Grilling Really Nice Jerk Chicken

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - August 31, 2005
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Don Asam graduated from Moanalua High School and the University of Hawaii’s Travel Management Program. He always knew he wanted to be in the hospitality industry, so that’s been his career path, to great success.

Randy Schoch, head of Desert Island Restaurants, recently announced that Don has taken over as general manager of the flagship Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Restaurant Row.

Don has plenty of experience in the restaurant industry. He was previously general manager of the Ali’I Kai Catamaran and Regency Culinary Services, providing 1,000 shipboard meals a day. He also spent many years with the Hawaii Prince Hotel and Golf Course, working in restaurants, catering and special events.

Don and his wife, Elizabeth, who works at Sam Choy’s, live in Waikiki and keep themselves busy with their pet dogs, whom they refer to as "our children," and love outdoor activities. They like to entertain and cook for themselves when they have a day off together, so here’s a recipe dedicated to these two restaurant professionals in hopes they’ll relax and enjoy it at home.

Try this chicken for your holiday barbecues. You can marinate it overnight and have the chicken ready to cook in the morning. I like to serve it with steamed rice and a lettuce and tomato salad to complete the meal.

Jerk is a way of preserving and cooking meat, originally pork.

Its origins date back to the native Arawak Indians of Jamaica, and a method of using what today is called allspice to season and smoke wild pigs. This combined with hot chilies and a variety of spices brought in from the old and new worlds, plus salt, is believed to be the original jerk recipe origin. Jerk can be made with dry seasoning rubbed into the meat, or marinated such as in the following recipe. Recipes have been handed down through generations, and Jamaicans keep their techniques and formulas for jerk secret, as the competition runs high among jerk cooks in Jamaica. Recipes sometimes have up to 30 spices and seasonings, and the dry mix is rubbed into the meat or the meat is marinated overnight.

Commercial jerk mixtures are available - both dry and wet (marinades) - but you should experiment with your own mix of spices to create a flavor all your own! Happy Labor Day!


• 6 skinless chicken breasts, bone in
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1/2 cup chopped Maui onion
• 4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons canola oil
• 1 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
• 1 cup water

Combine water, lemon juice, onion, brown sugar, onions, oil, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, thyme and chili pepper with water in a blender, and pulse until smooth. Reserve one-third cup for basting.

Place chicken breasts in a shallow pan and pour marinade over. Cover and refrigerate, turning once, overnight. Preheat grill to high, brush with oil, and arrange chicken on grill. Sear on one side and then turn over and sear the other side. Reduce heat to medium and cook, basting with remaining sauce, until chicken juices run clear and meat is cooked thoroughly.

Makes six servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 150 Fat: 3 grams Cholesterol: 45 milligrams Sodium: 350 milligrams

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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