The Perfect Jamaican Curry Chicken


By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

I WAS thinking this week about the “government Shutdown” here in the US and how people in certain circumstances were being affected.

There was an alleged report of angry customers at Walmart because their EBT cards stopped working at the registers.  The EBT card is issued instead of food stamps for them to purchase grocery items.

Other people, I hear, have had their pension checks delayed and even recently, it seems, an international airport in Florida was affected, with returning residents waiting in long lines for hours because there were no Immigration Officers present at the desks to process their documents.

It made me wonder — what would happen in Jamaica if the government ever decided to shut down?

But when I really thought about it, I had to laugh to myself, cause the way some things run a yard, is as if our Government did shut down a long time ago – we just neva call it suh (LOL).

It’s not anything new to wait in line for hours at the Tax Office to get anything done – especially around lunch time.  The amount of empty windows with no agents around to attend to customers is a pretty common sight. Plus, the only food stamp you get in Jamaica is when the cashier at a take-out restaurant write “Stew Beef” or “Cow Foot” on the box your food was going to be served in.

On that note, let me tell you this my friends, anything else can gwaan a yard and wi still enjoy ourselves – no problem!  But if our Government was ever in charge of box lunches and shut down they would have a colossal riot on their hands! One thing you don’t mess with is a Yard man and his food.  Even our legendary Bob Marley in his infinite wisdom warned the population when he stressed: “A hungry man is a ‘hangry’ man…” in his hit song, “Dem Belly Full”.

So, whether you have to pickle it and call it “Dat” or stew it and call it “Ital” – just make sure you have something hot and ready to serve; otherwise the only thing that will be certain to “get” shut down will be your Shop – no need for explanations here!

Well, not to worry, I pulled out all the stops (no pun intended) with this quick and rewarding recipe from my arsenal (should I say again, no pun intended – hahaha!). This one I know for sure will definitely fill all the bellies and keep any kind of “shut downs” at bay.

Jamaican Curried Chicken

Serves 6

• 8 large sprigs thyme, hard stems removed
• 1 large spanish onion, roughly chopped
• 1 bunch scallions, rough chopped
• 1/4 cup rough chopped fresh garlic
• 1 small piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb)
• 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper(optional)
• 4 pounds chicken legs and thighs cut in large chunks, bone-in and skin on
• 1Tablespoon ground cumin
• 1/3 cup curry powder
• 3 Tablespoons Coconut oil OR Vegetable oil
• 1 pound potatoes, diced (optional)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 quart chicken stock (or water)

To make the marinade, combine thyme, onions, scallions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and ginger in a food processor or blender. Pulse until all are incorporated, adding a little vegetable oil if necessary to help the process.

Rub marinade into meat and let it sit for at least 1/2 hour or up to 24 hours. Heat a large braising pan over LOW heat and add curry powder and ground cumin.  Toast until you smell its aroma, about  1 minute, then add vegetable oil.

Add chicken with marinade to pan and stir to incorporate with toasted mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add enough chicken stock (or water) to come ¾ way to top of meat.

Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes. Uncover, stir the pot, adjust seasonings and add other half of scotch bonnet pepper if you want more spice.

Add more chicken stock or water if necessary to prevent meat from sticking to the bottom of pan. Cook uncovered for an additional 20 minutes or until meat is tender and liquid has reduced and thickened to the consistency of a thick pan gravy.  Liquid will thicken more if the optional potatoes are used.

Tastes even better after cooling and re-heating!

Serve with steaming white rice or Roti.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for three years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cookoffs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show, Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.