.
- When chicken is almost done, brush on glaze to both sides of the chicken thighs. If desired, sprinkle with chili flakes if you want to make it extra-spicy. Return to direct heat if using a charcoal grill, or high heat if using a gas grill. Cook for another 1-2 minutes per side, until chicken is kissed with char, and temps about 165F.
- If desired, you can toss the chicken in the extra glaze or serve it on the side. Sprinkle on green onion and serve.