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Jerk: The Inside Story


True jerk--the Jamaican method of marinating, seasoning and barbecuing meat--is not something that you'd ever associate with a microwave oven. Nor should you--Jamaican jerk is best done outdoors in a barbecue pit where the meat can absorb both the sauce and the smoke. Even so, our version of jerk sauce comes close to what we've tasted in Jamaica and can give even microwaved chicken a jolt of Jamaican flavor.

If you use our sauce for barbecuing, marinate the meat a few hours and then cook the extra sauce for two minutes or so to make sure that any meat juices are cooked through.

Our recipe for Curried Cod was also inspired by the flavors of Jamaican cooking. Both dishes go well with Spiced Rice. If cooked in the microwave, the rice should be precooked first and the chicken or fish cooked during the standing time of the rice.

JERK CHICKEN 1 medium onion, quartered 1 clove garlic 1 jalapeno or habanero pepper, seeded and quartered 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce 1/4 cup vinegar 2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar, packed 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes Spiced Rice Lime or lemon wedges

Process onion, garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and thyme in food processor or blender until smooth.

Place chicken pieces in 1 layer in 9-inch microwave-safe pie plate. Pour sauce over chicken and turn pieces to coat. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) until juices run clear when chicken pieces are pierced, 6 to 8 minutes, turning pieces over and rearranging after 4 minutes. Spoon chicken and sauce over Spiced Rice to serve. Garnish with lime wedges. Makes 4 servings.

Spiced Rice 1 3/4 cups water 1 cup long-grain or converted rice 1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

Stir together water, rice, thyme, cumin, allspice, pepper and salt in 3-quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover tightly with lid and microwave on HIGH (100% power) until liquid begins to boil, 4 to 7 minutes.

Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) until most of liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Makes 3 cups or 4 servings.

Note : To double recipe, double all ingredients and place in 4-quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover and microwave on HIGH until boiling, 7 to 10 minutes. Microwave on MEDIUM until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes. Makes 6 cups.

CURRIED COD 4 (4-ounce) cod fillets 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon oil 1 tablespoon chopped onion 2 tablespoons curry powder 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon Few drops Jamaican hot pepper sauce or hot red pepper sauce 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt Spiced Rice

Place fillets around outer rim of 9- or 10-inch microwave-safe pie plate, leaving center open. Sprinkle fish with lemon juice. Cover with wax paper and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) until fish is done, 9 to 11 minutes. Let fish stand, covered. Transfer fish from cooking liquid to individual serving plates. Reserve cooking liquid.

Combine oil, onion, curry powder, thyme, cumin, cinnamon and hot pepper sauce in 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 minute.

Stir cooked onion mixture and yogurt into reserved cooking liquid from fish. Microwave on HIGH until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir.

Spoon 1/3 cup curry sauce over each fish fillet. Serve over Spiced Rice. Makes 4 servings.

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