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JESSICA KARLEY: Beef up your grilled chicken

Jerk Rubbed Chicken with Pineapple Salsa is sure to bring some extra heat to your grill this summer. Photos by Jessica Karley1 / 2
Iced Jamaican coffee is a great way to stay cool after a long day. Photos by Jessica Karley2 / 2

There is one food that I have a “beef” with when it comes to grilling. It’s actually not with grilling beef, but chicken.

Maybe it was one too many grilled chicken breasts in the ’90s that seemed to be the only meat that was allowed when you were on a diet, or it could be that it always seemed to be so dry and bland.

Boring, white meat chicken, grilled until we were sure it was dead and every last bit of juice had been pressed right out of it. We have all grilled that same piece of boring chicken, and we know it.

Boring chicken, be gone! Today I am going to share with you an anything-but-dull recipe for Jerk Rubbed Chicken and Pineapple Salsa.

Jerk is a Jamaican style of cooking that uses a mixture called jerk spice as a dry-rub or marinade. The spices that go into different jerk recipes vary, but they all have a similar profile. Allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers are the key ingredients along with clove, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, scallions, and thyme.

Although the wet-rubbed jerk is my favorite, sometimes I don’t have time to plan ahead for an eight-hour marinade. To save time, I like to keep a bottle of this dry rub jerk spice in my cupboard, and it has become one of my favorite no-guilt/no-plan meals on the grill. The dry rubbed jerk chicken is full of spice and warm flavors, not fat, and has a hint of added char flavor from the coals of your backyard grill.

In order to avoid purchasing a bunch of extra spice jars for just this dish, I’ve incorporated a shortcut using one of my favorite “fall” spice mixtures. Pumpkin pie spice makes a great base for jerk dry rubs because it already contains four of the ingredients: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Then, I add a little onion powder, dried thyme leaves, ground red pepper, cloves, a little extra allspice, salt and cracked black pepper.

To top off the spicy chicken, serve a cool and mouth-watering pineapple salsa over the top. It’s made from fresh diced pineapple, red bell pepper, and jalapenos. Toss them together with the juice of one lime, a pinch of kosher salt and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro.

Of course, no Jamaican themed meal is complete without a splash (or two) of rum! Iced Jamaican Coffee is a perfect way to end the meal. It’s not as light as the rest of the meal, but it IS equally delicious.

Mix dark Jamaican rum with Tia Maria, extra strong coffee and a splash of heavy cream. Tia Maria is a coffee-flavored liqueur that is similar to Kaluha but is made from rum instead of vodka. Serve the drink over ice in your favorite wine glass, and top with a pinch of ground nutmeg to give the cool, creamy drink a hint of warmth.

Jerk Spice for Grilled Chicken


2 tablespoons onion powder

1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1.5 tablespoons dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (more or less as desired)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined. Rub a thick coating on chicken (breasts, thighs, or bone-in pieces), pork or any other favorite meat before grilling.

Pineapple Salsa


1.5 cups fresh pineapple, diced small

½ cup red bell pepper, diced small

2 tablespoons fresh jalapeno, minced

juice from 1 lime

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro


Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined. Serve with your favorite grilled meats or fish.

Iced Jamaican Coffee


¼ cup dark rum

¼ cup Tia Maria

8 ounces strong brewed coffee, chilled

4 ounces heavy whipping cream

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg



In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, rum, Tia Maria and coffee. Shake until chilled. Fill four of your favorite wine glasses with ice, and divide the rum and coffee mixture into them. Pour one ounce of heavy cream over the ice, and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Enjoy.