Scotch bonnet and habanero chiles are native to the Caribbean and are extremely hot. Scotch bonnets are traditional, but you can use habaneros, which are similar and easier to find. Use fewer or more, according to your taste. Protect your hands by wearing gloves when cutting the peppers and when rubbing the chicken with marinade. Plan ahead so the chicken can marinate overnight; allowing it to come to room temperature before grilling makes for faster and more even cooking.
- 3 fresh Scotch bonnet, or habanero chiles, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 8 scallions, coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a large knife
- 3 tablespoons (about 1 bunch) fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, (2 to 3 limes), plus lime wedges for serving
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing grill
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 whole chickens, (about 5 pounds each), cut into 8 pieces each, or 16 drumsticks and thighs, rinsed well and patted dry
Make jerk marinade: Process chiles, onion, scallions, garlic, and thyme in a food processor until mixture forms a coarse paste. Add brown sugar, allspice, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and oil; season with pepper. Process until smooth. Marinade can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 day before proceeding.
Transfer 1/3 of the marinade (about 1 cup) to a small bowl; set aside to use for brushing chicken. Transfer remaining marinade to a large bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat, rubbing marinade under the skin and all over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before grilling.
Heat a grill to low (if using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for 7 seconds). Brush grate lightly with oil. Place chicken on grill, skin sides down. Discard used marinade. Grill chicken, brushing occasionally with reserved cup of fresh marinade, until the skin sides are well browned but not charred, about 25 minutes. Turn chicken, and continue to cook, basting it occasionally, until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Cut chicken breast halves into 2 or 3 pieces, if desired. Serve with lime wedges. ,
Variation: Alternatively, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 10-inch cast iron skillet; place skillet over medium-low heat. Add about 5 pieces of chicken to skillet, skin sides down. (Be careful not to overcrowd the skillet.) Discard used marinade. Cook, brushing occasionally with reserved cup fresh marinade and turning, until well browned on all sides, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a baking dish; set aside. Wipe out skillet. Brush skillet with more oil, and cook remaining chicken in 2 more batches, transferring cooked chicken to the baking dish. Brush chicken generously with more marinade, and transfer to oven. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.