Side Orders: Nothing mellow about Marley's chicken

This grilled jerk chicken breast is paired with watermelon salsa. Jerk refers both to a unique blend of seasonings and to a method of slow cooking.

This weekend is the gateway to grilling season, and the skies around Chattanooga may be smoky with everyone lighting up and throwing steaks, chicken, burgers and more on the grill.

I usually serve steaks and burgers over the Memorial Day weekend, but this year, my tastebuds will be dancing to the tune of Ziggy Marley's jerk chicken. His recipe came across my email from AARP Magazine not too long ago, and it didn't take long for me to go outside, light a fire and wait impatiently for the coals to die down so I could throw the spicy chicken on the grill. The anticipation was killing me because many folks will tell you that you haven't had good, authentic jerk chicken till you've gone to Jamaica. Until now, I have agreed. But no longer.

Marley takes no shortcuts in making his jerk seasoning. He doesn't use premade. He makes his own, using some of the hottest peppers around - Scotch bonnet - grown in his garden.

"Growing something on your own helps you appreciate it more," he says in the article.

photo Anne Braly

Marley likes his chicken spicy hot but says you can control the heat by not smothering the chicken with jerk seasoning. If you have a tender palate, go lightly, adding just enough for flavor.

Jerk chicken is something Marley and friends grew up on, visiting roadside stands where men would stir coals in big barrels topped with mounds of smoking jerk chicken.

You can still buy it that way around the island. But why bother to go when you have Marley's recipe in your hands?

Ziggy Marley's Jerk Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces

1 lemon, sliced into 4 to 6 pieces

2 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeds removed (see note)

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 garlic cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Set aside chicken and lemon slices. Using food processor, blend remaining ingredients into a paste.

Rub paste all over chicken. Grill chicken over medium or medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked. Serve with lemon slices.

Note of caution: The chicken is spicy hot. For a milder rub, remove pith and ribs, in addition to seeds, from peppers.


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Contact Anne Braly at