This jerk chicken salad was inspired by a handful of sunny days and wild nights spent in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I love the open and exuberant people of Jamaica, and the steel drum bands and fresh seafood don't hurt. If you've never been you should absolutely go--plan on a laid-back trip, where everything is on "Jamaican Time," and hone your rum-drinking skills if you're not a fan of the fizzy, malty Red Stripe beer of the island.
There are a hundred things that I love about Jamaica, but the one that I keep coming back to is...Jerk Chicken. Jerk anything is spicy, smoky, and bold. It's great served as a main course (we love to marinate anything meaty in jerk seasoning overnight, grill it, and serve it over cheese grits) or in a salad. I came up with this recipe so I could have a sweet/spicy Jerk Chicken experience for 3 days straight without feeling guilty for overdoing it on the cheese grits. The mayo cuts the spice just a little, while the onion, celery, and apple add a sweet, fresh component to smoky, rich flavors in the chicken. I'd make a double batch, if I were you.
NOTE: I hate to start a recipe with the requirement that you purchase a specific product, but my favorite ready-made jerk seasoning is made in Walkerswood, Jamaica--just outside Ocho Rios. You can find it here, or at most World Market stores. Homemade jerk seasoning requires that you work with scotch bonnet peppers (ouch!) and have loads of nutmeg, thyme, and allspice on hand. I say it's best to leave it up to the experts.
Jerk Chicken Salad:
3 Tbs. Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning
3 large Chicken Breasts
2 Tbs. Creole Mustard
3/4 Cup "Lite Mayo"
2 Tbs. Real, Cholesterol-filled, fatty mayo (you deserve it!)
1 1/2 Cup diced Onion
1 Cup chopped Green Apple
1 stalk Celery, diced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
Make 1 inch-deep cuts in the chicken breasts, against the grain. Cover each chicken breast with 1 Tbs. Walkerswood seasoning, making sure you get the spices into the slits. (Use a spoon--it's awkward, but you don't want scotch bonnets in your eye.) Cover and marinate in the fridge over night (or at for at least 2 hours).
Smoke or grill the chicken. (I know, this may seem annoying, but get some fresh veggies, coat them in seasoning and olive oil, and throw them on the rest of the grill for a yummy snack. Southwest Grilled Corn salad, anyone?)
See? Don't you want this in your chicken salad? Thought so.
Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes. When cooled, cube or shred chicken to desired consistency and place in a large bowl. Transfer any accumulated juices to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate--serve over lettuce with some fresh pineapple, or as a sandwich.
Walkerswood, ya'll. I'm supposed to be an expert on smoky, spicy, meaty foods. If you don't take my advice, then I'm going back to writing about smoothies.
The flavors develop as the chicken salad rests, so let it sit overnight. This is not possible if Mr. Luz lives in your house.
You can add more jerk seasoning to the chicken salad if you want more spice.
Resist the urge to add salt...I have regretted every tiny dash that I've added to the final product. The ingredients pack plenty of sodium on their own.
Also, Blogger's formatting BS makes me STABBY.