Jerk chicken thighs with beans and plantain chips. Cuba, meet Jamaica.

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A mosaic of ingredients.

Who said eating on a dime has to be boring?!

Jerk Chicken Thighs with Beans [serves 2, heartily]

Printable recipe

1/2 c dried cranberry [kidney or pinto can substitute] beans, rinsed in cold water and picked through

1/2 c light beer, like Miller Lite

1 large bay leaf, snapped in half

2 large chicken thighs, skin on bone-in

salt & freshly cracked black pepper

homemade Jerk seasoning paste, recipe follows

2 T olive oil, divided

1/4 red onion, sliced

3-4 large sprigs of cilantro leaves, stalks finely chopped, leaves chopped and reserved

2 medium tomatoes, large dice

1 clove garlic, smashed flat [smush down once or twice with the side of your knife]

Once beans are rinsed and any irregulars tossed off, place them in a non-reactive bowl and cover with water, making sure there is at least 1″ of water above the beans. Let soak for 2-6 hours, depending on the age of your beans.

After soaking, pour the beans, their cooking liquid and the bay leaf pieces into a saucepan. They will have plumped up significantly, so add the beer and enough extra water to again cover with at least 1″ above the beans. Bring the pot to a rolling boil over medium-heat; cook at the boil for 5 minutes and then turn down to a very gentle simmer. Turn the burner as low as it will go but still allows for the occasional simmering bubble. Cook 1-4 hours or until the beans are cooked to desired doneness, again depending on the age of your beans. If the liquid in the pot gets too low or evaporates entirely, simply add more warm or hot water. [Cold water is said to toughen the skin.] When the beans are done the aroma should be heady.

With about a half hour remaining on the beans, begin to prepare the chicken. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium/medium-high. Sprinkle each side of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and brush all over with the Jerk seasoning paste. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in skin side down and brown both sides, about 6-7 minutes total, then remove. Lower the heat to medium-low/medium and add in the remaining 1T oil, if needed, onions and cilantro stalks, then soften for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining jerk seasoning, if any, for the final minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the thighs back to the pan and pour over the tomatoes and smashed garlic; bring to a simmer. Cover, then cook for 20 minutes. Remove lid, stir in drained beans, and cook 10 minutes more. Scatter with cilantro and serve hot with rice or fried plantain chips.

Jerk Seasoning Paste

1 T dried minced onion — mine were toasted, from Penzey’s

1 1/4 t dried thyme

1 t ground allspice

1 t freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/4 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

1 T vegetable or canola oil

Mix until combined.

Adapted from Rancho Gordo’s Heirloom Beans and BBC GoodFood

Fried Plantain Chips

1 large green/yellow plantain with lots of brown spots, peeled and sliced 1/4″-thick

1 T unsalted butter

2 t vegetable or canola oil

coarse salt, to taste

Heat butter and oil in a medium skillet until hot and foamy. Add as many plantain slices as will fit in one layer. Cook, turning once, over medium-low heat until nicely golden on both sides. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess fat, and immediately sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve at once.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

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Try this: A sweet variety, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, even a little nutmeg, would be fantastic! Taking it one step further, you could add a little brown sugar to the butter/oil mixture in the pan.

Or this: Spritz with lime juice and sprinkle with salt and cayenne or chipotle pepper for a spicy version.

Even this: Create a dipping sauce with sour cream or yogurt and your favorite spices or more jerk seasoning.

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