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EATING well

Spice things up with Grilled Jerk Chicken Breasts With Watermelon Salsa

You can spice things up or down by adjusting the amount of Scotch bonnet chile you use.

Associated Press

You can spice things up or down by adjusting the amount of Scotch bonnet chile you use.

It's barbecue season, and chicken is the ideal candidate to get you grilling.

Why? Chicken is light, it easily picks up the marinade of your choice, and it cooks quickly. But this recipe is not for your everyday grilled chicken. This is spicy Jamaican-style jerk chicken.

Jerk seasoning consists of a base blend of scallions, thyme, allspice, Scotch bonnet chiles, salt and, not infrequently, cinnamon or nutmeg. This may seem like a lot of ingredients to slice and dice, but that's not the case. Toss them all into a blender, pulverize everything to a paste, then you're good to go.

But you do need to be careful when you're messing with those Scotch bonnets. I advise wearing gloves. A cousin of the habanero, Scotch bonnets are serious chiles. This recipe calls for a whole chile, but you can use less if you want to tamp down the heat. Happily, Scotch bonnets aren't solely about heat; they also are uniquely flavorful — like a cross between a mango and chile. If you can't find Scotch bonnets, use a habanero. If you can't find either, reach for a jalapeno or serrano.

I left the skin on the chicken to prevent it from drying out while it's being grilled, so when you marinate the chicken be sure to put the spice paste under the skin as well as on top of it. To cut calories, discard the skin after you're done grilling. The meat itself will be plenty spicy.

The job of the watermelon salsa is to balance the heat of the chiles. All by itself, of course, ripe watermelon is one of the top reasons to love summer. It happens to be healthy, too. It's an excellent thirst-quencher and a great source of lycopene, vitamin C and beta-carotene.

GRILLED JERK CHICKEN BREASTS WITH WATERMELON SALSA

For the marinade:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

8 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped

1 to 2 (to taste) Scotch bonnet chiles, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 ½ tablespoons ground allspice

1 ½ tablespoons Colman's Mustard (English-style mustard)

2 bay leaves

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons dried thyme

4 chicken breast halves (4 pounds total) on the bone with the skin, each chicken breast half cut in half

For the salsa:

2 cups diced seedless watermelon

1 cup diced seedless cucumber

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

¼ cup finely shredded fresh mint

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar

Salt

In a blender, combine vegetable oil, scallions, chiles, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar and thyme. Blend until the mixture forms a fine paste. Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn it to coat well on all sides. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.

When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium.

To make the salsa, in a medium bowl combine the watermelon, cucumber, shallot, mint, lime juice and sugar. Season with salt, then set aside.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Using an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs, oil the grill grates. Add the chicken, skin side down, and grill for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the pieces of chicken, then grill for another 10 to 15 minutes, or just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve each portion topped with some of the salsa.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories (180 calories from fat, 47 percent of total calories); 20g fat (5g saturated, 0g trans fats); 115mg cholesterol; 9g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 6g sugar; 39g protein; 650mg sodium.

Spice things up with Grilled Jerk Chicken Breasts With Watermelon Salsa 05/15/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:26pm]

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