Barbecuing Spicy Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Dr. Renee Nagata has been a veterinarian at VCA Kaneohe Animal Hospital in Kaneohe for the past 19 years. Her caring and compassion are what set her apart, and it is evident she loves what she does.

Nagata was raised on Hawaii island, and attended the University of Hawaii and Iowa State University Veterinary School. She participated in the prestigious internship program at California Animal Hospital in Los Angeles, and received specialized training in ultrasound and endoscopy. After the internship, she decided that her love was really general practice and interacting with everyday folks and their animals. She is a past secretary and representative of Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, and is a member of American Veterinary Association.

For relaxation, Nagata is a runner, and she enjoys all beach activities with friends and family, and spending time with her two, as she says, “four-legged children,” which were rescues that she nursed back to health and adopted, and her own two children with two legs. She also loves to sew and makes school costumes for her kids.

I would like to dedicate this column to Dr. Nagata for her devotion to caring for animals and their people.

If you are planning to barbecue on the July 4 holiday, try this chicken recipe for a different flavor. You can marinate the chicken overnight and have it ready to cook in the morning. I like to serve it with steamed brown rice and a lettuce-and-tomato salad with garbanzo and kidney beans, to complete the meal.

Jerk is a way of preserving and cooking meat, originally pork. Its origins date back to the native Arawak Indians of Jamaica, and a method of using what today is called allspice to season and smoke wild pigs. This, combined with hot chilies and a variety of spices, is believed to be the original jerk recipe. Jerk can be made by dry-rubbing seasoning into the meat, or by marinating, as in the following recipe.

Recipes, which sometimes have up to 30 spices and seasonings, are handed down through generations, and Jamaicans keep their jerk techniques and formulas secret, as the competition runs high among jerk cooks there.

Commercial jerk mixtures are available — both dry and wet — but you can experiment with your own mix of spices to create a flavor all your own!

Happy Fourth of July!

This jerk chicken is marinated in a savory mix of spices and seasonings | Diana Helfand photo

This jerk chicken is marinated in a savory mix of spices and seasonings | Diana Helfand photo


* 6 skinless chicken breasts, bone in
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 1/2 cup chopped Maui onion
* 4 teaspoons dark-brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons canola oil
* 1 teaspoon ground all-spice
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
* 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper
* 1 cup water

Combine water, lemon juice, onions, brown sugar, oil, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, thyme and chili pepper with water in a blender and pulse until smooth. Reserve 1/3 cup for basting.

Place chicken breasts in shallow pan and pour marinade over them. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning once. Preheat grill to high, brush with oil and arrange chicken on grill. Sear on one side, then turn over and sear the other side. Reduce heat to medium and cook, basting with remaining sauce, until chicken juices run clear and meat is cooked thoroughly.

Makes six servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 150
Fat: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 45 milligrams
Sodium: 350 milligrams