With the crunch of the cornmeal crust and kick of the Jamaican spice blend, this chicken is brimming with flavor and texture reminiscent of the much more time-consuming traditional Jamaican jerk marinade and fried chicken. If you’re like me and love a lot of spice, feel free to add more cayenne pepper to the seasoning. Or if you prefer mild flavors, omit the cayenne completely. I like the dark meat of the chicken—it stays far juicier and tastier than the white meat—but feel free to use whichever you prefer.
1/2 cup instant polenta or finely ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
2. In a wide, shallow bowl or dish, combine the polenta with the paprika, allspice, garlic powder, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and cayenne. Use a fork or a whisk to mix well.
3. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, then coat them completely in the cornmeal-spice mixture.
4. Arrange the thighs skin side up in a shallow baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350ºF and cook for 15 minutes more, or until the juice of the chicken runs clear when you poke it with a fork.
Stocking your pantry with a variety of spices really pays off in the flavor department. You’ll always be ready to create unique spice blends that pack a flavor punch, and simple weeknight chicken can take you on a flavor trip to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, or, as in this recipe, the Caribbean.
Try this chicken with mashed or baked sweet potatoes—or give it a summertime twist with Corn and Black Bean Salad.
For a lower-fat version, use boneless, skinless thighs—just reduce the cooking time by 4 to 5 minutes at each heat level.
From The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag, William Morrow Cookbooks 2015.
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