Channeling the Caribbean in the kitchen: Jerk chicken, cilantro rice and Cuban-style black beans

Imagine the tinkling of steel drums, the scent of pineapple over sandy beaches, ocean spray in the warm humid breeze, azure water lapping up the shore, tropical drinks shared at sunset. Sounds nice, huh?

That’s about as close as I’m getting to the Caribbean any time soon unfortunately (insert sad face here). But just because I’m not visiting for awhile doesn’t mean I can’t eat like it, right? And thus, in an aching-for-vacation-but-making-do-in-the-kitchen fashion, I present my first foray into Caribbean-inspired cooking: Jerk chicken, cilantro rice and Cuban-style black beans.

Get started early on the chicken as it needs a day to marinate, but trust me, it is time well-spent. This meal turned out to be flavorful, well-seasoned and a snap to get on the table. Oh and mostly pretty healthy, too!
Juicy Jerk Chicken
NSFD ranking: *-**

I followed this Simply Recipes version to a T. Rather than repeat the instructions, I’ll show you some photos and hot tips.

Try not to be daunted by the ingredients list. This is all for the sauce! Vinegar, rum, Scotch bonnet peppers or habaneros, red onion, green onion tops, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, ground black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, molasses.
I used four habaneros and T barely found it spicy enough.
I’ll admit, with the somewhat large quantities of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, I wondered if I was prepping chicken or pumpkin pie!
I followed the directions and used a “split chicken” which is cut in half length-wise. Next time I’ll use chicken pieces to save time cutting (although I did have fun with the meat cleaver).
Combining the sauce was the most time consuming element of the recipe.
 Buy many more limes than you think necessary. Between the jerk chicken, beans, cilantro rice and a minty beverage, I must have gone through 10 decent sized limes.
Pretty? The recipe calls for the marinade to be saved, boiled for 10 minutes to get rid of any ookie bacteria and then used to baste during cooking and/or serve as a dipping sauce. I was skeptical but do NOT skip the dipping sauce, it made the dish. Trust me!
Oh so attractive. I let the chicken marinate for 24 hours by accident (I got dragged to Greek food, what can I say?) and I can’t imagine a shorter time period to infuse the chicken with spice.
The chicken was moist and delicious, but oven-cooked, a little too “wet.” (I think this was also a byproduct of being a split chicken versus separate pieces.) I missed the dryness of jerk chicken cooked on a grill which is reason 257 to get our grill fixed. Ah hem.

Lime Cilantro Rice
NSFD ranking: *

I’ve tried cilantro rice once in the past, but it ended up being an icky sticky mess. The key? Following these directions and using basmati rice with chicken stock subbed for water. Please don’t tell the jerk chicken, but the rice was probably my favorite part of the meal. SO flavorful and fluffy.

Notes: The recipe calls for lime juice and lime zest. (See what I said about limes?) Don’t skimp on the zest even though it’s a pain and takes two limes to get a teaspoon. The zest makes it!

Cuban-style black beans
I drained and rinsed the beans even though the recipe didn’t call for it, and I think
that was in error as the dish was extremely dry when it was supposed to simmer.
I added chicken stock to thin it out a bit.

I must admit that my hankering for a Caribbean-style meal came from watching Dexter which is set in Miami and portrays a lot of Cuban influences. Initially I thought I’ll make Cuban food! And then I thought, I have no idea what that means! I did some googling and ran across a site called “Three Guys from Miami” and they present authentic Cuban recipes with mildly amusing commentary. Since T requested jerk chicken, I only pulled a side dish from the site, but I hope to get back there soon and try one of the entrees. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I concocted the quick black beans which call for three cans of black beans, bell pepper, onions, garlic and vinegar (see here). It turned out to be quite flavorful and complemented the rice and chicken well. The only thing? Three cans of beans for two people is a bit much even factoring in leftovers. If you’re cooking for a small group, you might want to cut the recipe in half.


Extra super tasty when served with a fresh minty beverage!


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