• Suzanne Yearley

Summer’s Last Hurrah: A Caribbean Grill Party

August 30, 2018

Suzanne Yearley

Memorial Day and Fourth of July are the province of tradition: harbingers of the summer to come. All of our expectations for the coming season are tied up in the Apple and Blueberry Pies; the burgers and dogs; the watermelon and grilled corn, and finally, the beer and lemonade. The menu choices evoke quintessential American summer, and set the mood for the fun and relaxed time ahead. 

Labor Day is another story. At this point, we have hopefully enjoyed our share of barbecues and summer gatherings, and are getting ready for the new season. We are not ready to give up on a last bit of summer fun, yet we have mellowed and are open to some experimentation. To me, this is the ideal time for a fun and festive celebration, and perhaps one that is a little different.

I love Caribbean flavors and this chicken is a crowd-pleaser. (The delicious marinade works equally well with pork if you are so minded.) Whether you like breasts or legs, boneless or bone-in, this smoky, spicy poultry with a hint of sweetness from the cinnamon won’t disappoint. It is the perfect thing for the heat of a late August/early September night but equally good if there is a chill in the air. The marinade ingredients are combined in the blender, and schmeared on. Just remember to marinate overnight. Pair it with this do ahead bean salad, mango salsa, some grilled asparagus or broccoli, and a green or tomato salad. Add a rum punch and some Red Stripe and you have a party. 

Secrets to Success:

This is a mouthful and involves a particular technique adapted from Mark Bittman for cooking chicken with skin on the grill without scorching the skin black something that can be quite challenging, even for us seasoned cooks. IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE WAY YOU GRILL CHICKEN, READ NO MORE.  But for those of you who might like a little help, follow the technique in this recipe religiously and you will not be disappointed. The keys are:

1. Set up a two-zone grill (one that is hot on one side and quite cool on the other.)

The hot side works to sear the chicken and crisp the skin, and with the top closed, the cooler side simulates an oven.

2. Begin with the chicken skin-side up!This may seem counter-intuitive since you are trying to crisp the skin, but starting this way allows some of the fat to render from the skin and prevent the flare-ups that cause burning.

3. Then flip the chicken skin-side down, but leave the grill top open which cools it just enough to make the heat manageable. 

4. Stay nearby and babysit. Checking the skin after 3 minutes and cooking the chicken this way for 3-8 minutes until it is nicely browned.

5. Transfer the chicken to the cooler side of the grill with the skin facing up once again, close the top and cook for 10 minutes.

6. Finally, turn the cool side of the grill off (the hot side will still provide plenty of heat), flip the chicken skin-side down again, close the top, and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken registers at least 165^F. for white meat (I prefer 170/175, but that is me,) and 170^F. for the dark meat.

7. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Grilled Jerk Chicken

Adapted from Gourmet


For jerk marinade:

3 scallions, washed, dried and cut into 2-inch lengths

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 small onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into chunks

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

 2 tablespoons soy sauce

 3 tablespoons olive oil

 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

 1 teaspoon dried thyme 

 2 teaspoons ground allspice

 2 teaspoons black pepper

 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For chicken:

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves


6 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (3 pounds)


2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks


any combination of the above


Make marinade:
Blend all marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Marinate and grill chicken:
Divide chicken pieces and marinade between 2 re-sealable plastic bags. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, then turn bags over several times to distribute marinade. Put bags of chicken in a shallow pan and marinate, chilled, turning once or twice, 1 day.

Let chicken stand at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking.

To cook chicken with skin/bones:Preheat burners of a gas grill: one on medium high and one on low. Oil grill well. Start chicken skin side upover the hotter part of the grill. Close the top and cook the chicken for 5 minutes until the bottom is beginning to brown. Flip the chicken skin-side down and with the top open to cool the fire slightly, cook the chicken for 5-10 minutes until the skin is nicely brown but not burnt. Now shift the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook (skin side up) for 10 minutes. Finally, turn off the burners on the cooler side of the grill and flip the chicken again (skin-side down) Cook chicken for another 5-10 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken registers at least 165^F. for (I prefer 170/175, but that is me.) 

To cook chicken without skin/bones:Preheat burners of a gas grill: one on medium-high and one on low. Oil grill well. Place chicken, original-skin-side-down on hot side of grill, and close the top. Cook chicken until browned and cooked through, about 5-10 minutes on a side. If chicken browns before it is cooked through completely, move it to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. 

Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve immediately or at room temperature.with the mango salsa.

Serves 6-8.

Cooks' note:

· If you can't grill, you can roast chicken in 2 large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans in upper and lower thirds of a 400°F oven, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, 40 to 45 minutes total. The cooking time will be much shorter for boneless chicken, about 20 minutes. Boneless chicken can also be pan-seared in a cast-iron skillet or grill pan and then finished in a 400^F oven for about 15 minutes

Cuban-Style Black Bean Salad with Avocado


2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, preferably Eden, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 

1 ½ teaspoons orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup light olive oil

1/2 cup finely minced red onion

1 jalapeno chilies, seeded and diced, optional

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3 avocadoes, thinly-sliced or cut into chunks


In a bowl large enough to hold the beans, make the dressing by combining the citrus juice and zest, the honey, garlic, cumin, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil.

Add the beans to the dressing along with the onion and jalapeno toss until combined well. Marinate for 30 minutes. When ready to serve: season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the cilantro. Serve with the sliced avocado.

Serves 6-8.










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