Chef Dwight Morris is the executive chef at the phenomenal Sunset at the Palms Resort in Negril, Jamaica, where my husband and I recently had the pleasure of staying for a week. You may recall that I actually won the trip from BevMo!–yes, airfare and accommodations at the Sunset at the Palms all-inclusive resort (food, drinks, and activities)! It was surreal. Just take a look at our beach; this tells you more than I ever could in words.
For those of you who don’t believe that anyone wins those sweepstakes giving away dream trips, I will tell you that if it’s an honest and reliable company, they absolutely do. BevMo! and the Jamaican Tourist Board gave us the trip of a lifetime, and it just so happened to be our 25th anniversary this year–perfect timing!
It was my first trip to the Caribbean, and my husband’s too and we were awed by Jamaica’s beauty.
I have so much I want to tell you, but my post would be much longer than it already is, so I’ve decided to add another one for first time travelers to Jamaica. I will include helpful tips and things that we did, which you might want to add to your itinerary. Subscribe to my email list if you don’t want to miss it, (and don’t forget to check your spam folder for the Feedburner email to confirm your subscription).
First, a little about the resort where Chef Morris works before we get to his fabulous recipe. Sunset at the Palms is an intimate, adults-only, tropical resort located in Negril, which is on the western coast of Jamaica, about a one and a half hour drive from Montego Bay. Once we arrived, we understood why TripAdvisor named Sunset at the Palms “one of the top ten most romantic resorts in the Caribbean”.
From the moment we arrived, we were smitten with the property and location, especially because guests stay in treehouse style huts. If you have ever stayed in a hotel, I don’t need to tell you how even the most well-meaning guest can be a nuisance with slamming doors or showers running at 4 am. We had a separate, but adjoining room across from us, and never heard or saw the guests once, even though the resort was full and we were there for an entire week.
Despite this, we still met so many fun and interesting people and even made some friends when we were at the pool, having dinner or lounging at the beach. My husband admitted at the end of our trip that when we arrived he had wondered to himself, “What in the world will we do here to keep occupied for an entire week?” In the end, he was amazed at how much we had done, and how quickly the week flew by.
Now let’s get to the food! I first met Chef Morris at the Chef’s Table Dinner one evening: I introduced myself to him and asked if he minded if I took photos while dinner was being prepared. Chef Morris was extremely friendly and more than obliging.
When I spoke to him after the wonderful meal, he mentioned a cooking lesson on the beach the next day. I was crestfallen! We had made plans for a day trip to YS Falls and a short cruise down the Black River so I couldn’t be there for the cooking lesson. Chef Morris was so kind (he must have seen my total look of despair) that he offered to give me my own private cooking lesson at another time! Of course, now I was elated, but when he told me he’d show me how to make authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken, I was ecstatic! I had never tasted any jerk dish before visiting Jamaica, but had fallen head over heals in love with the dish since arriving.
The morning of the day I was to have the cooking lesson, my husband and I decided to go sailing with a couple we’d met at the resort. Unfortunately, the wind died down and we were stuck out at sea and it appeared as though I was going to be late for my lesson. We then decided to try to make it to the closest beach and I would walk/run back to the resort which would be faster than waiting for the wind to pick up.
Once I got back to the resort, I realized that my husband had the key to our room so I couldn’t change into proper clothes–oops! I just had to add this bit of information to explain why I’m wearing a swimsuit for my cooking lesson (at least we matched).
Chef Morris had already prepared half a chicken the night before as it needs to have the sauce rubbed on and left for some hours before grilling. He put this chicken on the barbecue grill and while it was cooking, he showed me how the authentic jerk sauce is made.
All the ingredients which are blended to make the jerk base were arranged on the table in front of the cooktop. This jerk seasoning (which ends up like a paste) is rubbed all over the chicken as a marinade before it is cooked, and is also the base for the actual jerk sauce which is served over the chicken. I was so excited to be learning this new recipe, but especially in this beautiful outdoor kitchen!
Chef Morris put some of the blended jerk seasoning into a pot, added Red Stripe Beer, pineapple juice and ketchup to make the sauce, and explained that more liquid can be added to make it thinner or it can be simmered longer to thicken it (30 minutes to an hour). The aroma from the sauce was making me salivate!
When I tasted the Jamaican Jerk Chicken, the combination of ingredients and the spicy flavors were beyond what I was expecting. I told Chef Morris that I once wrote a post about wondering how many different dishes there were in the world that I’d never tasted before, but would love, and exclaimed that this was one of those dishes! I think that made his day, but I truly meant it. Talk about finger licking good!
My husband and our friends arrived just then, and they were able to sample Chef Morris’ wonderful dish, too. Everyone agreed that the chicken was absolute perfection and the sauce had such a great kick to it, as Chef Morris had added a bit more Scotch Bonnet pepper than he usually does. I was so happy to have the chance to learn how to make this iconic Jamaican dish while I was in Jamaica, but especially from such a wonderful teacher.
I have now made Jamaican Jerk Chicken a few times and think I have come very close to the version Chef Morris made, so I’m extremely happy. One tip: I made the sauce too thick the first couple of times; take a look at how you can see the chicken through the sauce in the photo above as it is rather runny.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken in my LA kitchen~
To Chef Morris: I cannot thank you enough. I will always think of you when I make Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and it will be often, I assure you!
Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken
By Chef Dwight Morris
- one chicken, cut up into pieces (preferably organic)
- 2 tsp allspice
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½teaspoon ginger minced
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1 or 2 Habanero peppers (or Scotch Bonnet) BOTH ARE EXTREMELY HOT!
- 1 tbsp ground thyme or 2 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1-2 bunches green onions
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Jerk paste (above)
- 6 oz Red Stripe beer (you can find it at BevMo!)
- ⅔ cup (5 oz) pineapple juice
- ¾ cup (6 oz) ketchup
- Put all the ingredients listed for Jerk base in a food processor or blender and liquefy.
- Pour base in a jar and keep refrigerated; the sauce will keep indefinitely, if refrigerated.
- Use the paste to rub on chicken, then leave the chicken, covered, overnight in refrigerator.
- Barbecue the chicken over low heat, pour beer over or brush with jerk sauce (prepared sauce below) while grilling.
- Add all ingredients listed for the Jerk sauce to a pan over low heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring often. Add more juice or beer to thin the sauce, alternatively, simmer longer for a thicker sauce.
- Use to baste chicken and/or to serve, spooned over Jerk Chicken.
If you will be visiting Jamaica for the first time, I have some tips for you HERE.
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I won the trip to Jamaica in a random drawing and am under no obligation, whatsoever, to write about my trip.