Cafe Society

Fire up the barbecue -- and your mouth -- with jerk chicken

I'm a firm believer in feeding my kids whatever the adults are having, so they've grown up eating everything from mussels to kale salad. One exception, though, is jerk chicken, which makes the green Tabasco that people put on eggs seem like, well, kids' stuff.

But I love this spicy, Jamaican classic, and it's been on my mind ever since I had the Caribbean chicken at Gaia Bistro, the focus of my review this week. See also: - Gaia Bistro on South Pearl is a true gathering place - Photos: A closer look at Gaia Bistro - A mini-restaurant empire has grown from Gaia Bistro

And while it's great at Gaia, you can also make it at home with Epicurious's Grilled Jerk Chicken recipe, which originated in a 2002 Gourmet.

Smoky, spicy and fragrant from the mix of Scotch bonnet chiles, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, the dish is far more interesting than chicken slathered with bottled barbecue sauce. But it is full of fire, so when I do cook up a batch, I make sure to put something else on the grill for the kids.

If you decide to try it at home, don't forget to keep an extinguisher of some kind at the ready. My kids insist that straight sugar works well --what kid wouldn't want a reason to down a teaspoon of the stuff? -- but beer works just fine, too. Actually, milk is said to neutralize the heat the best, according to an episode of MythBusters, but wouldn't you rather have a beer than milk at a backyard barbecue?


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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz