I am, for lack of better words, an addict. When I think about jerk chicken, endorphins surge, synapses fire and memories from my past play themselves again so clearly they might be in high definition. I fell in love with with the technique when a college trip took me to Montego Bay. I ate countless renditions cooked on oil-drum grills fired with burning coals. When I came home I scoured countless cookbooks looking for recipes that adequately recreated that experience, but I always came up short.
I returned to Jamaica to take a culinary tour of the island and was introduced to Scotchies, a tourist-drawing island hut that took jerk very seriously. They cooked their meats on the green branches of pimento trees, suspended over fiery hot pimento wood coals, covered with the same corrugated metal used to build tin shacks. They finished the dish with a bottle of vinegary, briny sauce that was as bright as a Jamaican summer day and hotter than Dallas in August. The meal was transcendent.
It became obvious that cooking over burning embers was the only way to produce top notch jerk. I folded that knowledge into an article I wrote for The Washington Post along with a recipe I honed based on what I'd learned about about jerk chicken. I now follow that recipe once a year with friends, and I think I'm beginning to foster their addiction. I'm not touting my abilities as a cook, but I will say it's a very good recipe, and when I follow it people are very enthused.
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If you're not into turning a massive pile of scallions, magma hot chilies and allspice into a muddy paste to massage into raw chicken legs, you should head to Island Spot, the subject of this week's review. They don't cook their jerk over wood coals but they do achieve a smoky flavor produced by a crowded, gas-fired grill that belches nearly as much smoke as a smoker.
Really, though, if you want to have the very best jerk chicken in Dallas, you have to walk out into your back yard and fire up your charcoal grill. Your friends will thank you, I am certain of it.