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Betsy Block

Make Mama Look Good

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken
An old woman pulled out of a gas station. Every other car around had to stop as she made a painfully slow and wide right turn, blocking two lanes of traffic. Another driver shook his head and glared at her as she passed.

"Wow, she was driving really slowly," 10-year-old E astutely observed from the back of the car.

"Yes," I said, "but we're in no rush. Besides, we should all be a little more patient and kind with old people."

"Oh yeah," my husband BD said, "I forgot: It's almost your birthday."

Right. As in, my 40th birthday. The one I had on Wednesday. I keep making jokes about aging, but amazingly, I actually am aging. Frankly, it's surreal. Fortunately, though, there are also real gifts that come with aging, and I cherish each and every one of them. For example, I finally understand how special old people really are, and I wonder why I haven't known that - I mean really known that - until now. Young people can be so ignorant. The elderly are so wise.

I am so wise.

And in my wisdom, knowing that life with its attendant birthdays is all too fleeting, I declared last Friday, five days before my actual date of birth, the official beginning of  My Birthday Festivities. At first E scowled; apparently, he thought I was surreptitiously saying I expected him and four-year-old P to be nice to each other. But no, that wasn't it, "though that would be great," I emphasized. Instead, what I had in mind was: dinner out. When he heard that? All smiles again.

The four of us had a nice first birthday meal; we discussed things that were on E's preteen mind - incredibly disturbing things, that is, including questions about the two freaks - I mean "men," who had recently been caught harassing local kids. Come to think of it, dinner actually wasn't all that festive. Neither was the next day, because E woke up in the middle of the night with a high fever that would last until the day before my birthday. In other words, Mama's extended party plan: squashed.

A couple days later, lonely and bored, E and his malaise came and got into bed with me and my exhaustion. We chatted quietly for a couple minutes, sharing a few tender smiles. I told him how fatigued I was, too. "Why are you so tired?" he asked, only semi-unkindly. "You're not sick."

I thought about the past two days of taking care of E, and the estimated two or three more yet to come. I also thought about the past ten years of motherhood, starting with pregnancy and going right up to that moment. Then I thought back even farther, mulling over four full decades of life: childhood, the teenage years, my wild 'n woolly kid-free twenties. School, travel, friends and love. Growing up, with all the requisite glory and pain. "Why am I tired?" I asked rhetorically. "Forty years of hard livin', kid," I replied, and we both laughed, which immediately segued into E complaining that his throat, tongue, lips and head hurt, not to mention his hair.

Taking that as a sign that our special moment was over, I kicked him out of my room. He clearly had it coming.

(I swear that long before E got sick, I had already chosen this dish for the monster bash I'm throwing for myself this weekend. But as my dear friend M pointed out, it somehow seems apt to serve: Jerk chicken. No, of course my kid isn't really a jerk. He could work on his timing, though.)

Johnny's Amazingly Good Jerk Chicken

By John Levins, Something Savory

Truth in advertising: I didn't actually make this chicken, but it's still going to make me look mighty good at my birthday party - the one that Johnny's catering for me. Still, the only challenge here is in collecting all the spices. Other than that? It'll make you look great, too.

Now, heeeeere's Johnny, sharing, for the very first time ever, his own special recipe developed during years of professional cooking:

Makes enough for 4-6 chickens.

This recipe has 2 main components, the dry mixture and the wet mixture:

Dry Mix
Mix together 1 tablespoon each of all of the following:

Garlic powder
Onion powder
Dried curry (any kind)
Dried thyme leaves  
Ground thyme (same herb, different preparation)
Cayenne pepper
Chili Powder
Adobo seasoning
Season-All seasoned salt
Black Pepper

1 t. Cloves
1 t. Allspice

Mix all of the above together in a large bowl. This is your dry mix.

Mix together 2-3 tablespoons each of all of the following, chopped fine:

Recao (this is an herb used in Caribbean seasoning, and it's often not easy to find - if you have to omit it, such is life also known as culantro)

3 T ground fresh garlic
3 T wet curry (e.g. Thai green curry)
3 T Salt

Mix together to equal 1/2 cup:

Scotch Bonnet peppers
Jalapeno peppers
Chipotle peppers
(note from BB: Careful with those chilis, people! And whatever you do, don't rub your eyes after messing with them!)

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice

1) Add the chili peppers to the wet mixture.
2) Add the white vinegar to the wet mixture.
3) Add the lemon juice to the wet mixture.
4) Sprinkle dry mixture on the inside and outside of the chicken.
5) Pat the wet mixture on the inside and the outside of the chicken.
6) Roast chicken as you normally would.

Both dry and wet mixtures can last for up to 6 months in the refrigerator, but they need to be kept separate.

To reduce the heat, leave out chili peppers.