Big Fabulous Picnics: Jamaican Style!

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Ready to take a trip to an island? In this instalment of our summer picnic series, Lyndon Hibbert, a Canadian with Jamaican roots, tells us how he brings a tropical twist to summer gatherings.

Jerk chicken
(Photo credit: iStock)

The Location

Lyndon, who lives in Halifax, attends barbecues at the Halifax Common. He looks forward to an annual summer bash at the park to celebrate Jamaica’s independence. Lyndon also enjoys visiting his family in Toronto during the summers, and they have picnics throughout the city.

The Atmosphere

Jamaican music is a common soundtrack to these picnics. Attendees bring games like dominoes and ludo boards to the park. “We’re loud… especially when we play dominoes,” Lyndon says. “We get very competitive, so it’s not a quiet event.”

What does Lyndon look forward to the most? The food.“The reason why people are so joyous when we get together is because Jamaican food makes you happy,” he says laughing.

The Company

Summer gatherings include Lyndon’s immediate and extended family, and his church family. His church hosts summer picnics often, drawing out people of all ages to come together for a good time.

The Feast

The main dish is usually either jerk chicken or pork, curry chicken or pork, or oxtail. Lyndon says traditionally, the meat is cooked on the grill (this makes it more dry), but it can also be prepared in the oven (this will be juicier), or it can be partially prepared in the oven and placed on the grill to finish.

Side dishes include yam, green bananas and potatoes. Rice and peas is a common dish, but don’t let the name fool you. The “peas” are a reference to the kidney beans.

To drink, there is usually pineapple pop, champagne colas (sweet carbonated beverages popular in the tropics) and ginger beer, which can be found in some supermarkets or West Indian stories. Lyndon says he also looks forward the varieties of punch. “Everyone makes it differently, but there’s always a lot of punch,” he says.

If you’re looking to spice things up at your next summer gathering, follow the recipe below to make grilled jerk chicken.

Grilled Jerk Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 scallions, quartered
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or Habanero chili pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon Asian five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks or breasts)

Preparation:

  1. Make the marinade: In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken. Process until the vegetables are finely puréed and the mixture is relatively smooth (the texture will be slightly gritty).
  2. Place the chicken pieces and the marinade in a large resealable bag; squeeze air out and seal tightly.
  3. Mash the chicken around to coat evenly with the marinade. Place the bag in a bowl (in case of leakage) and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before grilling.
  4. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated.
  5. Place the chicken on the grill skin side down, making sure it is well coated with marinade for maximum flavour (discard any leftover marinade).
  6. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until the skin is browned and crisp but not charred, about 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces skin side up and either turn the heat down to medium-low or move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill.
  7. Continue cooking, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Jacky Habib is a Toronto-based freelance journalist. You can follow her on Twitter.

 

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