Friday, June 15, 2012

Sand, Sea, Love...And Some Chicken

Sand and Sea

Our speedboat cut into the choppy waters like a serrated knife cutting into stale bread--that is, not smoothly. Even though my eyes were clamped shut I could tell the boat was vertical more often than it was horizontal. I’ve lived in Southern California, beach country, for more years than I care to remember, but I cannot forget that I am a New York City girl at heart. The extent to which I am comfortable with things bobbing in the water is having a bar of soap in the bathtub. "Who talked me into taking this trip to Anguilla?" 

Until I reached dry land, that question was repeatedly going through my head. But, being the wonderful (did I say ”wonderful”) aunt that I am, a boat ride was not going to keep me away from my niece’s wedding. So I took that roller coaster boat ride from St. Maarten to Anguilla, a flat, low-lying island of coral and limestone in the Caribbean Sea. And that, my friends, is the only bad thing I can say about Anguilla.
With water that looks as if it were hand tinted with turquoise food coloring, sand as fine as 00 flour, and natives who are ever-smiling and oh, so friendly, Anguilla truly is a little slice of heaven on earth. Sounds like a perfect place for a wedding, at least that’s what my niece thought. And she was absolutely right. 
Standing before a group of loving family, friends, and some random beach strollers (both human and canine), beneath a muslin draped canopy that had been festooned with seashells, my niece Lauren and her groom Justin said their vows. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the guests dined on crab cakes, grilled lobster and island specialties such as candied plantains and coconut slaw. Fueled by the mind-altering rum punches from the bar, we soon hit the floor to dance to the handful of Bob Marley tunes the local reggae band knew and sang...over, and over, and over.
Not everyone can have a wedding such as this. (I know I didn’t.) But when you’re at your own wedding, so deeply in love and caught up in the moment, every wedding can feel like this. And every wedding should.
And Some Chicken--with a side of mashed plantains and veggies
In addition to all the pre-wedding festivities, barbecues on the beach, and hours spent lying on a chaise lounge listening to the waves lap against the shore, I took a cooking class....
This recipe, which I adapted from Chef Diane's class at the Cuisinart Resort, appealed to me because Jerk Chicken is generally prepared on the grill, and this one uses the oven. And, as we all know...since I relocated, I no longer have access to an outdoor grill (boohoo).

4 limes, juiced
2 cups water
6 chicken breasts, bone in
2 bunches scallions, coarsely chopped
1/4c. fresh thyme (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 scotch bonnet peppers, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4c. balsamic vinegar
olive oil
 Cut chicken breasts in half. (You should have 12 pieces.)  Place pieces in a large bowl and add lime juice. Add enough of the water to cover. Mix, and set aside.
Place chopped scallions, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers (take care with these, as they are HOT), thyme, the ground spices, and salt and pepper into the work bowl of a food processor, and process until vegetables are finely chopped, but not pureed. Drain chicken; return to mixing bowl. Spoon half of the vegetable mixture into the bowl and toss with the chicken until all pieces are well coated. Cover bowl and refrigerate for one hour.
Coat inside of a large skillet with olive oil and heat until oil is very hot. Gently place chicken in skillet and brown, about 8 minutes on each side. (You may have to do this in two batches.) While chicken is browning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Once all the chicken pieces have been browned, remove them from the skillet and place them on foil-lined sheet pan. Return skillet to stove and add one more tablespoon of oil. Add remaining vegetables and saute until they are soft. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and deglaze, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Turn up the heat and cook until mixture reduces and thickens slightly. Pour over chicken.
Tightly cover sheet pan with additional aluminum foil and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve chicken and top with any drippings that may have collected in bottom of sheet pan.


  1. I was in Anguilla as a child but don't remember it. As an avid fan of Alton Brown's Feasting on Waves, I have long thought it would be amazing. The people seem so genuine and happy. This wedding looks beautiful and so happy you were forced to get there and experience such delight.

    1. Thank you! I am not familiar with Feasting On Waves, but now will definitely have to check it out!

  2. This sounds like a fantastic trip! Taking cooking classes when you travel is very clever, and something I want to do more of. Antigua sounds beautiful.

  3. I highly recommend it, Sarah. I also did it in Florence last summer, and had some demos in Turkey just a few weeks ago. (That post will be appearing on The Inquisitive Eater blog, so watch for it!)
    Thanks for commenting!