(Disclosure: Honored to partner with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to bring you this recipe using a home-grown NC product.)
It’s not often you’ll see that combination of words in a sentence. “North Carolina Jamaican Jerk Chicken”… The very notion seems a bit far-fetched. Well, consider that many of our neighbors have traveled from far and wide to settle here in our lovely state. As a native, I have seen how our food scene has grown gloriously and garnered national recognition because of this wonderful diversity. I celebrate the expansion it brings every day.
Along those lines, we have thriving Jamaican and Caribbean-Island communities, and it was only a matter of time before this food-lovers dream was made possible at home by local talent. I’d like to introduce you to Pluto Richards, if you haven’t met him in the community already.
Pluto comes from Jamaica and lived in New York before settling here. He’s a local in the Carrboro, NC area. He’s been playing music since childhood. He has a band called Plutopia, and their music is reggae genre-focused. So if anyone is interested in Jamaican culture all-around, this is a great guy to know. (Pictured below, far right)
As far as food, I asked him about his background and food philosophy:
“Well, I grew up like this with these kind of herbs and spices, this lifestyle where it was important to use homeopathic remedies… My parents knew exactly what to get from the fields to heal…”
So, he applies this natural approach to the products he makes. It was important to him that the spice rubs and sauces be as uninterfered with as possible.
“Everything I have is gluten-free, absolutely no artificial anything, non-GMO, no high-fructose corn syrup or anything like that.”
This was great, as of course I ascribe to the same philosophy in food preparation. So then we talked about best ways to use the spices and rubs. They can be used on most meats, or even in vegetarian stews and roastings for a wonderful flavor boost.
He makes Jerk Turkey too, and the folks at the Dead Mule Club in Chapel Hill think very highly of it! I spoke with Lisa, who told me that anyone who has had his food has absolutely loved it, and was willing to let me talk with any of the staff or customers who would agree. “He is known all over town, and everyone loves his food… I see people speak very highly of it, and he’s pretty much a staple in Chapel Hill, like an icon in the area.”
Personally, I was happy to get a chance to put the rubs and sauces to work in the kitchen and couldn’t wait to get started. At our meeting, we talked about the ‘jerk process’ as well as red beans and rice. If you’re familiar with island life, you know what travel, tropical temps, and humidity are like, so the process of seasoning food to prevent spoilage is a historic part of the foodways in those climates. For more information, check out his website at http://www.plutosinc.com/
What I ended up with was a slightly lighter version of the traditional meal. I did a whole jerk chicken and added some minced garlic in addition to the rub. (I just like garlic.) I split the chicken in half at the backbone and butterflied it, then brushed a little oil and rubbed with the spices over and under. I let this marinate overnight. You don’t have to, but I love flavor, and I let mine chill with the marinade until they are well-acquainted, or at least like one another!
The way I roast chicken was learned from my mother, grandmother, and my friends in Crete, Greece. That is, broiling off a little to brown the skin and seal in the juices and any flavor, then a nice roasting on bake. You get a crispy, flavorful crust and super-juicy inside roast chicken.
NC Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa and Herbed Rice
1 whole organic chicken, split open
approx 2 TB of cooking oil to rub over the bird
1 – 2.5 oz jar of Pluto’s Caribbean Bliss (Authentic Jamaican Jerk Seasoning) dry rub
Roasting pan large enough for poultry
2 cups dry rice, rinsed and drained (long grain white is more traditional)
Water or stock for steaming, plus 8 oz coconut milk (canned or packaged – not jugged in the milk section)
Oil and salt to taste
2 TB fresh thyme leaves, to taste
at least 2 cups cooked red beans (to taste) – also called peas – these are like kidney beans (habichuelas)
2-3 large mangos (about 8-9 oz) diced large
1 large onion (about 4-5 oz) diced medium (red onion is good also!)
1/2 cup chopped medium pineapple (if desired)
1/4 cup each rough-chopped cilantro (and mint if desired)
A dash of jerk sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Start with a whole organic chicken. Slit open along the backbone and flatten it in the pan. Any roasting pan will do, as long as it is large enough for the bird and deep enough to keep the juices. I used a 9×13 size rectangular roasting pan just fine. Of course you can work this rub in and grill off over open flame as well! Rub with oil and then at least 1.5 oz of the seasoning. You can use most of a container depending on how much seasoning you prefer, but if you cook beans, I’d reserve at least .5 oz to add to the beans with what-have-you.
Broil 1 whole chicken skin side up in the roasting pan at 500 degrees for 5-7 minutes – not too brown and not too close to the element. Just until the skin is crispy and starts to brown and bubble, holding the juices in.
Turn oven to bake at 325 degrees F for 45 mins to 1 hour. Checking for doneness, the temp should be at least 175-180 degrees F when done, and the skin will be a rich chestnut-brown. It will be super tender. If you don’t like fall-off the bone chicken, do your own thing!
While the chicken is cooking, get your beans and rice going. Steam as much as you want. I didn’t include beans this time as intended, because I’ve been eating lighter and usually do beans or a protein these days. But of course you’d want to cook and season them, perhaps adding (3-4 oz onion as well) to your cooked rice. Do as you like.
I steamed 2 cups of dry (brown for me) rice in my rice cooker and enough liquid to cover, adding the coconut milk. My experience with Jamaican beans and rice was this was not hot. My Jamaican friends growing up used it as a foil to complement spicy entrees, and the rice was not spicy hot, just flavorful. If you like it spicy – perhaps instead of using meat – be sure to add some scotch bonnet pepper. It is up to you! I like balance.
While that is going, I caramelized some onion, flash cooked the mango/pineapple with a bit of the jerk sauce, and added herbs to finish, which I then chilled.
When the rice and beans are done, toss with at least 1 TB of fresh thyme leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve hot with the hot chicken and cool mango salsa!
Now as I talked with Pluto at our business meeting, I appreciated that he understands how flexible things are. First off, no two people will cook, roast, or barbecue exactly alike, and he knows this. So you may choose to marinate with the sauce using hot or mild versions, and either roast or barbecue on the grill! Or use some sauce to finish, as a dip, etc.
He carries a variety of spice rubs and sauces for these different needs, including a no-salt spice rub. All of them are 100% vegan, gluten-free, contain no MSG, and are non-GMO. I especially liked that he doesn’t water the sauces down with vinegar and tomato. They are herb-based, which is an incredible value. He also offers them in gallon containers and rubs by the pound for bulk pricing.
You can meet Pluto in person!
Check out Pluto’s booth at the Homegrown Fare presented by Lowes Foods May 19th-21st at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. The event, part of the annual Got To Be NC Festival, will feature 100 local food, wine and beer companies. Admission is $3, but you can get in free with your Lowes Foods loyalty card. Plus, you can get a free gift while supplies last by mentioning this blog at the Got To Be NC merchandise booth. More information about the Homegrown Fare and the Got To Be NC Festival is available at www.gottobencfestival.com.
He’ll be there in the Home Grown Fare with samples and products for sale! Don’t miss this wonderful display of local food, beverage, and artisan talent from our neighbors! Hope to see you there!
Interested in more NC Goodness? Check out the wonderful and delicious blogs from more #homegrownfare17 Got to Be NC Bloggers!
Got to be NC Blogger Posts for #HomeGrownFare17
- Introducing Harvest Time Foods Gluten Free Products from Andrea of Good Girl Gone Redneck
- Chocolate Cherry Rum Cake Bites from Angie of Big Bear’s Wife
- Ice Cream Parfaits with Peach Wine Syrup from April of Girl Gone Gourmet
- Sweet and Tart Spaghetti and Meatballs from Emily of The Edible Coast
- Uncle Chris’ Smokin’ Habanero Pimento Cheese Mac and Cheese from Fran of Sip, Stir, Go
- North Carolina Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa and Rice from Hadassah of World on a Table
- Choose Better, Drink Sunshine and Brighten Your Life from Jen of JAB’s Plethora
- North Carolina Muffaletta with Bruce Julian from Jenni of Pastry Chef Online
- Carolina Fancy Foods Takes NC Food Products to a New Level from Johanna of Durham Foodie
- Homemade Caterpillar Rolls, North Carolina Style from Kate of Life of a Ginger
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