Jamaican Chicken Curry

I love curry of any kind.  When I was growing up in Japan, my favorite was my Japanese curry rice (in fact it’s still is) and Japanese style hamburger patty.  If I were to be on a death row, my last meal will be Japanese curry and Japanese hamburger patty.  Also, growing up, I ate lots of Indian curry and I devoured those curry even as a youngster! 

In our house we make all sorts of curry (from Japanese, Indian, and Thai), but this is my first time making Jamaican curry.  I have eaten Jamaican curry at my Jamaican friends’ homes and at Jamaican restaurants, but for some reason I never felt the need to make it, until now.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m smelling the residual aroma of Jamaican curry wafting throughout the house (and I keep on pausing just to inhale as much of this air as I can).  Today’s recipe came from my well trusted Saveur (November 2011 issue).  Apparently, this is a popular breakfast dish in and around Kingston (and I will eat this for breakfast any day!!).

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Yield: 6-8 servings:

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (don’t be tempted to use the bottled lime juice, fresh lime juice makes all the difference)
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1/4 cup coconut oil (you can get this almost anywhere now, but I got mine at an Indian market)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 chayote squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 inch ginger piece, minced
1 cup coconut milk
1 habanero chile, slit in half lengthwise
Cooked rice, for serving

Note: This was the first time I used Chayote Squash, the texture and taste is like a cross between potato and cucumber. Once it cooks, it’s tender, but it retains the shape.   I bought mine at Wegmans.  I remember seeing this at H-Mart also.  If there’s a Latin American market nearby you, they will have these chayote squash.  Just in case, it looks like this:
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Combine chicken, lime juice, and 1 Tablespoon curry powder in a large bowl, and toss to combine; refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, and working in batches, add to pot, and cook, stirring, until golden brown all over, about 8 minutes.  Transfer chicken to bowl with marinade, and set aside.  (I took a short cut here:  instead of pan-frying, I lined a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, spread the chicken, and broiled them until browned). 

Add remaining curry powder, allspice, garlic, scallions, thyme, carrots, chayote, potato, and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Add chicken and any remaining marinade to pot along with coconut milk and chile, and stir to combine.  ( I added the coconut oil to sauté the spices and vegetables; then added the oven broiled chicken and poured in whatever juice came out of the chicken on the cookie sheet.  I also used jalapeno instead of habanero, since my kids can’t take too much hotness from the chile). 

Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thickened, about 40 minutes (cook without the lid on); serve over rice. 

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My opinion: I don’t know if my mortal words can adequately describe how awesome this curry is!!  You get the hint of lime, mild coconut flavor in the background, the vegetables are wonderful, especially the chayote squash, and the chicken is tender (since it was marinated in lime juice).  This is one of those addictive food where you can’t quite stop eating. 

As I wrote in the recipe section, I took different short cuts and  I was a bit concerned if it’ll come out the way it’s supposed to be.  Well, not to worry, this is so delicious!!  Great potluck dish (and I bet the taste gets better if it sits overnight in the fridge).

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