YIELD 6 servings
TIME 1 hour, plus marinating
At the heart of superb jerk seasoning is the coalescing of spice and heat, specifically the two dominant forces of allspice berries and chile peppers. This marinade, which came to me from Shaun Lewis, a Jamaican cook I worked with during my time as a summer camp chef, is the best I’ve ever tasted, delivering a quietly thrilling, savory warmth that kind of spreads across the chest and remains there without ever ferociously igniting. This achievement — like a dark rolling thunder that somehow remains in the neighboring field and never crosses the fence — is undoubtedly the result of the 20 other ingredients in the recipe working in tandem, so don’t omit any of them.
FOR THE MARINADE:
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Guinness stout
1 medium red onion (about 9 ounces), finely chopped
8 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup Tabasco sauce
1 large nutmeg seed, freshly grated (about 4 teaspoons)
¼ cup whole allspice berries, ground (about 3 tablespoons)
6 large garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 habanero chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
3 dried bay leaves
12 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs
FOR THE PICKLED BANANAS:
6 cups white vinegar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 branches fresh thyme
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 habanero chile, split, seeds and stem intact
6 just-ripe bananas
In a small skillet, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder until pulverized.
Add to a large bowl along with all other marinade ingredients (everything but the chicken). Add 1 cup water and whisk to combine. Alternatively, working in two batches, place all marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine.
Place chicken in a large container big enough for all pieces plus marinade. Reserve 3/4 cup marinade for later use, and pour remaining marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate 1 or 2 days (chicken can be stored for up to 5 days).
Prepare the pickled bananas: Add all ingredients except for the bananas to a nonreactive saucepan and boil over high, 10 minutes. Chill completely. Once brine is chilled, peel and slice the bananas on the bias. Add to the brine and chill, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Heat grill to medium-low. Remove chicken from marinade and temper at room temperature for 15 minutes. Place chicken on the grill, skin-side down. Every minute or so, rotate the chicken a half turn so that the skin develops a deep, dark mahogany char and has been slightly crisped and rendered, 8 to 10 minutes total.
Turn chicken over to finish cooking, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, skin side up. Brush the reserved marinade on the skin side. Remove bananas from brine and serve with jerk chicken.